Videos: Genice Ooi, Foong Mien Shi
Zheng Ge Ping and his family are no strangers to showbiz - both he and his wife, Hong Hui Fang, are both acting veterans, while their brood, which consists of Tay Ying, 21 and Calvert, 17, are also familiar faces that we’ve seen ever since they were much younger.
In upcoming mid-year blockbuster The Lead, Ge Ping plays Fang Guo Dong, nicknamed Juan Mao Shu (loosely translated to curly haired uncle), the canteen boss of the TV station who is also father to one precious princess: Fang An Ya, played by Julie Tan.
Julie’s character, which sports buck teeth at the start of the drama, is unable to fulfill her dreams of becoming an actress, unlike her band of friends, which include Xie Guang Hui (played by Shaun Chen) and Hong De Ping (played by Andie Chen). Ah Zhen (Rebecca Lim), the only other girl in the group, works her way up to becoming a producer due to her lack of acting talent.
Photos: Zheng Ge Ping/Instagram, Channel 8
No stage dad
With his reel-life daughter hoping to become a superstar, the well-meaning father pulls all the stops to ensure that her dream comes true. “He might not be a good person, neither is he a bad person - one thing’s for sure, he’s a good father,” Ge Ping shared. “I’ve known Julie since she was 16 or 17, and while this is the first time that we’re working together, I often tell her mother that I treat her as my niece.”
Unlike his character, however, Ge Ping chuckled that he isn’t fixated with having his children enter showbiz in a hurry. Coincidentally, his son will be making his acting foray in While We Are Young, which began filming yesterday, and will be acting with a bunch of second generation celebrity kids such as Chen Yixin (Xiang Yun's daughter), Chantalle Ng (Lin Meijiao's daughter) and Shalynn Tsai (Chen Xiu Huan's daughter). “Honestly, I want to send Calvert to Beijing to brush up on his Mandarin,” Ge Ping chuckled. “His language abilities are really quite terrible. I was also from an English-educated background and my Mandarin was probably only marginally better than Pierre Png’s, but I learned quickly because of all the period dramas we filmed.”
Don’t expect Ge Ping to give his children personalised acting classes at home, however. “I don’t think it’s right for me to demonstrate how they should act. What’s more important is teaching them how to read and understand the script, then be well-equipped to be able to express yourself,” Ge Ping reasoned.
“I’d rather they go to the set as a blank canvas - what they need to be is to show the raw sides of themselves. If I demonstrate a scene for them, they’ll end up copying what I’ve done and it will end up looking very unnatural. As long as he can understand the script well, the camera and director will work its magic and show the best side of an actor,” he continued.
Photos: Zheng Ge Ping/Instagram
Dealing with criticism and negative feedback
While Ge Ping will give Calvert all the support he needs, he let on that he will not interfere in his eldest kid's decision on whether or not to enter showbiz. “I think the younger generation all have their own thoughts. I will neither encourage nor discourage her from becoming an actress - this is a decision that she has to make on her own. If she does something that she doesn’t have an interest in, she’ll just end up not putting her heart in it and wasting everyone’s time.”
Calvert previously revealed in his interview with Toggle that there have been comments that his older sister has more star power than he does, and that he was pretty affected by the negativity. To this, Ge Ping had words of wisdom to share. “Everyone will have their opinions on fresh faces in the industry. What I’ve taught them is to try to understand these comments. If they’re constructive, you can learn from them or mull over them, but if they’re malicious in nature, they have to know how to ignore it and not let it affect you," he said.
Chuckling, Ge Ping added, “Well, Calvert is pretty good looking, so it really depends on what he does from now on that will determine how he will fare in this industry.”
Don’t expect to see an anxious father peering around on set while Calvert films for his debut drama. Ge Ping explained that he believes that his son should learn from the school of hard knocks, and to understand why he gets told off if and when it happens.
He continued, “Only if he realises and understands where he went wrong will he be able to learn. My presence will be a detriment to him because he’ll end up relying on me and he won’t be able to fully experience what being an actor is all about.”
One thing that he has in common with Juan Mao Shu, however, is how protective he is with his children. He said with a laugh, “If someone bullies my daughter, he’ll be a dead man. That’s every father’s nature.”
(Continued on next page: Shaun Chen reveals the gender of his unborn baby)
Photo (left): Shaun Chen/Instagram
Likewise, fellow celebrity father Shaun Chen has shared that he, too, has his unique way of parenting. With baby number two on her way (yes, he’s having another daughter!), Shaun has let on that nothing much has changed in the family and that he will continue juggling a similar workload moving forward.
“I feel that work is still important. You have to strike a very fine balance between the two and you can’t neglect work nor your family (...) during my free time, I’ll go on holidays with them as well,” Shaun let on.
His wife, Celine, who gave birth to their first child in her Malaysian hometown, will be doing the same this time around. “Neither of us has family here so it’ll be stressful for her if she has to handle everything on her own. She’ll be going back to her hometown at the end of July and will deliver our baby there,” the actor revealed.
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“I’ll be filming a new drama at the time, but I’ve already spoken to the crew to say that I’ll need at least three days off closer to her delivery date. Hopefully, I’ll be able to spend more time by her side but it all depends on the filming schedule, which has yet to be confirmed,” he went on.
Teaching his firstborn Nellie about her little sister has also been part of his everyday life. “These days, she’ll even lift up her mum’s shirt and kiss her belly to say hi to her little sister,” Shaun said with a smile. “I’m not sure if she can understand exactly what we say to her, but she does pause and it looks as though she’s processing our words, so I guess she does get it, in a way.”
“She likes to snack before meal time and because of that, she started crying and refusing to eat her porridge. I scolded her, saying things like, ‘Do you know how much effort mummy had to put into that to make it for you?’ and she quietly finished the entire bowl,” he chuckled.
The little girl, however, is far from an angel as she nears her Terrible Twos phase. “These days, she likes picking up things and when you chase her or ask her for it, she’ll run from you before throwing it on the ground, thinking that you can’t see it,” Shaun sighed. “I told her off for doing it but she’s still at it.”
The Lead premieres May 22, 2017, 9pm on Channel 8.
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