Foreign celebs in local dramas

We take a look at some overseas stars who shone on our shores

Rui En with Cheng Pei Pei and Louise Lee
Rui En with Cheng Pei Pei and Louise Lee
23 May 2019

Rui En with Cheng Pei Pei and Louise Lee

Channel 8’s newest long-form drama Old is Gold is set to begin airing next Tuesday (May 28). In addition to the star-studded local cast (there’s Rui En, Chen Li Ping, Chen Han Wei, and Felicia Chin, to name a few), the series will also feature special appearances by Hong Kong actress Louise Lee (who previously worked with Rui En in The In-Laws) and Chinese actress Cheng Pei Pei.

These two respected thespians are just the latest in a growing line of overseas celebrities who have travelled to Singapore to appear in our very own homegrown productions. Read on for more!

Old is Gold debuts on May 28 and airs weeknights at 7.30pm on Channel 8 and Toggle.

Louise Lee
Louise Lee
23 May 2019

Louise Lee

Over half a decade after she appeared in Portrait of Home, Louise Lee returned to Mediacorp to star in 2011's The In-Laws alongside Rui En, Pierre Png, Cynthia Koh, and Darren Lim.

In the 35-episode drama, the award-winning veteran actress played a woman who vowed to be a liberal mother that doesn't meddle in her children's affairs, much like her own mother-in-law did. However, she still ends up unconsciously intruding into her son and his wife's lives, causing her daughter-in-law to be unhappy and them to constantly be at loggerheads with one another.

Fast forward to 2019, and Louise will be reuniting with Rui En in Old is Gold, although she refrained from divulging any information about her character because, in her words, “I don’t have many scenes in this drama, so if I tell you what’s interesting about my character, I think I’ll end up telling you my entire storyline!”

Guess we’ll have to tune into the programme to find out more for ourselves.

Photos: Channel 8, Instagram/Hype Records

Kaiser Chuang
Kaiser Chuang
23 May 2019

Kaiser Chuang

Taiwanese actor Kaiser Chuang may be a Golden Bell Award winner (he picked up Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film for his role in The Road Home at the 2015 ceremony) with almost two decades of showbiz experience, but come August, he’ll be a newcomer of sorts all over again as he joins upcoming Toggle Original series The Driver.

“This will probably be the first time that many of Singapore’s audience will be seeing me on screen, so I hope that this role will leave an impact on them,” he told us in an interview earlier this month, adding that he couldn’t resist taking on a character that’s a little “grey” (a mix of good and bad) even though the project would take him away from home for almost half a year.

While waiting for The Driver to be released, audiences can catch the 38-year-old in Taiwanese drama Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner, which debuts in June. He is also involved in upcoming anthology series Memory Eclipse, which is inspired by the songs of the late, legendary songstress Teresa Teng.

Photos: August Pictures, Toggle

Michelle Yim
Michelle Yim
23 May 2019

Michelle Yim

Thirteen years after appearing in Channel 8’s The Rainbow Connection and almost 30 years after Legend of a Beauty, Michelle Yim (also known as Mi Xue) set foot on our sunny shores for work once again last year.

This time, it was for dialect drama How Are You?, where she played Joshua Tan and Romeo Tan’s mother, and had the opportunity to converse in her native language, Cantonese. When we caught up with the veteran actress during a set visit, she revealed that she actually makes frequent visits to Singapore for leisure, but if her praise for our local talent is any indication, we wouldn’t be surprised if she continues to accept roles here.

Back in her home country of Hong Kong, the 63-year-old was recently busy with police procedural drama Forensic Heroes IV. She’s also been happily keeping her Instagram account frequently updated, after launching it back in September last year while working on How Are You?.

Elsie Yeh
Elsie Yeh
23 May 2019

Elsie Yeh

The late Aloysius Pang echoed our thoughts when he found out that Elsie Yeh was cast as his onscreen mother in 29th February: she looks the same as she did in the 90s when she was half her current age (she turns 50 this year, believe it or not).

According to the Taiwanese actress, who is known for her Hokkien soap operas these days, she accepted the role in the Channel 8 series because she was drawn to the script, where its characters get caught in a time loop and have to live out the same day over and over again. She last appeared on local telly as Ivy Lee’s aunt in 2002’s The Wing of Desire.

When she’s not acting, Elsie is busy being the lady boss of her own online business, which sells everything from clothes to skincare products to blankets (which is apparently one of their bestsellers, according to a Taiwanese report).

Bernice Liu
Bernice Liu
23 May 2019

Bernice Liu

Did you know that Channel 5’s Lion Moms was Canadian-born, Hong Kong-based actress Bernice Liu’s very first English language project? Despite being neither Singaporean nor a mother, the 40-year-old wasdrawn to the role as seemingly perfect stay-at-home mum Jennifer Tan due to its relatability and, of course, the opportunity for her to act in her mother tongue.

Two years later in 2017, Bernice returned for the sequel Lion Mums 2, where her character was presented with a whole new set of problems that come with one’s child being in primary school. In real life, she is a doting aunt and somewhat of a “child whisperer”: she shared with us a couple of stories of how she’s been able to effectively communicate with kids.

Unfortunately, viewers will not get to see her in Lion Mums 3, but she is in the currently airing ViuTV drama Till Death Do Us Part and is set to star in an upcoming show called Yu Le Feng Yun alongside Hong Kong actor Ben Yuen.

Damian Lau
Damian Lau
23 May 2019

Damian Lau

Not only did the esteemed Hong Kong actor travel all the way here to play the chairman of the fictional TV studio in The Dream Makers II, he faced his fear of heights for one of the flashback scenes where his character jumps off the top of a building in a suicide attempt.

A look at the behind-the-scenes footage shows just how brave the 69-year-old was (or had to be): he was tied up with cables and suspended in mid-air, many storeys off the ground, several times. “I try to overcome my fear while filming,” he had said. Now that’s a real professional.

By the way, did you know that The Dream Makers II was not the first time Damian had appeared in a local production? Fifteen years earlier, he was featured in the star-studded Dare to Strike as well, which featured other huge names like Julian Cheung and Li Nanxing.

Tender Huang
Tender Huang
23 May 2019

Tender Huang

Those who remember Tender Huang would probably know him from the extremely popular Taiwanese family drama Story of Time, where he served up one of the cutest love stories ever with co-star Tammy Chen.

He first appeared on our shores as a lazy but kind child psychiatrist in the 2010 local drama Secret Garden, where he navigates a complicated love triangle and murder mystery with local stars Yvonne Lim and Paige Chua. After that drama, it was a long three years before we saw the 42-year-old on our TV screens again, when he returned for the highly anticipated Wawa Pictures production, Disclosed.

Since then, Tender was busy with his career in Taiwan, having starred in idol dramas Big Red Riding Hood and High Heels and a Scalpel. He was soon back in town last year to star in Toggle Originals series Magic Chef, playing a celebrity chef who tragically loses his sense of taste and smell in an accident.

Kingone Wang
Kingone Wang
23 May 2019

Kingone Wang

Who would have ever thought that we would one day see Taiwanese actor Kingone Wang in a local production?

The 39-year-old is popular in Taiwan for his many swoon-worthy roles in hit idol dramas such as Devil Beside YouWhy Why Love, andLove You, and has co-starred with other big-name stars such as Rainie Yang, Mike He, and Vic Chou. Despite that, he graced our screens in local drama Yours Fatefully in 2012, taking up the role of Su Xiaoyi, a photographer who is burdened with taking care of his sick father alone.

While Kingone had a loveline with Jesseca Liu in the drama, he was previously also paired up with Felicia Chin in the Channel U feature film Love, 50%. That’s two more names added to the list of local actresses that he knows — the actor had previously admitted that he didn’t know much about Singapore’s entertainment industry, and was only familiar with names like Fann Wong and Jack Neo.

Just when we thought Kingone wouldn’t return to our local shores again anytime soon, he took on the role of Sun Wukong in Channel 8’s reinterpretation of the classic Journey to the West tale, Till We Meet Again (and its prequel).

Ha Yu
Ha Yu
23 May 2019

Ha Yu

Veteran actor Ha Yu almost seems like a semi-permanent fixture in local dramas now, and judging from his great impression of local stars, it seems we’ll be seeing him around for a long time to come.

Ha Yu, a former TVB artiste, is popular in Hong Kong, as well as other Asian countries for his many Hong Kong drama serials. However, he left TVB in 2012 as he was displeased with the way the TV station treated its contracted artistes.

The 73-year-old has been steadily appearing in Lion City productions since his first local drama, 2011’s Love Thy Neighbour, received raving reviews and a high viewership of 941,000. His comedic role as an ex-gambler in It’s a Wonderful Life was well-received by viewers, and he returned in 2014 to play the tormented football coach, Mei Renxin, in World at Your Feet. His most recent appearance on TV screens here was as Jeanette Aw’s triad gangster dad in 118 Season 2.

So what is it about Singapore that has kept him coming back? It seems that the greatest pull for him is his familiarity with the local actors and good filming experiences. Ha Yu once praised local talents for being willing to learn, and also shares amiable friendships with stars like Dennis Chew, who co-starred with the former in World at Your Feet.

Allen Chen
Allen Chen
15 May 2015

Allen Chen

Other than his role as veteran actor Li Nanxing’s little brother in the blockbuster drama The Journey: A Voyage, Taiwanese model-actor Allen Chen was also involved in another blockbuster, C.L.I.F. 3, and showed off his sculpted body as a rugby player in the Channel U drama Scrum!. The actor also played a supporting role in the drama Life is Beautiful, as female lead Shen Chuyi’s (Rui En) boyfriend, Ding Zhanpeng.

For Allen, acting in The Journey was his breakthrough role, as he had only managed to play “passers-by" in previous Taiwanese dramas. Hence, he considered The Journey to be his first real acting role, and we think he managed to show a lot of potential as the kindhearted Zhang Tian Ying. After all, even Christopher Lee and Fann Wong showered him with praises after the drama aired, complimenting his acting for being very natural.

Last year, the 34-year-old returned to our shores for Toggle Originals series VIC as a womanising supermodel. Back then, he had just undergone an impressive "fatty"-to-hunk transformation for his role, after injuring himself and being unable to work out for a while.

Esther Yang
Esther Yang
15 May 2015

Esther Yang

Taiwanese actress Esther Yang has quite the affinity with Singapore—or rather, with the popular actors here.

So far, she has come into contact with two of the hottest male stars in Singapore. Her role as local actor Pierre Png’s bubbly fiancee in the 2015 drama Life is Beautiful happened to be the meatiest role in her career back then, and her first onscreen kiss was also given to the latter. Esther has also collaborated in the Taiwanese television film, Forgotten, with local hunk Christopher Lee.

The pixie-faced actress debuted through commercials when she was merely 15 years old, and has since won the Taiwanese audience over with her bright and natural performances in dramas such as Love, Now.

Following Esther’s likeable performance as the bright Cai Jiayi in Life is Beautiful, she went on to appear in several other Taiwanese dramas, including Home Sweet Home and Behind Your Smile​​​​​​​.

Chloe Wang
Chloe Wang
15 May 2015

Chloe Wang

After playing a rebellious daughter in Devotion and an aspiring performer in Joys of Life, Taiwanese actress Chloe Wang went on to play Xu Bin’s love interest in 118.

For a while back then, Chloe was appearing in Singapore frequently, especially since she was signed on to local star Michelle Chong’s talent management agency, Left Profile. Her recent endeavours back home in Taiwan include Girl's Power and Love Scams.

During her birthday in 2014, Chloe was pranked by the crew of variety show Game GX (which she was hosting), who went out of their way to make things difficult for her during filming. However, the actress was so well prepared that pranking her was no easy feat—she even felt so much guilt over her mistakes that she apologised to everyone in tears, proving herself as a respectable actress and a star worth looking out for.

Selena Lee
Selena Lee
15 May 2015

Selena Lee

Hong Kong-born Canadian actress Selena Lee’s short stint as the female lead for the Channel 5 sitcom Spouse For House was liberating, to say the least. She stars as Jessica, who marries her high school lover John (Alaric Tay) only to get stuck in an unwanted marriage when the love fades. Drama ensues when both parties are unwilling to give up their new house.

While Selena was in Singapore to film for the show, she openly gushed about the more relaxed filming conditions here, which are extremely different from filming in Hong Kong. Although it was her first time acting in English, which was uncomfortable at first, the shorter filming hours and looser schedule made acting in Spouse for House feel like a holiday for the star.

In fact, Selena loved it here so much that she returned for a second season of the well-received sitcom, but we think it’ll be even better if we could one day see the talented actress in one of our blockbuster dramas.

Alien Huang
Alien Huang
15 May 2015

Alien Huang

Popular Taiwanese singer-actor Alien Huang’s first and (currently) only local drama is the blockbuster Joys of Life, a drama set in post-war Singapore and revolving around a group of friends and their dreams.

Alien’s character, Zhao Ming Xing, is a young man who dreams of becoming a star. He is friends with other characters played by Rui En, Chloe Wang, Kate Pang, and Andie Chen. The artiste also got many chances to interact with the top actors in Singapore, as he shared a loveline with Rui En and acted as veteran actor Chew Chor Meng’s son.

Chor Meng, in particular, has had a profound impact on the budding actor. To Alien, Chor Meng is someone whom he looks up to as a mentor; the latter shared many insights about life and acting with him.

Other than Chor Meng, acting in Joys of Life has also given Alien the chance to forge precious bonds with local actors. When Andie and Kate were in Taiwan for the variety show Going Home, they ran into Alien, who sat down for a chat with the couple and even took several pictures with their son Aden. Michelle Chong is also among the list of his local actor friends, as he acted in the former’s movie, Already Famous, with her.

Since Alien has made quite a few good friends from Singapore through his acting ventures here, we wouldn’t write off the possibility that he might return for a cameo or even starring role some day—one can only hope.
 

Jessica Hsuan
Jessica Hsuan
15 May 2015

Jessica Hsuan

Hong Kong-based Chinese actress Jessica Hsuan is another one of the big names from Hong Kong who has come to Singapore to participate in local productions.

The actress has a stunning resumé, with a list of co-stars that include popular male stars such as Julian Cheung, Louis Koo, and Nick Cheung.

The local dramas that she starred in, Parental Guidance, and the 2011 Channel 8 drama Bountiful Blessings, were also very popular among the audience. In particular, her character in Parental Guidance, frazzled newbie mum Ling Toh, got her a Best Comedy Performance nomination at the 2007 Asian Television Awards.
 

Steve Ma
Steve Ma
15 May 2015

Steve Ma

Since we’re talking about foreign celebs in local dramas, it seems almost necessary to bring up Taiwanese actor Steve Ma, who was probably one of the pioneers of this movement, back when acting in another country’s productions wasn’t as common amongst stars.

Back in 1998, Steve starred as leading man Lu Dongbin in the then Television Corporation of Singapore’s (TCS) period blockbuster, Legends of the Eight Immortals, where he romanced former Mediasorp actresses Jacelyn Tay and Phyllis Quek. The series was a great hit, and even now is often lauded as the best drama that then-TCS (now Mediasorp) had ever made, on top of being the most watched drama in that year.

With great results like that, can you blame the TV station for wanting to recreate their biggest success? Two years later, the company reached out to Steve again, who returned to play Linghu Chong in The Legendary Swordsman, which was adapted from the famous Louis Cha novel, The Smiling, Proud Wanderer.

This time, the cast was even more star-studded than before, with Fann Wong, Ivy Lee, Chor Meng, and Jacelyn included. The company also invested large amounts of money for the drama’s pre-publicity, creating a lot of buzz for it. However, it was eventually unable to become the success that its predecessor was, as ratings slowly declined throughout its run.

Steve may not have been able to create two consecutive successes in Singapore, but nevertheless, he was one of the first actors who displayed the huge potential that international casts can have in Singapore. Since more than 20 years have passed since his first hit show here, perhaps a reunion drama is in order?

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