Damian Lau (劉松仁) debuted through Rediffusion Television (RTV) in 1971, and joined TVB in 1976. The 63-year-old’s career spanned over forty strong decades. The older generation may recall Damian as Luk Siu Fung from the 1976 TVB television adaptation of Gu Long’s Lu Xiaofeng wuxia series. Others may remember Damian in 1980’s Yesterday’s Glitter <京華春夢>, the first Hong Kong drama to film in mainland China. The younger generation will likely remember Damian in The Greed of Man <大時代>, The Awakening Story <婚前昏後>, Point of No Return <西關大少>, Men in Pain <男人之苦>… the nostalgia is overwhelming. But for Damian, nostalgia was never written into his book.
“Drama will always involve acting. I never recall my successes, and I never cared about my image. Living is just like acting – in the end, you must give up something in order to succeed and improve,” said Damian.
Never in One Place
Damian may be best known for his TVB dramas, but the actor never liked to be trapped under the same umbrella. In the first twenty years of his career, Damian filmed RTV and TVB dramas back-to-back – he joined TVB in 1976, went back to RTV in 1980, went to film ATV and Taiwanese dramas for the next ten years, and then returned to TVB in 1991. He left TVB again a few years later, and spent the next ten years filming mainland Chinese television before returning to TVB again in 2000.
TVB had always been Hong Kong’s largest television station and most powerful entertainment company. For many artists, TVB is a mother’s nest – a safe haven. But for Damian, TVB is nothing more than a longtime friend and business partner.
“I debuted at RTV. Besides acting, I also learned script writing and directing from Lee Siu Hung (李兆熊). It was like that in the 1970s. You learn everything. I signed with TVB a few years later because I grew too close with RTV. I wanted more challenges. I wanted to see if I would be able to succeed under a completely unfamiliar environment. Everyone at TVB was shocked at how good I was with handling the script and camera positions. Actually, at the time, I already had enough knowledge to be a director.”
Although Damian reached mild success in his first few years at RTV, it was TVB’s Luk Siu-fung <陸小鳳> and Yesterday’s Glitter that made Damian Lau a household name.
“Afterwards, Lee Siu Hung wanted me back with RTV. As my most respected teacher, I could not say no to him. I had to go back. TVB offered me a really good contract, but I told them that money was not the issue. I had to go back because I had a deep affection for the station and my teacher. Johnnie To (杜琪峯) later told me, ‘If you stayed with TVB, you would have owned several flats by now!’ That may be true, but a few apartments cannot be equated with human affection. I did not regret my decision.”
Damian’s portrayal of Luk Siu Fung remains a classic in everyone’s hearts, and while Damian enjoyed portraying the role very much, Luk Siu Fung is far from Damian’s favorite. “Everyone liked me as Luk Siu Fung, but he is not my favorite character. No matter how successful the role is, after I am done with it, I would forget it. My most unforgettable role is the unfortunate ‘little man’ in Ups and Downs <無業樓民>. I also really liked my character in Men in Pain <男人之苦>. I’ve waited over thirty years for a chance to tell the audience that Damian Lau can also be very cartoonish! Actually, my role in Men in Pain was not originally planned to be a very clumsy and cartoonish character, but I continued adding these elements, and [the director] could not stop me.”
Too Many Wives Are a Headache
Damian is currently seen in the TVB anniversary drama, Silver Spoon, Sterling Shackles <名媛望族>, a period drama that centers on an influential Chinese family during 1930s British Hong Kong. Damian revealed that during filming, the Chung family members joined a group chat in their phones for easy communication.
“This drama does not have people dying, nor does it have people fighting for inheritance rights. It’s a drama about life and human relationships. What this drama requires is good acting.”
Damian suggested the cast to keep in contact through a group chat in their phones. The cast grew close quickly, and even to this day, none of the Chung family members left the group chat.
“Every time, before we entered the studios, we would do a small group reading to read the script together. Yes, it was I who insisted to do the group reading. This is a technique that my seniors have taught me. The actors of this generation barely have time to even sleep! Expecting them to memorize all of next day’s script is a complete joke. I understand why a lot of people are against group reading now, because it is very time consuming, but once they’ve tried it, they realized that group reading is actually more beneficial than harmful.
“That’s how the Chung family developed such great family chemistry. We are all very close with each other. I’ve been working with TVB for over thirty years, and I have never been in such a terrible creative environment before. In this time of crisis, we had to work together.”
During the production of Silver Spoon, Sterling Shackles, TVB suffered a talent loss, and many creative writers left the company. No one knew the history behind 1930s Hong Kong as well as Damian, so the actor had to step in to fine-tune the script.
“Was I their spiritual leader? You can say that. First, I had the most experience. Second, everyone seemed to trust me the most. In this day and age, I should not be acting for myself. I should be teaching the younger ones. TVB is like that nowadays – if you have the courage to ask, I will teach you. If you don’t, then I will have no business to teach you. Some people just want to become famous, so what is the point for them to ask?
“I am quite forgiving when it comes to youngsters. Because they are newcomers, they are humbler, so they will use their heart to learn. The most problematic ones are those that have been acting for a few years, think they have some acting chops, and use their fake acting to cheat others. These people don’t even put their heart into acting. I do not think highly of them.”
A Large Family
Similar to the Chung family in Silver Spoon, Sterling Shackles, Damian was born to a large family. His father had several wives, and Damian himself is the son of the fifth wife.
“I am my father’s favorite. One time, my father forgot to give us our allowances, so my family pushed me to ask my father for it. I was so scared, shaking from head to toe, but my father said, ‘I really owe you guys!’ and in the end, he gave us our allowances. I am also very close to my mother. When my father [bullies] my mother, I would be the one to step up and protect her. It is quite like Silver Spoon, Sterling Shackles!”
Damian attended St. Joseph’s College, Hong Kong’s oldest Catholic boys’ secondary school. After school, Damian would volunteer at his school’s church, and he also worked as a peer counselor for his juniors. “I was very well aware of the bad side of our society. I volunteered a lot, so I’ve met many kids from troubled families. I’ve seen violent kids, drug addicts… and because I was exposed to all of this, I knew that I had to stay clean. Because I’ve seen so many troubled kids, I was always against having children. Now that I’m old, I am actually starting to really like children.”
Damian said that it was his mother who made him realize life’s greatest treasures. “I have always been the person who would talk about being filial more than being truly filial. When I finally understood what that word meant, it was very, very late.”
Damian continued, “I was eating with a friend and my mother at a café one day. I saw my mother leaving our table quietly to leave the restaurant. My friend saw this and ran to her to pull her back. My mother told me she did not know who I was talking to, and was afraid to embarrass me. What! What did I do to make my mother feel that she was an embarrassment to me? I felt really bad!
“The first time I hugged my mother was when I was over 40 years old. My mother was shaking when I did. My mother already lost my father, and for years, I did not take in the responsibilities as her son. She was never hugged. When I first held her hand, she let me go. It took several tries for it to feel normal. Thankfully, my mother is still here, and whenever I walk with her, I will always hold her hand. I really don’t want to let her hand go.”
Damian’s mother is now 91 years old, and although her health has been deteriorating in recent years, Damian spends every single day taking walks with her. And he has not missed one single day.
Source: Sudden Weekly #902 via ihktv.com
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