Scotland’s Susan Boyle reached overnight success after performing the Les Miserables number, “I Dreamed a Dream” on Britain’s Got Talent. Taiwan’s Lin Yu Chun (林育羣) became an internet sensation after performing Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” on One Million Star <超級星光大道>. Fred Cheng (鄭俊弘) recently became Hong Kong’s overnight star after displaying his hidden talent.
The 29-year-old actor shocked viewers with his flawless performance of Eason Chan’s (陳奕迅) “Song of the Era” <時代曲> on TVB’s Voice of Stars <星夢傳奇> singing competition. Impressing viewers and the show’s vocal coaches with his powerful voice, Fred Cheng has earned the name as Hong Kong’s “next big hit.”
Fred’s Thorny Road
When Fred auditioned for Voice of Stars, he never thought about winning, nor did he even think about achieving overnight fame. He just wanted the audience to remember his name.
And it worked. Fans on Facebook created a “Fred Cheng, I recognize you” fanpage, and more and more netizens are beginning to pick up the older dramas he has starred in.
“It has all been very surreal,” said Fred. “I have always been interested in performing. When I was still in school, I was in a band and acted in a musical. After my graduation in Canada, I returned to Hong Kong in 2001. I wanted to join a singing competition for fun, and my mother was very supportive. I finally won second place at the final round. I was not expecting that twelve years later, the audience would recognize me through my singing again. I’m surprised that I was given the opportunity to sing again.”
In 2001, Fred auditioned for TVB’s International Chinese New Talent Singing Championship and came in second place in the finals. Under TVB’s management, he signed with record label Capital Artists, but in October 2001, the company went bankrupt. The following year, TVB enrolled Fred in the station’s artist training class. Fred has acted in over forty TVB dramas following his class graduation in 2002.
It was not a smooth start for Fred. For more than he could count, Fred has portrayed numerous random characters like soldier A, guest B, and waiter C. “After graduating from the training class, I have played many different kinds of soldier roles. I have died many times. My most unforgettable experience was shooting Perish in the Name of Love<帝女花>. I was a soldier. The scene I was in was about a bunch of soldiers pushing a canon up a hill against the stormy rain. I could still remember that the road was wet and steep. It was very dangerous. The rain was beating against my eyes. It hurt a lot.”
Fred earned his first speaking role in 2003 – a supporting character in Find the Light <英雄·刀·少年>. Fred continued to portray small supporting roles in dramas like Shine On You <青出於藍>, Love Bond <心花放>, The Life and Times of a Sentinel <紫禁驚雷>, and The Confidant <大太監>. Despite his promotion, Fred still did not earn more than a few thousand dollars a month.
“My family lives in Canada. I would always be worried about what I’m going to feed myself for the next meal, because I had no money! Around three to four years ago, I remember I only had about $50 HKD in my back account. The ATM wouldn’t even give me the money. I had to borrow $100 HKD from someone to pay for my Octopus card, so I could get to work. There was a time when I only ate bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I purchased a few buns at once because that’s cheaper. Transportation is expensive, so I would try to stay at home as much as I could. When I need clothes, I would only buy them online. I don’t have the money to pursue girls,” Fred added sadly.
Thoughts on Leaving
After completing Forensic Heroes 2 <法證先鋒II> in 2007, Fred was jobless for nearly six months. During this traumatizing period, Fred taped commercial ads at supermarkets and thought about working as an English tutor. He considered leaving the entertainment industry.
“For the longest time, my distant relatives would ask if I really wanted to keep going with my job. They asked if I could really see a future for myself as an artist. I felt awful. In 2007, my mom asked me to return to Canada to further my studies. My martial arts master also advised me to quit, and tried to convince me to return to Canada. No matter what happens, she said she would support me. That got me into tears. Everyone was worried for my future. I really thought of forgoing my development in the entertainment industry. My mother even suggested me to return to Canada to become a cop. Police in Canada get great benefits.”
Fred had contemplated about leaving the entertainment industry twice, but in the end, it was Fred’s own stubbornness, and Paul Chun’s (秦沛) support, that convinced him to stay in Hong Kong. “The reason why I’m still here today is because of Paul Gor. He played my dad in Love Bond, and from that day onward, he has been taking care of me like I’m his own son. He would always share his own experiences with me. Whenever I lost confidence, he would come to me with encouraging words. He once told me that, if I want to develop well in the entertainment circle, I must learn to know what it means to wait. I must stay determined. Although I wouldn’t know when the wait would be over, if I worked hard, everything would come much easier. I am very thankful to him. He is my savior.”
Fred also added with a smile, “I didn’t tell my mother that I joined [Voice of Stars]. I didn’t want her to be disappointed. But once the episode aired, all of Canada’s major Chinese papers had my name in their headlines. My mother was so happy. I will cherish this moment.”
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