TVB introduced two new rising stars to the Hong Kong television industry since the broadcast of Divas in Distress <巴不得媽媽…>: “Princess Heung Heung” Eliza Sam (岑麗香) and “So Gay” Koo Ming Wah (古明華). There is no doubt that a bright future is ahead for the 27-year-old Eliza, who recently won a large supporting role in TVB’s blockbuster, Triumph in the Skies 2 <衝上雲宵II >. But what about 48-year-old Koo Ming Wah? Tied to family and middle age, will Koo Ming Wah also be able to continue his successful streak in the future?
Like Wayne Lai (黎耀祥) and Evergreen Mak (麥長青), Koo Ming Wah is a “late bloomer” in the television industry. With classmates, Sunny Chan (陳錦鴻), Jim Chim (詹瑞文), Joey Leung (梁榮忠), Rain Lau (劉玉翠), and Cheung Kam Ching (張錦程), Koo graduated from The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in 1990 and joined TVB that same year. For the next eighteen years, Koo earned merely $10,000 HKD per month from his onscreen work.
Burdened by the medical expenses of his 14-year-old daughter Tammi, Koo decided to increase his income by also working as a voice actor for TVB, and joined the team in 2000.
Fifty Hours Without Sleep
Unlike Koo’s onscreen career, his voice acting career has been successful. Koo is the regular go-to voice actor for many Cantonese-dubbed Korean dramas and films, and became the regular voice actor for Park Sang Myeon (朴相勉), the star of 2001’s My Wife is a Gangster.
With two full-time jobs, Koo struggled to maintain a consistent lifestyle in the past twelve years. The work hours for a TVB voice actor is as unpredictable as regular onscreen TVB actors. Koo’s longest time without sleep was fifty hours.
Struggling to Pay for Daughter’s Medical Fees
Koo’s 14-year-old daughter, Tammi, is diagnosed with glomerulonephritis, which is the inflammation of the glomeruli, a small blood vessel in the kidneys. Symptoms of the disease include the swelling of the body, especially the facial area. Tammi’s medical fees currently cost is approximately $4,000 HKD per month.
“Two years ago, the symptoms worsened. Her head and body swelled up to over half of her original size, and she had to stay in the hospital for three months. There was also another time when my daughter got extremely dehydrated after the doctor drew out too much water from her body. We had to take her to the emergency room, and she almost died! My heart ached so much,” Koo said.
Tears were trickling down Koo’s eyes when discussing his family. When Tammi’s medical bills were increasing, Koo considered dropping his acting career completely. Choking back tears, Koo said, “My wife told me that as long as I’m doing what I love most, then everything will be fine. My daughter, who was only 11 years old at the time, told me this, ‘No. I know you like acting. My answer is no.’ I never really taught her anything about my career, yet she knows that her father loves acting.”
Fortunately, Tammi’s condition has improved significantly in the past year. Koo happily said, “Right now, she is stable and is keeping up with her medication. We used to have to pay at least $6,000 to $7,000 HKD per month, but right now, we only need to pay at most $4,000 HKD.”
At a Crossroad
Koo’s salary as a voice actor is three times higher than his salary as a regular TVB actor. After he completed Divas in Distress, Koo considered giving up his onscreen career to focus entirely on voice acting. However, the success of his Divas in Distress character, So Gay, left Koo standing in the middle of a crossroad.
“When I see my daughter, I always tell myself that I cannot just take care of myself. I need to pay at least $80,000 HKD a year for my daughter’s medical costs, and the only way to concentrate on earning that much money is to have only one focus. I also want to have more time to spend with my family! I never knew that ‘So Gay’ would be such a big hit. Now it’s like I am at a crossroad – I don’t know how to choose! Maybe I’ll only do one drama per year, just to satisfy my acting itches.”
According to an online poll that was set up last week, over 70,000 Hong Kong netizens supported Koo Ming Wah to win Best Supporting Actor or Most Improved Actor at the TVB Anniversary Awards. A few days ago, over five different media firms were in line to give the actor an interview. What did it feel like to get recognized? Koo immediately cried!
This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.
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