For many TVB artists, winning a prestigious award at the TVB Anniversary Awards is recognition of a job well done. However, a non-TVB artist winning a TVB award is not only just recognition for the artist, but it also marks the beginning of a new and, possibly, better career.
Raymond Wong (黃浩然) is the first non-managed TVB artist to win Most Improved Male Artist at the TVB Anniversary Awards. A bit of fate and luck may have contributed to the actor’s win, but this is by no means that the actor did not work hard for it.
When Raymond was scouted by director Johnnie To (杜琪峯) to star in his films in the late 1990s, Raymond was still in school. He gladly accepted Johnnie’s invitation, and did not expect that achieving success in the Hong Kong film industry would be that difficult. Of course, luck is and will always be an important aspect to a booming acting career, but due to the economic disasters brought by the late 1990s Asian financial crisis, 1997 handover to China, and SARs, many new actors who debuted around this time were just as unfortunate as Raymond.
Film offers to Raymond did not increase within the year. Annual Hong Kong films dropped from 200 productions per year to only 40, and Raymond’s workload dropped significantly. In 2001, Raymond joined ATV, hoping that signing with the TV station would bring a new light to his career. However, Raymond’s TV career was not much of an improvement from his film career.
“Half a year before I joined TVB, I only had work for about ten days. In this situation, I cannot help but to be worried about my career prospects. At that time, it was impossible for me to see a future.” Raymond spoke with a combination of firmness and helplessness.
Raymond finally joined TVB in 2007. “When I joined the station, I thought this would be the last step of my acting career. This is why that whenever I began a new drama, I would always put in a lot of effort to prepare, so I could face my new surroundings and colleagues fearlessly. A bit of time must be spent to mingle and get used to the new environment, so that was why I did not do as well as I had hoped in my first two to three dramas. When I was beginning to feel dejected, Tim Gor (Lee Tim Sing 李添勝) cast me in Sweetness in the Salt <碧血鹽梟>. I was able to find a suitable way to communicate with my colleagues and crew members. I was finally on the right track of my career.”
Raymond: “It’s Important to be Tough and Resilient”
Raymond’s workload has indeed increased since joining TVB. He has never called in sick in the last five years. The exhausted but spirited actor exclaimed, “I remember when my son was born, I requested a day off to go see him. On the second day, when my wife and son were still at the hospital, I was already back at the studio filming!”
Being hardworking is not enough for a successful career. It is also important to be tough and resilient. “When I filmed Can’t Buy Me Love <公主嫁到> and No Regrets <巾幗梟雄之義海豪情>, I went 60 hours without sleep. Even when I did have the chance to rest, it would only be about 3 to 4 hours. When taking into account the time it took to get back home and shower, I only had about two hours to sleep. I did not dare to sleep in my room. I was afraid that I would be too tired and would not wake up, so I only slept on the sofa. It’s important to be tough. Even if the results would not be as good as I had hoped, at least I knew that I had the energy to keep on going.”
Raymond concluded, “To do well in this industry is actually quite simple. As long as you endure and listen, you will be given more chances. Those who are not hard-working will be eliminated quickly. Those who work hard and can endure hardships are the ones who get to stay, and can reach even higher places.”
Kent Gor – A Mentor and a Friend
Raymond has met many respected teachers in the last five years. TVB executive Catherine Tsang (曾勵珍), producers Lee Tim Sing, Marco Law (羅永賢), and Mui Siu Ching(梅小青) have all helped him with his career at TVB. Most of all, he wanted to thank the veteran, award-winning actor Kent Cheng (鄭則士), who starred as his father in When Lanes Merge <情越雙白線>.
“Having the chance to work with Kent Gor is a kind of fate,” said Raymond. “Before we collaborated, we would often come across each other at TVB studios. At that time, he already took the initiative to chat with me. He told me that as actors, we should always try to spend some time on getting to know each other in case we have to collaborate in the future. Filming a drama takes at least two months or more to complete. If it takes one or more months’ time to finally understand and tune in the same channel with each other, the drama would already be near post-production by then. That is why he has a habit of watching different genres of television dramas to observe the acting styles and qualities of each actor. When there is a chance of collaboration in the future, he would know how to communicate with that actor, so their chemistry can yield more sparks.”
A month before When Lanes Merge began filming, Kent invited Raymond over to his home to read over the script and their character designs. Raymond explained, “He taught me how to study the script, how to grasp the proper acting rhythm, and how to connect the smaller details between the role and the script. Even to this day, he is watching my performances. When he sees something wrong, he will not hesitate to call to tell me. He will even ‘scold’ me about it! He is both my mentor and friend.”
Raymond’s deepest memory of working with Kent was in a scene where Kent slapped Raymond several times in the face. Before filming started, Kent asked Raymond if he was willing to receive three slaps in the face. Raymond immediately replied yes without thinking. When the cameras officially rolled, Kent slapped Raymond ruthlessly without hesitation, and half of Raymond’s face was bruised. One camera take finished the job. The result was perfect, and Raymond did not regret the experience at all.
“Acting is not the hardest part of the job. It is trying to get along with others,” said Raymond sincerely.
With fifteen years of experience under his belt, Raymond can be considered a veteran actor. Since he made the choice of joining TVB, he had to leave all that experience behind. He admitted that it is not easy to let go of his past experiences to accept new opinions, but it is a sacrifice he is respectfully willing to take.
“No matter who they are, I will always listen to their opinions. When I first joined TVB, I knew the most important thing I had to do was to open up my heart’s own window. When working with other actors, I would always say, ‘If you think I’m doing anything wrong, don’t forget to speak out. We can discuss it!’ Regardless if I agree with them or not, it is important to take consideration of other opinions and advice so I can enlighten myself.
“When working on a drama together, the most important thing is teamwork.”
Raymond: “Ratings are Very Important”
Many of Raymond’s colleagues claimed that they do not care too much about their dramas’ viewership ratings. Many of his colleagues also believe that the so-called “acting critics” in forums are nonsensical trolls, and their criticism should not be taken seriously. Raymond, however, does not agree.
Raymond explained, “Kent Gor told me that, as an actor, we should always be prepared. During filming, we should create a good relationship with the director and other crew members. When the drama is broadcasting, we should observe the audience’s reactions, such as surfing through the opinions posted on discussion forums. It’s as if we’re giving ourselves some self-criticism after a contest. For example, when Gloves Come Off <拳王> was airing, many people said that my acting was very over-the-top in the first half of the drama. This was a risk. If the audience did not like my acting, they may not continue to support the drama. Later on, I went on more forums and found out that the audience had accepted my style. If the audience did not accept my style of acting and my portrayal of the role, this means that I made the wrong judgment in my acting, and I will definitely reflect on the things I have done wrong.”
Raymond continued, “Television dramas are filmed to entertain the audiences, not just to entertain the actors. This is why I think ratings are very important. The ratings can prove if the audience can identify with the thoughts that the actors had of their roles during the filming process. This acceptance and identification is the reason why I’m still acting.”
This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.
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