Ruco Chan: “I Sacrificed Love for My Career!”
Ruco Chan (陳展鵬) surged in popularity after the broadcast of TVB series, The Other Truth <真相>. Rather than being nominated for the Most Improved Actor Award as widely speculated, Ruco was placed in the competition for the Best Actor Award in this year’s TVB Anniversary Awards instead. Ruco said happily, “I am not a newcomer; I can still be considered for the Most Improved category?”
The twists and turns in Ruco’s career over the last decade cannot be categorized as Most Improved, but rather an exploration over a lengthy period of time. Ruco’s former identities were plentiful: former Hong Kong table tennis team player, former TVB acting class graduate, former Polygram singer, former movie actor, and former ATV artist. Despite this, no one paid attention and it was not until The Other Truth that marked a turning point in 34-year-old Ruco Chan’s life.
Ruco noted, “Every table tennis player starts from losing. The more he loses, the more determined he becomes. However, he will never admit defeat easily. Our training was based on the mantra: you cannot lose, but you are able to lose.”
Ruco’s signature game play was a backhand loop and hitting the ball on the boundary line. It was unexpected that an old warrior’s stamina was so strong which allowed him to surge ahead this year. “The sports mantra has always remained within me, which is to try your best each time and put in your heart into it. I am very happy this year and it does not matter what the final report card results are!”
After the broadcast of The Other Truth, Ruco signed an 8-year TVB management contract. “I thought the contract was too short; it would be better if I had signed a 10-year contract!” With his new found popularity, immediate money-making opportunities cropped up, including an appearance at an insurance company to speak about his perseverance in life and “resurrection from being a dead fish.” Within a 3-month period, Ruco earned $500,000 HKD, which was a target many people hoped to achieve.
“You may consider that I surged upwards, however I sacrificed my love life. Many of my friends have already gotten married. Their accomplishments are not limited to their careers, but also include their families.”
Ruco’s former girlfriend was 2008 Miss Asia, Eunis Yiu (姚佳雯). The pair broke up due to Ruco’s return to TVB and ensuing hectic schedule. “After I rejoined TVB, we saw each other increasingly less. If we worked at the same company, there are more opportunities to meet, making it easier to find out about each other’s issues. Now, we do not even have a chance to see each other. I have to consider it from her standpoint too, as she is at a marriage-suitable age. After discussing it together, we decided to give each other opportunities to learn more and thus, broke up peacefully. Now that I am so busy, she is very happy for me. I hope she finds a suitable person as well!”
“An artist’s profession is selfish [due to the work circumstances]. There are several important holidays in a year, such as Valentine’s Day, birthdays, and Christmas. My significant other may wish to celebrate these occasions with me, however, I have to work. I cannot satisfy her happiness on such a simple level. For example, to watch fireworks and huddle together on a cold street is already simple joy. Due to my avoidance of crowded public places, I cannot even satisfy such a simple request. Even if we were to go on vacation together, we have to work out our schedules. Also, there are some things which cannot be done too publicly.”
During the time frame that Ruco had dated Eunis, he was very busy due rejoining TVB in 2008. Naturally, a lot of complaints surfaced. “A normal woman will complain. One year is like that; the second year is the same; and the third year remains unchanged. There are so many excuses. Sometimes due to the hectic filming schedule, there is not even a phone call, giving less and less confidence to her. Even the simplest things, I cannot provide them.”
Girlfriends Never Complained Of Ruco Being Poor
Ruco indicated that he was not dating anyone currently, but will not deny his status if he has a girlfriend. “I am not a twenty-something idol! A person will only mature through the experience of love. The audience also encourages me.”
Not minding in revealing his love history, Ruco indicated that he had dated seven times in the past. Two of his former girlfriends worked in the entertainment industry. Among his relationships, some lasted only for a short period of time, while the longest relationship lasted for 7 years, in which he dated from the age of 18 to 24-years-old. This was also during the period when he lost his music contract, was unemployed for a period of time and filmed movies, which marked the lowest point in his life.
“We loved each other in our hearts. However, my income was unstable. Being an actor is very passive. Today, I might have work and receive cash payments. Two months later, I may be completely out of work. This is a big problem. Women mature more quickly and hope that men can earn money and set aside some savings. I wanted to earn money so we can be happy, eat a big meal together and not have to eat bread each time. She wanted stability. Sometimes, I got paid and other times, I did not. Sometimes I flew to a remote location [for work], which made her anxious.”
Ruco’s ex-girlfriend worked as an advertisement model and did not earn a large income. However, her family background was wealthier than Ruco’s family. “In my poorest days, I lived off $1,000 HKD for a month. How is it possible [to live like that]? We did not go outside; I split bills with my girlfriend, or sometimes we ate at home. We lived together at one point. My mother would cook for us and sometimes, we would eat at her house, in which her maid would cook for us. It’s quite surprising that during the difficult stages of my life, there would be a woman by my side. When my situation improved, I did not have a girlfriend. My past girlfriends were not materialistic. Hong Kong women are quite loyal; if I can choose, I will choose a Hong Kong woman. No one complained that I was poor. When my financial situation improved, they left me, as if they owed debts in their former lives that they had to repay in this lifetime.”
During the 7 years in which Ruco had dated this former model girlfriend, the pair broke up and reconciled numerous times. During this time frame, Ruco also dated other women for short periods to prove that he did not have any problems. “I matured at a very late stage. Throughout our time together, she pointed out the problems. However, I was thinking to myself, ‘You are going to pick this time to get married?’ We often argued over this issue.” Finally, Ruco and his former girlfriend broke up and she found a good man to get married with. “After separating for over a year, I finally understood her thoughts. Each time I date, I learn something new!”
Leaving the Hong Kong Table Tennis Team for Loyalty
Ruco’s father was a firefighter and he grew up in a Cheung Sha Wan firefighter dormitory, which was situated near the firehouse station. In his childhood games, Ruco learned how to slide down a pole like a firefighter.
Since a young age, Ruco excelled in sports. At the age of 15, he was selected to join the Hong Kong Table Tennis team and won a scholarship to attend a sports academy. He represented Hong Kong to compete in the Commonwealth Games in India. This was prior to the 1997 Hong Kong Handover to China, before the replacement of mainland table tennis players. However, Ruco left the team on his own will.
“The coach who mentored me was forced to leave the team. Since the coach no longer worked there, I left too. At the time, I was very cool, playing the loyal kid. He had no choice; I had to support him.”
Ruco’s first entertainment industry encounter was related to table tennis as well. At the time, Aaron Kwok (郭富城) served as a celebrity spokesperson to promote sports and filmed a video clip at Ruco’s training facility. Ruco was selected to be one of the accompanying athletes in the clip. “A talent scout contacted me and invited me for a screen test. I felt somewhat proud and filmed a commercial. After I graduated from high school, I wanted to become an artist. I applied to an acting school and paid some fees. I was afraid to tell my father, who wished that I follow his footsteps to become a firefighter, but that was not my dream. My modeling agency advised that I join TVB’s acting class, which paid a monthly salary of $3,000 HKD. It was quite good!”
The treatment for each graduate of the TVB acting class varied. Carlo Ng (吳家樂 ) and Joyce Chen (陳彥行) were offered hosting jobs after graduating, while Ruco continued to play numerous extra roles. “Each day at work, my physical body was there, but not my spirit. When told to stand in a certain spot, I did exactly that and sometimes played a dead corpse!” The first time Ruco had lines was in Instinct <笑看風雲>, portraying Ekin Cheng’s (鄭伊健) friend. “I spent an entire night reciting two lines. My face was so tight, I resembled a robot!” Due to his poor performance, producers and directors did not see the aptitude in Ruco. During his first three years in TVB, Ruco only played extra roles and no series made a memorable impact upon the audience causing them to remember his name.
Making Mistakes in the Film Industry
Without any results in the television industry, Ruco joined the music industry, which needed tall men to package into idol material. One time at a karaoke gathering, Ruco met guitarist So Tak Wah (蘇德華), who introduced him to Polygram. Ruco recorded four songs, which was intended to be released as an EP. The company intended to market him as “a young Andy Lau (劉德華)” and vendors who requested Daniel Chan (陳曉東) often got Ruco Chan for free. However, before his music album was released, Polygram was acquired by Universal Music Group and Ruco was sacrificed. “They wished to terminate my contract. I said if that was the case, then let it be. I was acting cool once again, as I did not like to beg people. My self-esteem was very strong. At a young age, I never wished to lose a sports game, but I often lost. Look at Den Yaping (邓亚萍); his eyes are very fierce. If you lost, you tell people that you lack confidence!”
Ensuing experiences that followed truly made Ruco lose. He thought that he could depend on himself to film movies, but the Asian financial crisis occurred, which depressed the Hong Kong film industry. All the films that he participated in were low-budget movies. Making numerous mistakes, Ruco filmed all the roles that were offered to him, including unknown films such as Oh! My Dad! <我老豆唔系人>, Trust Me U Die <新羔羊医生>, and Rape Trap <强奸陷阱>. “At the time, I felt very depressed, thus I put my heart into dating. I gave up on work.” Fortunately, Ruco encountered Anthony Wong (黃秋生), Sean Lau (劉青雲), Cheung Tat Ming (張達明), and Ada Choi (蔡少芬) while filming. “Anthony advised me, ‘Do not act in odd, psychotic roles anymore!’ However, I had no choice at the time. When I was on a lucky streak, I came across many good things. When bad luck crossed my path, nothing was available!”
For some time, Ruco envied his junior table tennis team player, who won the Hong Kong championship and became a coach, earning a monthly salary of $30,000 to $40,000, while Ruco continued to earn a meager $2,000 each month trying to establish himself.
While filming one time, Ruco encountered Wayne Lai (黎耀祥), who advised sternly, “Go back to TVB to learn more. This is the only way; you have been stagnant for a long time!” Ruco saw wisdom in Wayne’s advice, however he did not choose to go back to TVB, but rather joined ATV instead.
Separated on Bad Terms From ATV
Despite his experience at TVB, Polygram, and the film industry, Ruco unexpectedly had to start from ground zero at ATV again. “I was very unhappy the first two years at ATV. I had to work with the new ATV acting class graduates and was treated as a newcomer once again. I could not say no. ATV management did not know who I was and I did not know what to tell them. I could only do my job well and treated it as a cleansing of my past. I erased all my previous experience, forgot about the past, and focused on the present.”
When it was time to meet the press, Ruco felt ill at ease. If there were artists from both TVB and ATV present, the media would treat the ATV artists as if they were transparent. “We are all from the same entertainment circle and belong only to a different company. The media can treat you as completely transparent! I felt very disheartened.” At a film premiere, no one took photos or interviewed Ruco. He waited inside the bathroom until it was time for the premiere to start.
Few people paid attention to ATV series. In ATV drama, Love in a Miracle <愛在有情天>, Ruco and Amy Chan (陳秀雯) portrayed a couple despite their 15-year age gap, which Ruco minimized by carrying himself in a more mature manner. Rejoining TVB and partnering with Maggie Cheung (張可頤), who was older than Ruco, no one felt it was out of place.
Ruco’s “masterpiece” in ATV was exposing half his butt in a travelogue program in the hot springs of Japan, a scene which was still talked about today. “You cannot wear clothes while immersing in a Japanese hot spring. I wanted to personally experience the hot spring and did not see the point in trying to cover myself with a towel. It was better to cut the footage in the appropriate spot, preventing exposure [of the critical parts] and the results were comfortable.”
At ATV, Ruco’s income had stabilized. He purchased a condo apartment in the Lam Tin district in 2003 and earned $700,000 to $800,000 upon selling the property in 2007. The frequent changes in ATV executive management, which led to actors’ confusion and indirection, prompted Ruco to leave the company. “There were many changes among the key shareholders. The terms of artist contracts were [suddenly modified]. For no apparent reason, my income from shows was reduced to 60 percent and I was not assigned any work for 6 months. There were numerous problems at ATV, which made me feel disheartened. I had a clash with ATV later and the company said they will ‘freeze’ me for three months although my contract had ended at that point. It was very chaotic, so it was time to say bye bye!” TVB was in contact with Ruco much earlier. After leaving ATV for only one month, Ruco’s variety program aired in Hong Kong, which shocked ATV.
Ruco’s luck turned when he portrayed a lawyer in The Other Truth. A dozen years ago, Ruco met friends from the legal field, Ching Hung (清洪) and his mentee Lung Chung Han (龍宗瀚), Lam Doi’s (林黛) son at a bar. Ruco noted, “I know a lot of lawyers and people who work in the legal industry; I learned a lot from them!.”
A Hot Man
Ruco’s enunciation was very exact, carrying a nasal tone at the appropriate time, which gave people the impression that he was an “old school” actor, contrary to his true age of 34-years-old. The advantage was his ability in attracting an older female audience. His handsome lawyer image in The Other Truth had a big market. “Generally, a woman today is interested in seeking an older man, hoping to entrust, but not necessarily rely on him. The success of The Other Truth was due to its suitability for the market.”
Ruco took advantage of the opportunity to promote himself as a man who knew how to take care of women and stated that household chores were not difficult for him. “I know how to cook, drill walls, repair electrical appliances and other things around the house. I grew up in a modest family and my father taught me how to use an electric drill and split the hose in a washing machine. I am also knowledgeable about the pipes behind a refrigerator, electric wiring, and how to install speaker wires. I have been poor before so it’s important to be frugal whenever possible. Rather than give a repairman $100 HKD, it’s better to do it myself! ”
Perhaps Ruco may not crave to become the TV King, however his conversations revealed a desire to get married and start a family. This was also the difference between Ruco Chan and other TVB actors.
Source: Ming Pao Weekly # 2246
Jayne: It appears that Ruco was poor for a large part of his life. He mentioned trying to live off $1,000 HKD while dating his girlfriend from age 17 to 24. Although he may not be necessarily working to earn a lot of money, certainly he cherishes the current opportunities that he has found now.
During the TVB Anniversary Gala, Ruco sat next to Wayne Lai and was featured prominently in the games segments. He is heavily promoted now; hope to see him in some interesting series next year pushing his acting skills further.
The interview was a little depressing to read, as it focused on many low points in his career and love life, including his lost relationship (inability to make ends meet for his first girlfriend who wanted to get married) and breakup with Eunis Yiu after his return to TVB.