Ai Wai on Working with TVB: “It Felt Like a Prison”

Despite appearing in hundreds of dramas with varying roles, Ai Wai (also known as Wilson Tsui 艾威) ended his 32 years of tenure with TVB on a sour note after feeling mistreated by the station. Vowing to never return to the station, Ai Wai is not afraid to publicly speak out about TVB’s horrible conditions and their rigid filming practices.

Appearing as a guest on ViuTV’s reality show Midlife Crisis <中佬唔易做>, Ai Wai shares the struggles he had faced. Despite being a familiar face to the audience and filming a record of seven dramas in a single year, Ai Wai was never given the opportunity to grow and to play a memorable role at TVB. When asked if he had any regrets, Ai Wai replied, “Definitely yes! But you don’t think about it. It is problematic if you keep thinking like that, so you have to think about constructive things, such as how to improve your acting to captivate the audience. This is what you have to do.”

Throughout his career with TVB, AI Wai shared that he saw the station go through many changes. When Ai Wai first started his career, he was given so many opportunities to sing to the point where he had to decline work. Recalling the past, Ai Wai shared, “That place changed. It is very different from when I first went in, but it’s all in the past and there’s nothing to say. In short, it’s like going to a prison and you shouldn’t return.”

Ai Wai continued, “Thank you, producer Lee Tim Sing (李添勝) for seeking me to film historical dramas. It helped me build a good reputation in China. I was able to sing on stage to earn a decent income. However, to be honest, [TVB] did not really want to promote me at that time. It was just because there were available roles.”

Leaving TVB

Without any support to propel his career, Ai Wai felt trapped in his career as he constantly clashed with the studio’s filming methods. Sharing his experience, Ai Wai recalled, “I remember playing a general and had to clap hands to call the soldiers out. After I clapped, the choreographer told me to clap slower. But I thought if you want to call people out, you should clap faster! Why is there even a standard for clapping? Shouldn’t you act with your heart? ”

Since Ai Wai was not recognized by the station, the actor felt compelled to cast aside his personal opinions and followed the masses. Once, he pretended to laugh at a joke in a script despite not understanding it. Admitting that this was difficult for him, Ai Wei shared, “It was hard to handle. I really didn’t understand it, but it was easy enough so I tried it.”

As Ai Wai started to realize that he did not have a future with TVB, he repeatedly thought about leaving the station. Ai Wai shared, “Have you ever thought about leaving? Yes! How many times? This situation is like thinking about suicide–I believe a lot of people have thought about it, but you wouldn’t take it seriously and implement it.”

After leaving TVB, Ai Wai taught performing arts at Hong Kong Baptist University, sharing his pragmatic approach to acting instead of traditional theories.  Hoping to help his students more, he was motivated to write his own book on acting to delve into the topic deeper, “I hope they understand what acting means, and what things to pay attention to when cameras roll. When you arrive on set, the makeup stylist and lighting staff may even give you tips, which is very surprising. For me, learning the script is not the only requirement–the most important thing is your ability to analyze [the situation] and try things out. This is my conclusion after many years of being in the industry.”

Source: HK01

This article is written by Sammi for

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  1. It’s sad that all these older actors are stuck and have no other options for their acting career.

    Imagine working 32 years for a company you loathed?

    1. @pompidur Well, technically he didn’t loathe it the entire time he was there. His sentiments are very similar to most of the veteran artists who worked for TVB in the 80s/early 90s — that back then, TVB was a decent company to work for and despite their issues (low pay, long hours, etc), artists didn’t have much of a problem with it because Uncle Six (the late Run Run Shaw) and the management at the time treated them like family (and more importantly, the artists were treated with respect and dignity, which, for many people, is a bigger deal than getting paid big bucks). A large part of why TVB devolved into the crap company it is now is because of incompetent management that essentially ran the station into the ground (though in a less spectacular fashion than what ATV management did, but that’s a whole other story for another time).

  2. He is one of the memorable ones, nowadys it’s just getting worse and worse.

  3. One of the most legendary supporting actors of TVB. His most memorable roles are all in Ancient costume dramas.

    1. @anon Yes, one of the most memorable for me too, though it wasn’t just his costume dramas. He’s one of the most recognizable supporting actors out there and also one of the best that TVB had….too bad TVB never cherished him. I was reading an old interview Wilson did where he talked about his relationship with his mentor and teacher, the late Kwan Hoi San (another great veteran actor who is no longer with us) and I was moved by his passion for acting as well as how close he is to those who helped him in his career.

      One of the things I admire most about Wilson is that, unlike most of the other artists who left TVB, he has absolutely no intention of returning and is not afraid to say so outright. Regardless of whether he is successful or not after leaving TVB, there’s no looking backward, only forward — he definitely has my respect!

  4. My most memorable role for him was in Happily Ever After starring alongside Bobby Au-Yeung and Mariane Chan.

    He definitely was one of the best supporting actors for his time.

  5. iirc he was in On Call 36 where he acted as Tavia’s father and his performance was so good. He is definitely a very good actor but sadly one must go with the crowd and live up to Hong Kong’s standards of being good looking.

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