It took Ben Wong (黃智賢) nearly 25 years to realize that maybe being a lead actor in today’s film industry may not be so glorious after all.
The Lives of Omission <潛行狙擊> and Highs and Lows <雷霆掃毒> star became a part of the TVB family as early as 1989, when he was hired to host the popular child program, Flash Fax <閃電傳真機>. “I am and was always a huge fan of television,” said Ben. “When I was 20 years old, I joined the ‘Youth Ambassador’ contest hosted by TVB. That contest introduced me to the industry.”
After hosting the children’s program for a few years, Ben finally earned a chance to make a brief appearance in the 1993 wuxia drama, The Heroes from Shaolin <武尊少林>. Ben’s first major role was in Lee Tim Sing’s (李添勝) 1994 adaptation of The Legend of the Condor Heroes <射鵰英雄傳>, where he portrayed “Guo Jing’s” best childhood friend, “Tolui”. A year later, Ben was cast as “Ah Hoi” in the sitcom, A Kindred Spirit <真情>, and Ben’s popularity exploded in a matter of months.
The success of Ah Hoi led TVB to cast Ben in 1997’s Triumph Over Evil <真命天師>, in which Ben portrayed the lead character, “Lin Nin”. Lin Nin remained as Ben’s only lead role in his career.
“I worked my butt off to film all 20 episodes, but in the end, the company decided to give it a poor Christmas time slot,” said Ben bitterly. “Not only did TVB not have confidence in the drama, they also cut out at least 5 episodes for the broadcast. Tell me, how would a drama with 5 episodes edited out be any benefit to script? I am not Stephen Chow (周星馳). No matter how badly written his dramas were, he could still attract an audience by his charisma. I thought TVB wanted to keep me. I thought they had intentions to promote me, but in the end, they chose an uninteresting character that no one could do justice for me to portray. I was young and I wanted a better future, so I left.
“Now, I realize that being a lead actor isn’t so great after all. You have to carry an entire drama on your shoulders. Nowadays, I’m not burdened with anything to carry. I am putting myself in the lowest level, and I view things in the simplest format. I cannot control viewership ratings or popularity. All I need to concentrate on now is to do my best and improve. Do I want to be a lead actor? Ten years ago, I would definitely say yes! As an actor, who wouldn’t want to be leading? But now… I’ll rather you raise my salary instead!”
Ben: “I Am a PK”
Ben’s returning breakthrough in the industry was not what he really had in mind. Ben knew he had to start from scratch again after returning to TVB in 2004. He had already lost count to how many villainous and unlikable minor roles he had portrayed in the last few years. His roles were all very unlike Ah Hoi, and Ben assumed that he would never regain his Ah Hoi’s popularity again.
Winning the TVB Best Supporting Actor in 2010 for his role as “Spicy Ginger” in Lives of Omission was a pleasant surprise. He knew, for one, that his role was well-accepted, and he expected himself to win that year, but it was not the kind of breakthrough he had anticipated. Ah Hoi was sincere, hardworking, and considerate. Spicy Ginger was cunning, mysterious, and dark.
Ben took up another ambiguously dark role for Highs and Lows. Face Magazine earlier erroneously reported that Ben’s character, “Poon Sir,” would rape Kate Tsui’s (徐子珊) character Pat. Upon hearing this, Ben appeared nervous and stuttered, “I’m a PK, but not to such an extent! I don’t mind playing a villain, but it’s not to the point where I will take advantage of women! I think that is a huge personality flaw.”
Ben sighed, “I feel terrible. Raping is already bad, but raping Kate Tsui is worse! A lot of her fans yelled at me on Weibo. The anger died down a bit when I cleared things up, but Raymond Lam (林峯) has even more fans. I am also Raymond’s opponent in Highs and Lows, and I had to compete with him every day. Raymond’s fans has been yelling at me since the broadcast of the drama first began. They all said I am very despicable!”
An Abnormal Childhood
Ben is the fourth child from a family of nine children. He and his siblings grew up in a humble neighborhood in Tsam Shui Po. His parents owned a roasted meat and butcher shop. Ben and his siblings would spend every day of the week to look after the small business.
“We were not normal children. I knew how to pluck chicken feathers, slice onions and gingers, and scrape intestines by the time I was six. When I was a bit older, I started butchering chickens and bloodletting them.
“I had afternoon classes for primary school instead of morning ones. Everyday, I would wake up early in the morning to help out at the shop while wearing my school uniform. I don’t go to school until after lunch. After school, I would go back to the shop to help out again. I would not have time to do my homework until 8 or 9 PM.”
With his father as a gambling addict, Ben’s family was burdened with the task to repay his debts.
“Every single day,” Ben said tiredly. “My father loved to gamble. The loan sharks came to us every single day for my father’s debts. All the hard money we had earned everyday would all be gone in the end. Interestingly, my siblings and I never got into the habit of gambling like my father. Because of him, we were burdened to repay his debts, and we learned that this isn’t the kind of life we wanted.
“I couldn’t stand living this kind of life anymore. So when I turned fifteen years old, I decided to apply for cadet school. I graduated two years later. In my three years of being a cop, the most I did was arresting illegal hawkers, jaywalkers, and giving out speeding tickets. I chased criminals before, but I never fired a gun.”
In God’s Embrace
“My mom is my hero. Only she could stand my dad. She sacrificed a lot this family, and I respect her a lot. What we regret the most as children is to see our mother struggling and suffering for most of her life. She was never able to live comfortably.”
Ben’s mother passed away in 2009 from cancer. “She was so skinny in the last few days of her life. It was another suffering… but leaving this world can be seen as liberation. My mother and I are both Christians, and we believe in heaven after death. We all live. We all suffer. What is better than to be able to be in the embrace of God after our sufferings are over?”
Source: Face Magazine #281 via ihktv.com
This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.
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