Damian Lau: An Unstoppable Talent for 4 Decades

Damian Lau (劉松仁) debuted through Rediffusion Television (RTV) in 1971, and joined TVB in 1976. The 63-year-old’s career spanned over forty strong decades. The older generation may recall Damian as Luk Siu Fung from the 1976 TVB television adaptation of Gu Long’s Lu Xiaofeng wuxia series. Others may remember Damian in 1980’s Yesterday’s Glitter <京華春夢>, the first Hong Kong drama to film in mainland China.  The younger generation will likely remember Damian in The Greed of Man <大時代>, The Awakening Story <婚前昏後>, Point of No Return <西關大少>, Men in Pain <男人之苦>… the nostalgia is overwhelming. But for Damian, nostalgia was never written into his book.

“Drama will always involve acting. I never recall my successes, and I never cared about my image. Living is just like acting – in the end, you must give up something in order to succeed and improve,” said Damian.

Never in One Place

Damian may be best known for his TVB dramas, but the actor never liked to be trapped under the same umbrella. In the first twenty years of his career, Damian filmed RTV and TVB dramas back-to-back – he joined TVB in 1976, went back to RTV in 1980, went to film ATV and Taiwanese dramas for the next ten years, and then returned to TVB in 1991. He left TVB again a few years later, and spent the next ten years filming mainland Chinese television before returning to TVB again in 2000.

TVB had always been Hong Kong’s largest television station and most powerful entertainment company. For many artists, TVB is a mother’s nest – a safe haven. But for Damian, TVB is nothing more than a longtime friend and business partner.

“I debuted at RTV. Besides acting, I also learned script writing and directing from Lee Siu Hung (李兆熊). It was like that in the 1970s. You learn everything. I signed with TVB a few years later because I grew too close with RTV. I wanted more challenges. I wanted to see if I would be able to succeed under a completely unfamiliar environment. Everyone at TVB was shocked at how good I was with handling the script and camera positions. Actually, at the time, I already had enough knowledge to be a director.”

Although Damian reached mild success in his first few years at RTV, it was TVB’s Luk Siu-fung <陸小鳳> and Yesterday’s Glitter that made Damian Lau a household name.

“Afterwards, Lee Siu Hung wanted me back with RTV. As my most respected teacher, I could not say no to him. I had to go back. TVB offered me a really good contract, but I told them that money was not the issue. I had to go back because I had a deep affection for the station and my teacher. Johnnie To (杜琪峯) later told me, ‘If you stayed with TVB, you would have owned several flats by now!’ That may be true, but a few apartments cannot be equated with human affection. I did not regret my decision.”

Favorite Roles

Damian’s portrayal of Luk Siu Fung remains a classic in everyone’s hearts, and while Damian enjoyed portraying the role very much, Luk Siu Fung is far from Damian’s favorite. “Everyone liked me as Luk Siu Fung, but he is not my favorite character. No matter how successful the role is, after I am done with it, I would forget it. My most unforgettable role is the unfortunate ‘little man’ in Ups and Downs <無業樓民>. I also really liked my character in Men in Pain <男人之苦>. I’ve waited over thirty years for a chance to tell the audience that Damian Lau can also be very cartoonish! Actually, my role in Men in Pain was not originally planned to be a very clumsy and cartoonish character, but I continued adding these elements, and [the director] could not stop me.”

Too Many Wives Are a Headache

Damian is currently seen in the TVB anniversary drama, Silver Spoon, Sterling Shackles <名媛望族>, a period drama that centers on an influential Chinese family during 1930s British Hong Kong. Damian revealed that during filming, the Chung family members joined a group chat in their phones for easy communication.

“This drama does not have people dying, nor does it have people fighting for inheritance rights. It’s a drama about life and human relationships. What this drama requires is good acting.”

Damian suggested the cast to keep in contact through a group chat in their phones. The cast grew close quickly, and even to this day, none of the Chung family members left the group chat.

“Every time, before we entered the studios, we would do a small group reading to read the script together. Yes, it was I who insisted to do the group reading. This is a technique that my seniors have taught me. The actors of this generation barely have time to even sleep! Expecting them to memorize all of next day’s script is a complete joke. I understand why a lot of people are against group reading now, because it is very time consuming, but once they’ve tried it, they realized that group reading is actually more beneficial than harmful.

“That’s how the Chung family developed such great family chemistry. We are all very close with each other. I’ve been working with TVB for over thirty years, and I have never been in such a terrible creative environment before. In this time of crisis, we had to work together.”

Spiritual Leader

During the production of Silver Spoon, Sterling Shackles, TVB suffered a talent loss, and many creative writers left the company. No one knew the history behind 1930s Hong Kong as well as Damian, so the actor had to step in to fine-tune the script.

“Was I their spiritual leader? You can say that. First, I had the most experience. Second, everyone seemed to trust me the most. In this day and age, I should not be acting for myself. I should be teaching the younger ones. TVB is like that nowadays – if you have the courage to ask, I will teach you. If you don’t, then I will have no business to teach you. Some people just want to become famous, so what is the point for them to ask?

“I am quite forgiving when it comes to youngsters. Because they are newcomers, they are humbler, so they will use their heart to learn. The most problematic ones are those that have been acting for a few years, think they have some acting chops, and use their fake acting to cheat others. These people don’t even put their heart into acting. I do not think highly of them.”

A Large Family

Similar to the Chung family in Silver Spoon, Sterling Shackles, Damian was born to a large family. His father had several wives, and Damian himself is the son of the fifth wife.

“I am my father’s favorite. One time, my father forgot to give us our allowances, so my family pushed me to ask my father for it. I was so scared, shaking from head to toe, but my father said, ‘I really owe you guys!’ and in the end, he gave us our allowances. I am also very close to my mother. When my father [bullies] my mother, I would be the one to step up and protect her. It is quite like Silver Spoon, Sterling Shackles!”

Damian attended St. Joseph’s College, Hong Kong’s oldest Catholic boys’ secondary school. After school, Damian would volunteer at his school’s church, and he also worked as a peer counselor for his juniors. “I was very well aware of the bad side of our society. I volunteered a lot, so I’ve met many kids from troubled families. I’ve seen violent kids, drug addicts… and because I was exposed to all of this, I knew that I had to stay clean. Because I’ve seen so many troubled kids, I was always against having children. Now that I’m old, I am actually starting to really like children.”

Damian said that it was his mother who made him realize life’s greatest treasures. “I have always been the person who would talk about being filial more than being truly filial. When I finally understood what that word meant, it was very, very late.”

Damian continued, “I was eating with a friend and my mother at a café one day. I saw my mother leaving our table quietly to leave the restaurant. My friend saw this and ran to her to pull her back. My mother told me she did not know who I was talking to, and was afraid to embarrass me. What! What did I do to make my mother feel that she was an embarrassment to me? I felt really bad!

“The first time I hugged my mother was when I was over 40 years old. My mother was shaking when I did. My mother already lost my father, and for years, I did not take in the responsibilities as her son. She was never hugged. When I first held her hand, she let me go. It took several tries for it to feel normal. Thankfully, my mother is still here, and whenever I walk with her, I will always hold her hand. I really don’t want to let her hand go.”

Damian’s mother is now 91 years old, and although her health has been deteriorating in recent years, Damian spends every single day taking walks with her. And he has not missed one single day.

Source: Sudden Weekly #902 via ihktv.com

This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.

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  1. Among senior TVB actors, Damian Lau has loads of charisma and magnetism. I think I have had a crush on Damian for years, but only realizing it now.

    He’s still very handsome and while being 63 years old and easily relegated to “grandpa” roles, he steals the limelight from even younger actors.

    In this interview, Damian sheds light on his righteous personality. He will step in when he feels there is a need to do so, volunteering to help drug addicts even when he was a young student.

    He thinks nothing about acting as part-time script writer to fine-tune “Silver Spoon, Sterling Shackles” although he was likely not paid to do so. He is doing it because he’s a true team player, stepping in to help out during time of crisis.

    1. Exactly! Damian Lau is still look very handsome at 63 I guess he has a baby face to keep him young.

    2. I had a crush for Damian when I was a little girl too. He looks more handsome as he grows older.

    3. Yes, I know exactly what you mean. I had a crush on him too. He’s very charismatic, and an extremely good actor.

      I’ve always liked him 🙂

    4. Another veteran actor that keep himself well is Ng Wai Kwok. Where is he now? He was in a few TVB series earlier.

      1. Agree. Ng Wak Kwok was very handsome when he was young, and he still looks pretty good in the last year or two.

      2. Kidd, Sandcherry,

        Ng Wai Kwok has a certain sparkle in his eyes that make him attractive. Although I still rank Alex Man (in his younger days) as being more handsome.

        Ng Wai Kwok’s most memorable performance for me was in RTV’s “Dynasty” trying to wrestle the throne from Alex Man.

        However, in TVB drama, “Conscience” he showed more maturity in his acting as the wealthy businessman.

        Is he acting in mainland China these days?

      3. Do you guys remember the series, The BLood Debt?? Ng Wai Kwok was really young and handsome in there. I wonder where he is now? Is he retired?

  2. No wonder Damian Lau’s English was very decent in SSSS. He was educated in a good English school (St. Joseph’s College, Hong Kong’s oldest Catholic boys’ secondary school) in Hong Kong. His English was better than Kenneth Ma’s. Kenneth has lived and gone to university in Vancouver, Canada.

    1. mAYBE KENNEth didnt have many “white” friends back then and only stick with asians lol..

      The first time when I heard his english.. i was like is that really him? his english sux.. bad. xD

      1. Agree. There are just too many Chinese people living in Vancouver and Toronto. Many don’t even have to speak English at all until he or she works with English speaking people.

  3. A rich man’s son! No wonder his English is good.

    Anyway I wouldn’t call an unstoppable talent to describe Damian because he is no longer a rising star but a veteran. I would have called him the star with staying power. It is a little too late to describe him as unstoppable talent more so when he never really had any slump in his career. Like calling Chun Pui an unstoppable talent. Just not the way to describe a veteran with such amazing staying power in this industry.

    1. How was your trip to China, visiting the dead bodies of those soldiers?

      1. Sandcherry,

        Those aren’t really human ( i meant those soldier who were buried together with the emperor) i thought it was real too until Funn told me they were actually clay made soldiers 🙂

      2. really?

        so all those stories about burying live soldiers and maids are false? Or only certain emperors were cruel enough to do so?

      3. Uh, the clue is in the name: “Terracotta” Army… But who knows? He may have tossed in a few people as well to keep him company. I’m sure several emperors DID bury their wives/families/servants along with them, as they’re considered a part of his life.

      4. Trip was great! Just came back. Almost choked by the cold weather and dusty Xian. Too polluted. No no the army were made of clay though there were dead bodies found, like the builders, etc. Sounds gothic until you read the explanation where it took 38 years to complete the whole thing so I guess someone needed to bury the dead builders. Nothing too sinister.

      5. Funn,
        The cold weather is to be expected in northern China at this time. It is better to visit the southern provinces in this time of year.

        Did you have a lengthy amount of time to enjoy the Terracota soldiers? The best way to enjoy is to leisurely look at the artistic details of each soldier, which is individualistically unique in their own manner.

        I watched a documentary on the challenges for the sculptors to take on such a grandscale project, including fashioning new mass assembly techniques to meet the project deadline. It was fascinating. The soldiers were once covered in a lacquered paint, in which original colors have been attempted to be restored by archaeologists. So not only were the soldiers laboriously sculpted, they were also meticulously painted as well.

      6. I took half a day to visit the terracotta. Luckily not many people but still quite packed. Difficult to examine much since the excavation pits are huge and FAR away whilst those exhibited are usually packed with people. But I took my time, different facial expressions, different hair, etc. I already know all these since read much about it for years. Am disappointed not much is shown but still it was awesome. However I was very surprised at the elegance of 2 other places in Xi’an which not many visit; for good reason since who can compare with those clay made warriors? Anyway one is the 6000 year history of Banpo (very elegantly presented) and the other is the less popular Han Yang Ling museum which was truly awesome and the terracotta warriors should have been arranged that way. How we can walk above the excavation and look below, a short video presentation which was rather cool, etc, it was such a classy place. But even the hotel staff was asking how we know of Han Yang Ling which means not many visits there. Terracotta warriors are too commercialised; had to walk for 15 minutes to get out of the rows and rows of shops. None of those nonsense in Han Yang Ling. Still awesome though.

        I expected chilly, I expected cold but Xi’an was to me my limit. I had to wait for my family for 30 minutes and after standing/sitting for 30 minutes in cold (the cold was ok, the windy cold was not ok) I realised how hard life is for those elderly vendors. I even said how come the vendors look old but they don’t seem old and the reply was of course “life is hard for them”. Xi’an in the morning was Shanghai at night, Xi’an in the afternoon was Beijing at night, and Xi’an at night is just… too cold.

      7. Funn,
        Great that you were able to navigate the sites in your own leisurely time. We went on a packaged tour for ease of arrangement, but that meant less time at the historical sites and more time at the state-owned factory tours. There was at least one 1-hr long factory tour each day! My patience was really tested when the tour agency took us to 2 factory tours in one day (morning and afternoon visit).

      8. Which was what happened to me in Hangzhou and I hated it and left mid way. For the price we paid (family went) could have hired a taxi and go about leisurely. Never join a tour group if your purpose is museums, ad historical sites. Paid taxi drive RMB400 for 1 full day. He said we can arrange time, he will wait so we went from 8am to around 7pm I think. Visited 3 places.

    2. Agree. He must have come from a rich family. His father had five wives. Damian is not that old. People at his time did not have five wives. His dad must have been quite loaded.

  4. ” I also really liked my character in Men in Pain . I’ve waited over thirty years for a chance to tell the audience that Damian Lau can also be very cartoonish!”

    My dad likes Damien Lau after watching ‘Men in Pain’. So, is portrayal is a success. 😀

    1. Same with me. I did not like him in the classic TVB drama series 《京華春夢》, co-acting with Liza Wang, but I found his acting good after watching “Men in Pain”.

  5. I only seen him in greed of man. My crush on an older actor would be Adam Cheng. I have had a crush on him for many years and my favorite role with him was in ‘the final verdict’ (1988).

  6. Damien lau is still very handsome and he steal the limelights with his charisma and magnetism. He is definately a very good actor.
    I have a crush on him since many many years ago

  7. Beside Luk Siu Fung, wuxia fans will also remember his portrayal of Zhang Dan Feng in ATV’s ‘Chronicles of the Shadow Swordsman’. I have a friend who likes his Zhang Dan Feng very much.

  8. Erm, the second sentence – forty strong years, not forty strong decades lol.

  9. Lol, seems like a lot of us 20s to 30s girls have crushes on him since we were small!! I had always liked him when I was growing up….it’s just something about him that’s so charming! Can’t believe he’s like 60 plus now! His eyes are smaller but that’s just natural aging.
    I remember his role from Hard Fate, where he turned from good to bad and ended dead. Boy, I was like, marrryyy me! Lol! It saddened me to see him turned evil, but I still support him nonetheless 😀

    One actor that I think matches him is Kwong Wa. Even at 60 plus later, I’m sure Kwong Wa will be just as electrifying, if not, even better as he’s just so freaking good looking!!! xD

    1. I like Kong Wah, too. He is handsomer than Damian Lau, with bigger and prettier eyes. It is a shame that he has not acted any more drama series.

      If Kong Wah is taller, he would look better than Andy Lau.

  10. WOW great interview of Damian! so touching! haha i love him more now.

  11. ” The most problematic ones are those that have been acting for a few years, think they have some acting chops, and use their fake acting to cheat others. These people don’t even put their heart into acting. I do not think highly of them.”

    who is he referring to?

  12. I am 27 yrs old but i had a crush on him as well for a long time!! He certainly has the charisma & charms to pull you in despite he is not the tallest or most good looking actors…some ppl may look very handsome/beautiful however they lack the charms to attract u…it shows that good looks will only take u to a certain distance but attitude & personality will sure take u further

    1. In many cases, it is the charisma that draws you in which is sadly what many artists these days tend to lack…

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