Koo Ming Wah: “I Am Not As Committed As Wayne Lai!”

Who ever said overnight sensations are not true? In just one night, Koo Ming Wah (古明華) became the biggest talk of the town. His role as the effeminate “So Gay” in the popular television drama, Divas in Distress <巴不得媽媽…> has become one of the year’s most popular characters, and 70,000 viewers are already pegging their votes to support the actor at this year’s TVB Anniversary Awards. Some are even beginning to call Koo as “the next Wayne Lai (黎耀祥).”

But is this really what Koo had in mind? To be the next Wayne Lai?

“I have a family to take care of,” replied Koo. “I think going back to dubbing cartoons is more practical.”

Acting School

After graduating high school, Koo worked as a mechanic apprentice. Although the salary was low, he did not need to depend on his parents anymore, and had enough money to spend on himself and his family. A year later, his friend recommended him to join an acting school. There, he met Cheung Tat Ming (張達明). The two of them would spend hours performing on various stages, in venues that would house over a few hundred people. Koo said, “Standing on stage can become very exciting and relaxing. I realized acting was the right thing for me.”

Koo wanted to apply to The Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts to further his acting career. When he told his parents that he wanted to return to school, they were shocked. Koo realized that the tuition would become a burden to his family, so he decided to give up on his education plans. The next morning, his mother called him from work, and said, “If you really want to do it, then do it. Life is very short. Mom will support you.”

Koo’s tuition at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts was over $8,000 HKD per year, and Koo’s loans from the government exceeded $10,300 HKD. He finally graduated from the college in 1990, and paid out all of his loans and interests.


Some of Koo’s more famous classmates included Sunny Chan (陳錦鴻), Rain Lau (劉玉翠), and Cheung Kam Ching (張錦程). Sunny immediately became a leading television actor after graduation. Rain Lau’s success was even more notable, winning both the Best Supporting Actress and the Best New Performer awards for her role in Queen of Temple Street <廟街皇后> at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 1991. Koo expected himself to gain similar success, and when he was nominated for the Best New Performer award for his role in the Category III film, Sex Racecourse <旺角馬場>, he thought he was a “sure win.”

“At that time, I felt undefeatable. A guy who filmed a Category III film can get nominated. Who can beat me?”

However, it was The Day of Being Dumb’s <阿飛與阿基> Anita Yuen (袁詠儀) who took home the Best New Performer award that year.

Koo sighed, “It turns out that even if you’re undefeatable, others can get even more undefeatable. Our society has too many people. No one is the best.”

Instead of fame and recognition, Koo’s Best New Performer nomination only brought him more filming deals for low-budget Category III films. Uninterested in the offers, Koo decided to join TVB and crash the television industry. After joining the station, Koo was given many opportunities to portray minor supporting characters for the station’s television dramas, but these offers began to slip away. A few years later, Koo’s characters stopped having names, and he merely became a background prop in the scenes.

“When I first joined TVB, I really wanted to put my diploma to use, and thought acting would really become my lifetime career. Even if I didn’t become as successful as my classmates, at least I could have others know that I love acting. But it turned out that no one really cared if I loved acting or not. My friends and family stopped following my dramas. I was beginning to feel even more discouraged. But what of it? This does not mean I should stop the cash flow! But whenever I see celebrities come to work late, not memorizing their scripts, yet still having the ability to scold at others, my will to continue this career grew weaker and weaker. They are celebrities. They can afford to have bad acting, but I am not, so all I could do was try my best at acting. I did not have good qualifications nor status. I did not even have the right to scold at anyone. So in the end, even my own acting got worse.”

However, Koo’s perseverance strengthened after collaborating with Felix Wong (黃日華) in 2010’s Gun Metal Grey <刑警>. “Felix has been acting for over 20 years, yet he still has that same fire and energy today. When I see him, I hated myself for even thinking about giving up.

“Luck. You cannot survive in this industry without luck.”

Best Supporting Actor?

During the broadcast of Divas in Distress, over 70,000 viewers voted on a poll to support Koo to win Best Supporting Actor at this year’s TVB Anniversary Awards. Koo’s hopes in winning, however, are not high.

“Why would they give it to me? Do I even have market value?”

But what about Wayne Lai’s success story? Like Koo, he too was a late bloomer. Like Koo, Wayne too is not tall, handsome, nor young, yet he has become one of TVB’s staple lead actors. “I am not as committed as Wayne Lai. I have given up before, and I have questioned my abilities before. If I am able, other producers would notice me more, but so far, it’s only Poon Ka Tak (潘嘉德)!”

Poon Ka Tak is the producer of Divas in Distress. When casting for the role of  “So Gay,” Poon’s first choice was Koo. When Koo was about to give up acting to become a full-time voice actor, Poon encouraged Koo to portray the role, and Koo ultimately decided to push back his voice acting plans.


“I have a family. I need to live! We are not American actors. They can live off the rest of their life with the salary they earned from just one drama, but alas, I am a Hong Kong actor. This is not possible.”

Burdened by the low pay as a TVB actor, Koo decided to join the station’s voice acting team in 2000. Koo’s annual salary immediately tripled.

“The calculations are simple. As an actor, I work about 100 days per year. But as a voice actor, I work 300 days. How can I give this up?

“How many Wayne Lai’s are there in the world? I will not give up my voice acting work, unless the company decides to raise my salary. But is this even possible?”

Maybe Koo could handle two jobs as once? “Yes, I could. Maybe for a month. For two months. But there is a limit to my physicality. I still prefer acting over voice acting, but I need to be practical. I have a family. I need to live.”

Source: Next Magazine #1177 via ihktv.com

This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.

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  1. I’m so happy for him! He totally deserves this! It’s something about working from your bottom up warms my heart! Compared to those who get meaty roles right away.

  2. I hope TVB give him a award, give him more good role and increases his pays.

    1. TVB will, they have to capitalize the popularity! They can not screw this up.

  3. Truth is, he and Wayne is not on the same level. Wayne enjoyed success a second lead, etc and Koo Ming Wah was never the second lead in TVB series.

    I feel however he deserves the supporting in Divas In Distress because he was the breakout star. I hope he continues to act in his own pace and own time.

    1. True that he is not at same level as Wayne when it comes to where he stands. I do hope to see him do frequent second leads though

  4. He needs to stop talking like this or else tvb will not give him an acting award, since he keeps talking about going back to do voice work! lol

  5. Hope he’ll have more meaty roles in the future. I love So Kei aka So Gay in Diva. He is simply the light of the series. Support him to win best supporting.

  6. “However, Koo’s perseverance strengthened after collaborating with Felix Wong (黃日華) in 2010’s Gun Metal Grey . “Felix has been acting for over 20 years, yet he still has that same fire and energy today. When I see him, I hated myself for even thinking about giving up.”

    Well, Felix’s case is different. Felix has the fame and Felix’s roles are all either lead roles or major supporting roles. Of course, he has fire.

  7. In this day and age when TVB’s status as the no. 1 taikor in the industry is being threatened, it’s actors like Koo Ming Wah that’ll make the difference. Honestly, his acting is much much better than some of the morons we know as the leads or 1st supporting actors/actresses.

    It’s too bad TVB never pays attention to people like this. I sincerely hope that other stations like CTI snap him up. The actors for yesteryear were actors. Nowadays, it’s just models on show who don’t give a f**k.

    1. Nooo! Did they not learn from the Sheren Tang debacle?!

      “They are celebrities. They can afford to have bad acting, but I am not, so all I could do was try my best at acting.”

      True. But sad to hear anyway.

  8. Your life decision is your destiny…go for it and never look back…regrets will only get you depressed and undermine your confidence! Make it happen KMW.

  9. Remember a 1993 US film called Philadelphia when a B grade actor acting mainly in comedies (in a group that includes John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray) took on the role of a gay who suffered from AIDS? Tom Hanks never looked back from that day, taking two Oscars in a row. I hope Koo will enjoy that same entertainment awakening. Good luck, Koo Ming Wah

  10. I like this guy. Hope he will start to get better roles and make more $$ so that he can continue to be an actor! $$ is important as he need to support his family! Good luck!

  11. he did a wonderful job w/”so gei”. Not alot of actors would be able to portray the character so touchingly.

    definitely deserves the award. lots of the actors today cannot act and are only skating by by their looks and connections… this is why the music/movie industry is dying in hk.

    1. agreed with you on this. and the funny thing is not many of them are really good looking. if TVB starts portraying better actors rather than pageant girls or models to be on top then they can be saved. i need to watch this drama since people are talking about how good he did on this so kei character. i’m very interested in people like him and oscar. it’s not like they have a rich family or connections to back them up. good luck to him. i haven’t seen him in a while. he should be happy that even though he didn’t get any lead roles at least a lot of people knows who he is and recognizes him. i like reading about these actors personal lives. it’s interesting ot see how they become actors. i think it would be nice if the media starts interviewing actors and stop making up bullshit then this industry will be more respected.

  12. amazing role. that not a lot of people could take on.. hope to see you get an award for this role… good luck..

  13. If its a voting system, its an 80% chance he’ll win (as it also does depend on who else there is). Personally if TVB doesn’t give him the award, its like TVB telling everyone that they choose actors/actresses based on looks rather than ability, if their (tvb) are smart, they’ll know what to do.

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