Sammul Chan, Rain Li, and Hawick Lau’s Success in China

Mainland China has become a monetary paradise for many Hong Kong television actors. With higher pay, more resting hours, less strict scheduling, and higher production values, Hong Kong artists who managed to break into the mainland market enjoy their filming experiences in the Mandarin-language television circle.

Sammul Chan Finds Self-Respect

Having to leave home and learn a new entertainment culture and language is difficult, but the pros outweighs the cons. Sammul Chan (陳鍵鋒), who left for mainland China after shooting TVB’s Relic of an Emissary <洪武三十二> in 2011, explained, “Money comes second. I can actually find my self-respect now.”

Sammul found fame in Hong Kong after starring in TVB’s megahit, Triumph in the Skies <衝上雲宵>, but his refusal to sign a management contract with TVB left him filling in only supporting roles for the station’s dramas. His colleagues of the same generation – Raymond Lam (林峯), Ron Ng (吳卓羲), and Bosco Wong (黃宗澤) – have all scurried past Sammul to be male leads. Even Kenneth Ma (馬國明), who was promoted relatively later than the former, had found his place as TVB’s #1 brother before Sammul.

“I used to work in an institution; I did not have the power to make my own decisions. After coming to the mainland, I have the right to shoot whatever I want and whatever I don’t want. For example, it is very difficult to shoot costume dramas in the summer, so I will not choose dramas that require shooting in Hengdian [World Studios] at that time.”

Sammul explained that actors in mainland China are allowed to appear in every television station – all that is required is to sign a per-series contract with the broadcaster.

“We have our own motor vehicle, which has its own bed and kitchen! The film crew also gets to stay in five star hotels. All of this is already arranged in the contract. The production company will guarantee that these benefits will be available for us. Actually, I am pretty laid-back and I don’t demand a lot. As long as the hotel is clean and security is competent, I will be fine. Just do not bother me after I get off from work. Let me have my time to play my games and do what I want to do.”

When Sammul injured his neck for the filming of The Academy <學警雄心> in 2004, he had to resume his work immediately after getting released from the hospital. “The mainland Chinese crew will help me purchase at least $1 million of insurance,” said Sammul. “I will always mention in my contracts that I am not an action star, so they will arrange a stunt double for me. However, I can do things like wire work.”

With his 150,000 RMB per episode salary, Sammul also finds the time to have at least a two-week break in between jobs. After shooting The First Myth <搜神记> last year, Sammul went scuba diving in Sabah, Malaysia. “I find the underwater world very quiet. There is no gossip, no fighting, and very peaceful. I will not be shooting dramas forever. I am considering to get my teaching credentials on scuba diving so I can be a scuba diving instructor in the future!”

Rain Li Earns 60 Times More

Rain Li (李彩華) found relative success when she debuted as a singer in Hong Kong thirteen years ago, but her music career contract only limited her to shoot Hong Kong-based television dramas. She recalled, “I only earned a couple thousand dollars per episode. Now I earn 60 times more! We have our own van, our own hair stylists and makeup artists. We have a set amount of works hours each day, which are all mentioned in the contract.”

Rain’s 2006 mainland Chinese drama, Home Temptation <回家的诱惑>, broke Hunan TV’s viewership record, dethroning the highly popular Korean drama, Dae Jang Geum. Rain added that she has been earning at least over a million RMB each year since her 2006 success, and has already purchased several properties in Hong Kong.

The 29-year-old star films about four to five mainland Chinese dramas per year. With a right to select her own projects, Rain often chooses shorter dramas that can be completed faster. “My mom became my manager in the last two years, and it’s so much better. She will take care of me, and when choosing dramas, the first thing she will consider is my health and not the money. There is no love to that!”

Although Rain does not mind working full-time in mainland China, she expressed that she is not interested in purchasing an estate in mainland China and stay in the country for the long-run. She said, “I am not familiar with the real-estate market in mainland China. Also, I often have to go around the country to film dramas, so it’s hard to find a place to settle.”

Hawick Lau as Producer

Lau Dan’s (劉丹) son, Hawick Lau (劉愷威), did not have the same fame that Sammul and Rain did when he left Hong Kong. One of the first young TVB artists to leave for the mainland, Hawick, who did not speak Mandarin, had to work his way up. After two years of training and nonstop dedication, Hawick can now recite his dialogue in fluent Mandarin. He is also now dating China’s most popular idol actress, Yang Mi (楊冪).

Hawick’s efforts in mainland paid off, and now he owns his own production company. His company’s first production, Shen Xia Wan Qing Tian <盛夏晚晴天>, was a local hit, and the 38-year-old is now preparing to shoot for his second drama, Heading North <一念向北>.

Hawick said, “I have to prepare my own crew and find my own sponsors. The jobs in the industry are also very limited – the cameramen, makeup artists, lighting technicians, costume designers, and editors are all very high in demand. So no, it is not only Hong Kong artists that are getting the good slice of the pie, but the industry as a whole and its thirst for talent. I will try to shoot at least two dramas per year, and leave the rest of my time to do some outside work.”

A special characteristic of the mainland Chinese television market is that it is able to provide support for artists who do not speak Mandarin as their main language. Certain television stations require actors to be dubbed in post-production, thus providing a platform for artists from other countries to star in mainland dramas as well.

Hawick explained, “Many artists from Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan film dramas in mainland. We all tend to recite our dialogue in our own language because we will get dubbed in post-production. It’s very common. Of course, it is not very convenient if our costars cannot understand us, so I spent two years trying to master my Mandarin. Now, I speak all my lines in Mandarin.”

Source: Face Magazine #318 via

This article is written by Addy for

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  1. Wow, I wonder who else would wanna remain in TVB?

  2. Rain doing a belly flop score an unexpected big hit or splash fame.

  3. It’s sad that most artist who successfully emerge themselves in the entertainment business outside of TVB rarely has anything to say. They don’t even wanna come back to film, and if they do, it’s out of “debt” to the company or certain superiors. TVB manipulates the fact that they’re the dominate free-TV broadcasters and do whatever the hell they want, including treating their artists like trash.

    Anyways, really glad the three of them are doing good without TVB!

  4. im glad hawick left early. he is so successful now!! 🙂 compareed to his tvb days.. he was only in supporting roles T__T

    1. But I am guessing that Sammul is more natural… Hawick had quite a bit of PS done. I saw photos of him way back in the days and he did not look like how he does now.

      1. Agree HTS. Hawick definitely looks very different. He’s got a more defined nose bridge now.

        Side comment, I rarely post or read comments on Jaynestars but it seems like a mere difference of opinion labels someone as a troll and other rude remarks. *rolls eyes*

      2. umm he looks the same to me. Have you seen him in Kindred Spirit…?? It’s like he didn’t age at all. My guess is he probably does a lot of botox injection

      3. Thanks Pandamao and I wonder who the real troll is??? I am not talking about just The Kindred Spirit days. I am talking about way back then. If you have seen his really old photos, you will see a difference.

    2. yes please watch his old tv series, Hawick definitely had a few PS. Nothing wrong with that. Its his face he could do whatever he wants with it. Just stating the facts here.

  5. The artists have to know that althought they are popular in mainland and get higher pay and benefits… Without TVB, they are nothing, maybe not mouthing, less chance to success in mainland. Most of the time, they become popular because TVB dramas.

    1. I know what you mean since many of the popular artists of today only became successful because of TVB in many cases. However, it is a win win situation for them and TVB since TVB would not get the recognition for their dramas if the artists did not do well in them. Therefore, I don’t feel that in every case TVB owes them or vice versa. Some artists do feel indebted to TVB because at times when they are at a low point in their career, TVB often gives them jobs and opportunities when they cannot find work elsewhere. The success that these artists have is now due to their hard work and efforts, so it is not like it just came to them. You have to admit that TVB really mistreats their artists and pay them really little so you can understand their frustrations versus how they have it in China now. They had to endure a lot to get to where they are now and it is not like it is TVB that really did it for them. Maybe at one point in time, but they continued that journey and has reached the pot of gold that they have waited for at the end of the rainbow…

    2. I agree that some ex TVB stars will be nothing in the mainland if not for TVB promoting them in the first place. But not Hawick and Sammul. TVB cast them in supporting roles and didn’t promote them when they refused to sign a management contract. So for Harwick and Sammul, they worked hard in the mainland to achieve their own success. And I find both to be good actors.

      1. agree with Primrose.
        look at hawick lol, he was in supporting roles where most people didnt remember him. My parents watch his mainland dramas and when i told them he used to be with tvb, they didnt recognize him or remember his roles in any tvb series lol

    3. Not true.

      Yes, people like Kevin Cheng, Gallen Lo etc. who have been leading TVB shows but decide to join the more profitable Mainland market it’s true to an extend, but not for the three names mentioned in this articles. They were all relatively unknown/supporting role actors who became popular in Mainland on their own. They owe TVB nothing.

      I know Rain shoots a lot of Mainland shows so she’s certainly in demand, however I don’t recall she’s had a breakout hit like Hawick and Sammul have. Or at least, she has not been the lead character of such a show, and as far as I know, she still has more supporting characters than leads.

      1. Now I that I think about it, you are right Advo. Rain, Sammul and Hawick were not successful when they acted for TVB even when they did the play leading roles if they did at all. I don’t remember Hawick playing a leading role in any TVB series but I can be wrong because I did not watch all of the series that he starred in. They are all successful now due to their hard work in China and I don’t think TVB had anything to do with it.

      2. Hawick was the lead in My Family. He sang the theme song (which is really nice) for the series too. That was his last series with TVB.

      3. yeaaa i remember that drama. i liked it too! proves that he does have potential to lead

      4. Was that a modern series? Like I have said, I did not watch all of the series that Hawick starred in. All of the ones that I saw him in, he was only a supporting character. I recently saw Fan Li Hua(China series) and he was the lead, but that series was terrible…

  6. Out of the three of them, I find Hawick to be the most successful in the Mainland market. What was the series that Rain Li was in in Mainland? I’ve never heard of it before! I wanna check it out!

    I’m glad they were able to find success outside of TVB, but at the same time, I can’t help but be sad because they all are famous because of TVB. However, TVB really mistreat their artists big time and making all of their famous stars leave. I wonder how TVB would be like if they had make these changes to their production early on…

    1. Rain Lee was in Pretty Maid, Home Temptation and Wing Chun all were highly successful dramas. But I wouldn’t say she’s really famous in China. All her roles were supporting, never leads. So if you compare her to the status of Sammul and Hawick her popularity is pretty low. She is earning a lot of money though.

    2. I watch a lot of mainland series but did not see the ones with Rain it. But from what I heard, most of her roles are only supporting to second lead at most. She isn’t that famous or popular compared to Hawick and Sammul but is making quite a bit of money.

  7. Sure many artistes got the fame they have today based on the company they debuted but it doesn’t mean they weren’t mistreated. I feel bad for Sammul, he seems like a really nice guy but if you look back at his career at TVB, it definitely wasn’t a good one. He may of gotten some leads but most of them were sidelined. Even Bosco who co starred with him first in Triumph In The Skies as a secondary character compared to him got to lead over him in Wong Fei Hung and Price Of Greed. He was not a managed artist and I heard he wasn’t really well liked by the executives. The only reason why TVB gives him opportunities is probably because he was well liked by the audiences. To be honest, none of his roles in TVB were really much of a breakthrough. Even in The Academy series, his character was overshadowed by Ron who had the more interesting character despite co leading together. His best and only good role was probably in The Price OF Greed but too bad it wasn’t recognized. The rest of his characters weren’t that great, I liked him in the Academy franchise but Ron had more attention from the audiences. Seems like he’s not filming for TVB anytime soon which is their lost since he was one of the few that can act.

    1. I really agree with you Austin when it comes to Sammul. Thinking back, TVB really did not treat Sammul very well and his leads often were overshadowed by whoever he starred with. He did a great job in Price Of Greed even in a villain role, but he was outshined by Bosco’s role. I wonder if it was all because he was not a managed artist and did not sign a management contract with TVB??? HE worked really hard when he was with TVB but did not get much in return so I am glad that he is getting his success in China now because he deserves it.

      1. I think the main problem is that he did not sign a management contract and he wasn’t that well liked from what I remembered. I don’t really watch too kuch Mainland series but I heard he’s doing well himself along with Hawick.

      2. Yea, I think that was the main problem. I am not sure if he was well liked by his colleagues but was not that well liked by the management. I remember him saying that he did not have any friends in TVB and then saying that he did. I found that a bit strange, but I know that he is good friends with Raymond Lam.

        You should watch some Mainland series because a lot of them can be really good. They are definitely better than TVB these days. I know that he was doing well along with Hawick, but did not know that Rain was doing so well. I watch a lot of mainland series but did not see the ones with her in it so I thought she retired.

      3. I like Sammul more than Ron’s character in The Academy. It was a shame how his career in Hong Kong was never developed further. I am glad that he is making it in Mainland. I just miss watching his shows!

      4. You can always watch his China series. I do not know why some restrict themselves to only TVB or HK series???

      5. @ HeTieShou

        Yup, I can search for some mainland shows with him in it. The problem is too many shows and not enough time!

        Some Mainland actors are so good-looking, I think they have a big pool of people to choose from. Hong Kong actors are usually a draw in China.

      6. @Canto,
        Yea, I know what you mean. There are just sooo many series these days that it is not possible to watch them all so we need to be selective. Also, it is a waste of time to see a number of them because a number of them are not good at all. But then again if we have not even seen them yet, how would we know if they are good or not. I don’t just go for cast so I encourage you to look at other factors too. There are definitely many talented and good looking actors in China due to the big population and how everyone wants to join the circle for the fame and fortune… But the downside to that is the competition is really high.

    2. The only time I think Sammul had a lead role that wasn’t overshadowed by another male lead, was probably back in White Flame – in 2002! But I thought it was a female-dominated show so he did not stand out either.

      I think for The Academy franchise, in installment 1 and 2, his role was somewhat on par with Ron’s, however it was blatantly obvious how reduced and insignificant his character had become in E.U. But even if it had been as big as Ron’s, they were both overshadowed by Michael Tse’s Laughing.

      I always thought Sammul was an underrated actor, however his refusal to sign a longterm contract like his peers set him back with TVB. I’m so happy for him that he’s found much more success in the Mainland market, without having to compromise on his values.

      1. I didn’t watch White Flame but I do know it was a female dominated series, I don’t think his character is considered much of a breakthrough though.

        I think for throughout The Acamdey franchise Ron was more focused and he had the better character. I did enjoyed their friendship though, it was a classic duo. E.U was definitely more focused on Ron with his undercover assignment, Sammul didn’t have much to do wight he plot. I felt bad for him though, he had about the same equal amount of screen time in the first installment but throughout the whole series it was always Ron who had more attention.

      2. Sammul also had prominent roles in The Comeback Clan, Bar Benders and When Rules Turn Loose. Unfortunately TVB failed to promote him. Read tabloids that said it was because he was a favourite of Stephen Chan – i.e the wrong group, as those who are Catherine Tsang and Virginia Lok’s pets were favored. But the main issue was his refusal to sign management contract with TVB. Read that it was because he wanted to stay with his current manager who managed him since he started in the entertainment industry at 19.

      3. TVB plays favorites so I would not be shocked… I am glad that Sammul has found success in China though. He does not need TVB anymore. I think one day they will have to invite him back for a series if they want him to be in any of their series anymore.

    3. I think he was on good terms with Ron and Bosco too and there were some interviews where he and Kate got along pretty well. There was this huge incident where he said he was betrayed but did not mentioned who.

      1. Yea, I heard that he got along well with Ron and Kate as well as Ray of course. I almost forgot about that incident of him being betrayed. Some said it was Kenneth but then no one knows for sure since he did not say who. I really wonder who it was???

  8. I always wondered why Sammuel didn’t get many leading roles, just co starring and support.
    Now I know and am actually shocked that he got so much screen time when he never signed a contract with them. I guess they were hoping he would sign after every good role he got. Jokes on them now.
    I’m glad he has found happiness and success in the mainland. Too bad I will probably never watch his shows anymore cause that stuff is rarely subbed in english.

    1. That is not true that Mainland series are rarely subbed in English because a lot of them are, but of course not all of them since there are way too many series.It is just a matter if you are willing to read subtitles or not. I personally hate subtitles and do not like to read them since you always need to stare at the screen and that really strains the eyes.

      1. I pretty much watch all the eng subbed historical and wuxia drama that I can find. I find a lot more that isn’t subbed than those that are subbed though. (I hate dubbed and pretty much only watch subbed)

        If you know of any of Sammuel’s mainland work that is english subbed, I would love to know what series they are.

      2. I watch in Mandarin so I actually don’t know if his series are subbed or not, but many others are.

      3. Mostly not subbed except by fans, on TV or badly subbed.

        If you mean dubbed, all are dubbed. Even China actors are almost always dubbed.

  9. In this photo Rain Li looks so much like Niki Chow….

  10. A million RMB only equals to $146,557 U.S dollars. That isn’t a lot.

    1. You do not think that is a lot?? I guess there is no limit to any amount of money just like there is no limit to greed.

      1. once they film 3-4 episodes, they can buy a home in NY. that’s a lot of money.

      2. No, they can’t even afford a rent in NYC

    2. But u don’t need to compare it to US dollars cos where u work is where u live and where u usually spend ur money

    3. average American only makes $50,000-$60,000 per year. And $146,557 is not a lot? I dont know what would be a lot in your opinion then?

      1. I think you need to use a different measuring stick for celebrities – especially one who’s not bottom of the pile. Heck, top footballers make more than that amount per week.

        People are probably just used to hearing how much the top stars are raking it in over at the Mainland market these days so one million might sound a little low in comparison. But she’s not yet leading status, right?

  11. I am very happy for Sammul.
    To be able to work on one’s own terms and pace is great working condition. I’m happy he finally found a working conditions that suit him.

  12. Both Sammul and Hawick had been wasted by TVB. Don’t understand the criteria how to be promoted as first line Siu Sang. Looking at TVB now, they’s still struggling to produce new blood, poor management!
    Sammul and Hawick have good looks package also not bad acting and they reach successful in Mainland, congrats and big blow for TVB.

  13. Seems like China is a land of freedom and opportunity for many actors.

      1. “I used to work in an institution; I did not have the power to make my own decisions. After coming to the mainland, I have the right to shoot whatever I want and whatever I don’t want.”

        They certainly have a lot of freedom to choose, if you bothered to read through the paragraph,

    1. It seems that way but if you look deeper into it, then maybe it is more complicated than that. If China was the land of freedom then I wonder why many of the really rich people still want to immigrate to other countries??

  14. Happy that Sammul has found peace. I love Kenneth too but Sammul is special. I was always sad that he got put in not so shining roles while Ray got all the controversial roles.

    Hope to see more of Sammul in the future series and hope he keeps happy as well. As long as Sammul is happy, I am happy. =)

    I think Hawick had a management issue in his early days while in China. Somehow he kept on picking the wrong roles that did no show off his acting skills but he seems to be on the right track now after SWAK.

    Rain Lee is successful? She was never that popular in HK in the first place. But I feel for her being frozen cos she refused to sleep with clients offered by her management company. Glad that Rain is happy as well.

  15. You don’t work for TVB for the money they offer, you work for TVB for their platform they are able to provide for you in gaining exposure, to achieve the fame required to later give you the fortune you desire.

    And if you sign on their dotted line to become one of their managed artists you will be given ample opportunities for exposure & they will create the fame for you required to gain the fortune TVB desires for the company & their shareholders. For those who have understood, accepted & played this TVB game(eg Charmaine, Kevin, Raymond)are now reaping the financial rewards in China. For those who didn’t sign but yet still achieved the recognition from their work at TVB (eg Sammul, Rain, Bowie)have also gained. And for those who didn’t sign nor is recognized from their work at TVB (Harwick) have had to work from the bottom to make their way up to the top.

    By no means do I agree with TVB’s treatment of their staff, I’m also an employee wanting better working conditions, recognition & reward for the work I do for my company in helping them generate the profit they are able to achieve. But there is no use fighting the system when it’s always been like this & somewhat disappointed by the way Sammul, Bowie, Wong Hei, Steven Ma have handled their departure from TVB. TVB will always look after their own interests first & understandably contracted managed artists will always be their first priority.

    So what I’ve learnt is if you want to use TVB as your platform sign their management contract at an early age, do the hard yards of the length of the contract, maintain good relationships with management, “behave” to not generate negative press & one-day (like Charmaine Sheh who I believe is the best player of this TVB game) you can also walk away & free yourself of the ball & chain of TVB to reap the rewards you rightfully deserve!

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