Timothy Cheng: The Art of Playing a Villain
When one thinks of the name Timothy Cheng (鄭子誠), one may immediately think of his memorable debut performance in the nineties TV series A Kindred Spirit <真情>, where Timothy played Lee Tsz-ho, the kind-hearted son of Auntie Yung who eventually succumbs to greed and power, abandoning his wife and children.
“I remember when my story arc in A Kindred Spirit first got to the streets, that impact of playing a villain really hit me,” he said. “As a mother, you wouldn’t want your child to become my character. I remember when I passed by a mother and her child in the streets, the mother glared at me and told her children, behind my back, that I was that evil man from the show. These scenarios were hard to avoid. That role became a household character.”
The 54-year-old actor said his villainous performances were so memorable that viewers started to believe that even his voice sounded calculative. “I remember I recorded a documentary for TVB, and the viewers told me that even my voice sounded like I had something up my sleeve.”
Timothy was a popular radio DJ before he transitioned to acting in 1996. His popularity following A Kindred Spirit led him to a point of no return, as Timothy eventually could not extricate himself from playing villainous roles in TVB dramas.
Even his popular good-guy role in TVB’s current drama The Forgotten Valley <平安谷之詭谷傳說> was not free from doing questionable acts.
But Timothy said he doesn’t mind the villainous image. In fact, he said he wants to keep on going. “There is no peak villain,” he said with a laugh. “There is only worse.”
Timothy, who is also known for his radio and voice-over work, said he once considered going back to being a television or radio host. “I suggested it to [TVB], but they said I should clean up my image first. That obviously didn’t work! I also considered playing more good guy roles. Actually, in A Kindred Spirit, I was supposed to be a good guy. However, the producer said my villainous looks could give the role more potential, so my character eventually became that. It’s hard to be a good guy, especially for actors like me, who didn’t have a very rich background in acting. The circumstances that you go through can change you as a person, and that was what my character went through. It really helped me get in character. When you play a good guy, you tend to be passive at these changes, and that can be hard to bring out in camera. This is why I don’t mind going on like this. There is no peak villain. There is only worse.”
Timothy Learned from Deric Wan
Timothy is continuously striving to learn more more about playing complex characters, pointing out that he especially enjoys learning from watching the performances of Simon Yam (任達華), Deric Wan (溫兆倫), and Gallen Lo (羅嘉良).
“I’m always keeping track of everyone’s performances and their acting styles. We’re all learning from each other,” he said. “My favorite has to be Simon Yam. He gave such memorable villain performances during his time at TVB. I’ve always admired him. Another one is Deric Wan. He’s so good at maintaining the facade of a good guy, but is actually very manipulative in the inside. A lot of my performances were actually based on him, haha! The great thing about Deric is that he doesn’t look evil. He is handsome and polite, yet he hides that villainous air inside of him. I also really enjoy Gallen Lo’s performances as well.”
Regards Joseph Lee and Lee Shing-cheong as His Role Models
When it comes to Timothy’s own role models in the acting industry, The Forgotten Valley star said he looks up to TVB “greenleaf” actors Joseph Lee (李國麟) and Lee Shing-cheong (李成昌). “I grew up watching them, and they’re still going strong. When they play a good guy, you feel for them, and when they play bad guys, you hate their guts. That is what I call successful acting.”
Timothy said being unable to play convincing roles is one of his biggest regrets as an actor. “When you see me playing a good character, you won’t be convinced I’m good. [Joseph Lee and Lee Shing-cheong] are successful because they are convincing in whatever role they play.”
This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.