Photo: The New Paper
Home-grown actress Rebecca Lim had a single piece of advice for the young stars of the latest drama While We Are Young while they were filming it – brush up on their command of Mandarin. Indeed, at a press conference to promote the show on Tuesday (Oct 24), most of the younger cast members admitted that their “Chinese is not good”, even though their parents are veteran Channel 8 stars.
They include Marcus Guo, whose father is China-born television host Guo Liang; Calvert Tay, whose parents are actor Zheng Geping and actress Hong Huifang; Chantalle Ng, daughter of actress Lin Meijiao; and Chen Yixin, whose parents are actress Xiang Yun and former actor Edmund Chen.
Marcus, 18, said: “My level of Chinese is definitely not like my father’s. The casting director told me my Chinese wasn’t as good as she had expected. I get that a lot from people.”
Lim, 31, remembers her own struggles with the language when she made her show-business debut a decade ago.
She told The Straits Times at the press event: “People criticised my Chinese when I started out and I had to work really hard to improve it. So I told the younger ones that they really need to practise speaking Mandarin as much as possible now, while they’re still fresh in the industry.
“It helped that the director of While We Are Young banned English on set, so it forced them all to speak Mandarin every day.”
Marcus and the other young stars said they had to be doubly prepared, so they often rehearsed their scripts with their parents.
Calvert, 17, who plays one of the leading roles, said his mother was “especially anxious”.
He added: “This is my first drama and already it was such a huge part, so she was very worried. She made me go through the script with her every day.”
While We Are Young, which premieres on Channel 8 on Nov 6, is centred on a group of students as they deal with exam stress, friendships and heartbreak.
Mentoring them both on-screen and off are Lim as well as veteran stars Zoe Tay and Terence Cao.
Tay, who plays a teacher in the show, did not attend the press event as she was on medical leave.
But her presence was felt nonetheless.
Lim said: “While working on the show, all of the younger stars were very respectful. Many of them have famous parents, but they were always humble. “Also, when Ah Jie (big sister) is on set every day, they would never dare to act like divas.”
Cao, 50, grinned as he let on that the second-generation kids all called him “uncle” on set. He said: “Of course I’m totally fine with that. I am an uncle. It was fun getting to work with all of them.”
“They are really smart kids and are always very willing to learn – I’m sure they’ll go very far in the industry if they keep at it.”
Lim added: “There is another great thing about doing this drama – being surrounded by so many young people actually made me feel young again.”
While We Are Young premieres on Channel 8 on Nov 6 at 9pm.
This article was first published at The Straits Times.