Fatherhood seems to suit actor Terence Cao.
At the press conference for his latest drama, Beyond Words, he opened up about his relationship with his five-year-old daughter, who lives in Shanghai with her mother, Miss Shi.
“We talk online whenever we can and she is old enough to ask me for hongbao and presents now,” Cao, 48, said with a laugh. “One thing she likes to ask for is new shoes.”
He added: “My schedule is pretty busy, but I am always available if she wants to call me.”
Cao said he and his daughter did not meet over the Chinese New Year period and do not visit each other “as often as I would want to”.
Although Cao has been involved in his daughter’s life only since 2012 – when Miss Shi revealed that he had fathered their child in a one-night stand – he said he was getting used to parenthood.
“Being a dad is really cool. You have this sudden authority over someone. It’s a big responsibility and it fosters a sense of maturity… It is really a blessing,” he said.
Cao’s paternal instincts have also extended to the cast and crew of Beyond Words, a drama about the Liang family who struggle between the pursuit of material comforts and family togetherness.
It premieres on Channel 8 on March 17 and will air on weekdays at 9pm.
Cao plays Liang Lekun, a man in his 50s who resolves to spend more time with his family after quitting his job.
At the press conference, fellow actors Tong Bing Yu and Jayley Woo affectionately called him “papa.”
Cao said: “I don’t know how I became the papa. I guess it’s because I’m older than all of them.
“Some people have told me that because I am a veteran, they need to respect me and I should keep my distance, but I believe in building a bridge (with) young people.”
Because they spend seven days a week filming in Malaysia and have gruelling 16-hour days on set, Cao would cheer up the cast and crew by buying meals for them and driving them out for movies or massages.
“I had driven my car up to Kuala Lumpur, so I volunteered to do these things.
“When you are (so) tired, a massage suddenly becomes the best thing ever.”
Cao, who is single, said he is not hopeful about getting married in the future and has even told his concerned mother to stop trying to set him up.
“I told her not to waste her time,” he said.
“I lead a very interesting life now and I am very happy to have my own space. Like everyone else, I am eager to see what happens to me in future.”
SHE’S GLAD TO PLAY HIS SISTER
The first time Tong Bing Yu shared the screen with Terence Cao was in the period drama The Journey: A Voyage.She played a concubine who was raped and abused by Cao’s character.
Now, in Beyond Words, their fourth drama together, Tong and Cao play loving brother and sister.
When asked about the contrast in roles, the 32-year-old Malaysian actress told The New Paper: “It’s actually quite funny to think about it now. But I’m glad it happened in that order.
“Terence is a very immersive actor, so when he was abusing me in The Journey, my fear was very real. Because we didn’t really know each other, I was genuinely afraid of him and I think that helped my performance.”
Tong, who plays Liang Lekun’s younger sister Lening, feels her close friendship with Cao has improved their on-screen chemistry.
“When I read the script for Beyond Words, I was secretly hoping to be cast as his sister because we have already played lovers before. So I’m glad I got my wish.”
Cao is like a big brother to her, she said, because he is naturally caring.
“On set, he looks after me and makes sure I have eaten, and even asks about my health. I’m very grateful for that.
“Sometimes, we will get into disagreements about how to approach a scene, but when filming wraps, we will happily go off and eat together. Only siblings can argue the way we do.”
Tong, who is also often paired with actor Thomas Ong, said her relationship with the two actors is very different.
“Thomas is more like a peer. He often teases me by calling me short or fat and I’ll tease him back by calling him old,” she said.
“The way he looks after me is very different from Terence. Thomas is more nonchalant whereas Terence is more obviously nurturing. But I am close to them both.”
This story was originally published in The New Paper. For more stories like this, head to www.tnp.sg.