Photo: Mediacorp

After 13 years in the business, he hoisted his first Best Actor trophy at the Star Awards earlier this year. Now, Tay Ping Hui is calling the shots.

Tay, 41, makes his directorial debut with Brothers, a drama about friendship and betrayal. The pilot episode was shown on Channel U at 9pm on Oct 8.

Besides directing, he also produced, wrote, edited and acted in the 14-minute pilot.

On how wearing all those hats was tough, he says: “I would strongly suggest to future first-time directors who are also actors: Don’t do it man, because it will drive you nuts. There are too many things to think about.”

Brothers is one of six pilots that will be aired on the new local content showcase TesTube from Monday till Friday. Viewer feedback is taken into account when MediaCorp decides which series to develop further.

He shot his pilot over two days and calls it the “KPI” (key performance indicator) for a month-long director’s course conducted by MediaCorp that he took. Keen to do something different, he describes his effort as slightly grittier than the usual fare on TV and more cinematic lighting-wise.

In a way, he says, he has been preparing to direct “for quite some time” as he would envision the shots when he read scripts.

Thinking about it and actually doing it required a big leap, though.
He says: “The biggest challenge is to have the guts to say, ‘This is what I want and it will work out’. Because there’s a lot of self-doubt that comes along the way.”

He is honest in his self-appraisal and says he would give himself a B or B-. “My head is not so big to think I’m some great director and I can see flaws as I was editing it. It’s a learning process,” he adds.

Having tried directing, he muses: “The door is a little bit ajar. I’ve peeked into the room and know what it’s all about. If I ever need to go into the room, I won’t be lost.”

Fans of Tay the actor need not worry that he is going to retire behind the camera, though. He wants to take his acting to the next level, by expanding upon his characters, rather than merely following what is written in the script.


In the new MediaCorp drama Qiu Niao (Jailbird), which he recently filmed in Kuala Lumpur, he gets to try something different. After playing a cop 13 times so far in his career (“an average of once or twice a year”), he will play a convict. The drama is slated to air in March next year.

Ask why he keeps getting these law enforcement roles, he says: “I’ve been told I look the most authentic among my colleagues when I’m holding a gun. With my hair short, I just have that cop face.”

One role he will not be playing in real life any time soon is that of a politician. The Young PAP (People’s Action Party) member says: “Politics is not something you dive into unless you’re very sure.”

For the moment, it is enough for him to comment on issues on his Twitter feed and draw attention to them. Something he feels strongly about is the high cost of living in Singapore.

He says: “We’re having this national conversation and I hope the real issues will be brought up and seriously looked at, and that there will be a multitude of diverse views in the conversation.”

Serious issues aside, he can be cheeky too. Just before the General Election in May last year, he appeared in a local magazine spoofing then-PAP candidate Tin Pei Ling’s victory-sign pose with a Kate Spade box.

He is also relishing a different role in his life. He tied the knot two years ago and says of life with his university lecturer wife: “Married life is good, really good. It’s a different phase in life and you realise your priorities will change.”

What about adding on the role of father? He calls it a work-in-progress.

With a laugh, he quips: “It’s not a magic wand thing or you click on the Internet and it gets delivered to you. It’s not like that. So I guess I’ve got to work harder.” – STRAITS TIMES.COM

TesTube will air from Monday to Friday at 9pm on Channel U this week.