Photography by Vincent Paul Yong/VPYP Studio; Videography by Andrew Loh; Creative direction by Ibnu Aswan; Styling by Joyce Lim; Grooming by Joey Yap; Hair by Derren Fong/Shawn Cutler. Timepieces courtesy of Maurice Lacroix. Special thanks to MOV Hotel and Wurst KL for the location.
For over half a century, 51 years to be exact, the late entertainment mogul Sir Run Run Shaw’s Television Broadcasts Limited, more dearly known as TVB, has been shaping cultures across the globe. From reaching out to the Chinese communities outside Hong Kong and China , namely Taiwan and Macau, Southeast Asia, all the way to the US, Canada and New Zealand, it has quickly brought together the viewership of most other races and the generations to come, with many of us in Malaysia today having fond memories of keeping abreast of our favourite serials and stars growing up.
In this Age of Information, let’s not forget that, over the years, in producing some of TV’s most iconic programmes and screen stars, TVB has pioneered pop culture in Asia-Pacific and given the region what we would consider the original influencers of our time. Celebrated not just for their entertainment values and glamour, they have each come to form Hong Kong’s cultural identity and define a time in history, influencing us with their stories both on screen and behind the scenes.
Among those who have come to inspire us of late is our cover star this month, TVB’s leading man Ruco Chan. Despite his early debut with a minor role in the 1994 hit series Instinct, it took Ruco more than 15 years of continuous work in supporting characters, often appearing in limited episodes, before he landed his first prominent part in legal drama The Other Truth (2011), playing a barrister, for which he was nominated Best Actor and Favourite Male Actor at the 2011 TVB Awards Presentation, followed by a few other villainous roles.
For a period of time, the graduate of TVB’s Artiste Training Class was signed with rival station ATV. While the aspiring actor made many appearances in variety shows and hosted many gala ceremonies, chances to star in a main cast were scarce. Yet, he carried on and, armed with sheer determination, returned to TVB. His success in 2016’s A Fist Within Four Walls would later on be celebrated with a Best Actor win at the TVB Anniversary Award. Malaysian channel 8TV has included the series as part of its Best of TVB tribute, scheduled to air from every Monday to Friday, 7pm, later this year (date to be confirmed).
Today, supported with a sizable body of work consisting of almost 80 serials, Ruco is known to be the first actor to win Favourite Actor for three consecutive years at the StarHub TVB Awards (2014, 2015 and 2016), and twice in a row at the TV Star Awards Malaysia (2015 and 2016). Later this year, we will see Ruco appear in the lead role of the period drama Succession War, portraying Qing’s court official Heshen, notably the most corrupt court official in Chinese history. The series is a fictional depiction of the last 28 days of his life, with each episode covering the course of one day.
Recently, when Ruco was here for a recording as a guest star on 8TV’s upcoming season two of the Korean music entertainment show I Can See Your Voice (8.30pm, every Sunday, starting from 19 August), August Man Malaysia took the opportunity to photograph the star exclusively and discuss his career, professional attitude and his position in the face of China’s growing influence.
You’ve come a long way now in the business. How do you feel about the process and what has kept you going all the while?
Passion is important. And sometimes, it’s difficult for one to know for sure in the early stage of their career if what they’re doing is something they would like to pursue for life. For me, there are just too many aspects to the job for one to learn, as an entertainer in general, from acting to singing, to hosting, making ceremonial appearances, talking to the media, etc. Some skills will take longer to master and that also varies from one individual to another, which leads you to start comparing yourself with others a lot and becoming competitive. But I see a positive light in this process, in that, I come from a sports background, and competition is in the blood of athletes. Along the way, I learned that we are indeed our worst competition, because no matter how much we give, or gain, we keep judging ourselves and looking out for something I call “the missing piece” to complete our skills. In a good way, the search became a motivation that has kept me going.
Following your success, do you think you have found this “missing piece”, or identified what it meant for you?
I found that fame, material wealth and recognition will no doubt add to a person’s confidence and comfort, but what I’ve discovered I want most is simply to have the opportunity to just keep pursuing my career and the audience to follow my work and give their feedback. With that, inspiration and innovation will naturally follow. As actors, or for those in the creative field, this is something we want even more since we can’t directly measure our success. In life, when you’ve worked real long and hard for your career, there’s no better reward than the ability to keep the career going further into the future.
And what do you enjoy most in this ongoing process?
I call it the “sparks” in life, the excitement, or fuel that keeps life going. A child might associate “sparks” with just happy things, but I feel that they are both the good and the bad, which, as opposed to “destinations”, are what make life exciting and a continuous process. And the longer the process, the more you will appreciate it.
The entertainment business in Hong Kong has been well known to be competitive, and we believe the digital culture has also added uncertainties across the board. How do you cope with that?
We no longer face competition within Hong Kong, but from across the world. But I feel that in the face of uncertainties, it’s concrete experience and a stable mindset that allow one to hold his own. Looking at Hollywood, for example, I realised that many of the seasoned actors have technically surpassed excellence in their acting, yet they continue to hold a certain attraction and take on new roles. I believe it’s that charisma, that confidence in the knowledge of their own style and capacity. So I think in any situation, it’s important to tune our mindset to that and innovate from there in order to develop our art and stay fresh at the same time without foregoing the experience and individuality that come with us.
What is your position on China’s rising influence that has attracted collaborators and investors from around the world, including Hollywood and South Korea? Do you plan to follow suit and expand your career there?
It’s a very interesting cultural exchange at the moment, which I feel needs to be explored more gradually.The economic prospects can be hard to resist, but I think it has also triggered a time for us to reassess our work, identity, resources and capacity. If it’s just to copy each other’s work or to collaborate for a share of the market then it’s easy to miss the point of the actual art that we are trying to create here. Personally, I would like to
approach the unknown one step at a time, instead of a blind leap, and, more importantly, appreciate the present support and good rapport that I have
built throughout the years with my colleagues, crew, company, audience and anyone who has played a part, by continuing to engage with them while moving forward.
Tell us about your new role in the upcoming Succession War. It seems unusual for a villain to take centre stage.
It’s a film about corruption, with a deeper meaning, and I play the historical figure from the Qing dynasty, Heshen, allegedly the most corrupt court official in China’s history. What we’re trying to showcase here is how corruption may benefit certain individuals and the related culprits with an immediate gain in power, wealth and influence, but only at present and for a limited period. Bear in mind that the world is a continuous progress. Once it has spread and perpetuated into a culture, it will create a difficult situation for society as a whole and the generations to come.
What’s important for you when considering a role?
Whether playing a villain or hero, I feel that it is both more challenging and meaningful to play a role with more to him than meets the eye, a role that allows people to see from an opposite perspective, or a wider look at the situations that are driving the characters, to which the audience can relate in reality, or serve as either an example or a warning. A role with purpose.