Actor and “male god” Gregory Wong speaks out
“If you think it is worth it to speak up, and you believe you can make a change, then go for it.”
Actor Gregory Wong Chung-yiu is on almost every billboard in town, endorsing chewing gum, broadband internet, Octopus cards and more. It’s surprising, given his support for Occupy Central and his reputation as an outspoken figure. He tells Xavier Ng about his views on being blacklisted, his new movie “The Menu,” and what it’s like to be a “male god.” Photo by Kirk Kenny
I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I went to study in the UK when I was 14. I stayed there till I graduated from university and then came back.
I was 10 when I stepped into showbiz for the first time— I was in a movie. But my dad thought a guy should study and have a profession, so he asked me at least to finish my studies before I pursued anything else.
I wasn’t really determined to be in this industry—it was all coincidental. Back then I was young and I didn’t really know what showbiz was.
I was approached to model [after returning from the UK] and then I thought, why not give acting a try?
At first, my target was five years—if this career didn’t pan out then I’d move on. But now I’ve been in showbiz for more than a decade. It was only in the 12th year that things started to get better.
I started my showbiz career in Taiwan. My management thought Taiwan would have less competition and their [acting] training would be better than Hong Kong.
I came back to Hong Kong in 2009. I felt that Hong Kong was still my home, and I wanted to come back to do something.
In the past two years I’ve become a household name. But I don’t think I’m an overnight success.
By a certain point, I’d accumulated enough popularity and there was a signature piece that could represent me [2014’s HKTV series “The Election”].
TV is still a powerful medium. That series got a great response because it had the right timing, and its parallel universe was on track with what’s happening in society.
I think the TV market is still very narrow, and there are still not enough resources. The range of TV programs and content is still not enough.
Hong Kong was known for its creativity and the spirit of never giving up. Shouldn’t it go back to the start and do what it’s known for?
Back in the day, there were productions, be they TV or film, that could go on the international stage and win awards. But there aren’t so many now. Why could we make that happen in the past but not now?
Why were there actual “movie stars,” but not now? Is there something wrong with the system?
There are still not enough opportunities in this market. After all, there are still market concerns—if I use certain actors, I know there will be a guaranteed return at the box office. That’s why you keep seeing these actors over and over again.
Maybe I’m outspoken because I’m hot-blooded. I don’t want to compromise. I refuse to settle with the current situation. I want to try to do more within my ability.
I want to use myself as an example to encourage others to stay true to themselves. You may not succeed, but you certainly won’t if you don’t try in the first place.
Am I worried I might be blacklisted or boycotted by brands? I blacklisted myself first.
If you know what you want to do, you know what your market is, and you know how to sustain yourself in this market—then you can ignore brands you worry might blacklist you. I am what I am.
Many brands that have worked with me know—Greg is such a stubborn and outspoken person who insists on what he believes.
If they still want to work with me, they should already know the risk. If they get pressure, they should know how to handle it.
Instead of what Lancôme did, releasing a statement without any communication—this has a really bad impact on artists or celebrities who are trying to be more outspoken.
There are risks, but is it worth it [to speak up]? If you think it is, and you believe you can make a change, then go for it.
I think it’s endearing to be called “naam sun” [“male god”]. It’s just a way of people making conversation, especially for those who remember seeing me somewhere, but don’t really know my name.
I live a fairly normal life. People respect me and give me space to be a normal person. If you can’t live a normal life, you can’t act.
Starting from the TV version of [2013 HKTV newspaper drama] “The Menu,” I got to know more about the media industry.
It gave me a different point of view and I now understand how hard it is to get news. There are still many obstacles for journalists.
There is no end to news. News is daily and there’s always something new every day.
But there are still some things that need to be remembered, even when more news piles up. That’s part of the message we want to convey in the movie.