Ac­tor and “male god” Gre­gory Wong speaks out

HK Magazine - - PAGE 3 -

“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.

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