No Pierre Pres­sure

From sculpt­ing a six-pack for his first Hol­ly­wood role in CrazyRichAsians to send­ing his beloved furkid Woofie across the Rain­bow Bridge, it’s been a roller coaster year for Pierre Png. He talks about loss, love, and tak­ing it all off for Tin­sel­town.

Pets (Singapore) - - Pet-Friendly Venue -

Imag­ine Pierre Png don­ning a black leo­tard, bal­let slip­pers, and do­ing pirou­ettes among a class of young pranc­ing girls. Yes, that’s what the lo­cal ac­tor did in 2016 in prepa­ra­tion for his role in Chan­nel 8’s The Gentlemen, and boy, did the 45-year-old face that chal­lenge head-on—or should we say, en pointe. “And not just for the show, mind you,” adds his wife, An­drea De Cruz, 44, with a chuckle. “He car­ried on with the bal­let lessons af­ter film­ing!”

It turns out that the Me­di­a­corp heartthrob sim­ply can’t say no when given a chal­lenge. He strikes us as the kind of chap who would pick ‘dare’ dur­ing a game of Truth or Dare— ev­ery sin­gle time. Just look at his life choices: other than pick­ing atyp­i­cal sports like uni­cy­cling and aikido, the Star Awards 2018 Top 10 Most Pop­u­lar Male Artistes awardee has acted in theatre, a Chi­nese mu­si­cal, lo­cal films, both Chan­nel 5 and 8 dra­mas (even though it’s an open se­cret that Man­darin isn’t his forte). Now, he’s made his first foray into Hol­ly­wood—he plays the role of Michael Teo in the highly an­tic­i­pated film, Crazy Rich Asians, which is slated for re­lease this Au­gust.

Even when faced with the daunt­ing re­al­i­sa­tion that his then-fi­ance suf­fered liver fail­ure af­ter tak­ing slim­ming pills in 2002, Pierre gave An­drea his liver with­out bat­ting an eye­lid. And when the cou­ple was told post-surgery that An­drea’s body might re­ject the liver af­ter 20 years, the cou­ple got mar­ried soon af­ter. Theirs is the kind of love that you come across only in Korean dra­mas and ro­mance nov­els.

Yet, it’s not all about dra­matic ges­tures and life-threat­en­ing sac­ri­fices. Dur­ing the photo shoot, An­drea was more than happy to let her hus­band shine while she played the role of sup­port­ive wife and paw-rent to their two Shih Tzus, Oreo, 12, and Cookie, 5. Through­out the nu­mer­ous curve­balls that life seems to keep throw­ing at this stead­fast cou­ple—from An­drea dis­cov­er­ing she had early stage cer­vi­cal can­cer in 2015 to the death of Woofie, their beloved 15-year-old Shih Tzu, last year—it’s un­de­ni­able that

Pierre and An­drea have each other’s backs.

Speak­ing with Pierre feels al­most like a pep talk—he oozes un­wa­ver­ing pos­i­tiv­ity and spouts nuggets of wis­dom that can only be cul­ti­vated through years of for­ti­tude in the face of tri­als and tribu­la­tions. “I con­stantly have to re­mind my­self, and I do the same with An­drea, that life isn’t about prepar­ing for the what-ifs,” he says with con­vic­tion. “If I were to take a plane and it were about to crash, would I be happy with my­self? I’d say, yeah, I pretty much made the best de­ci­sions given the cir­cum­stances. No re­grets.”

You’re on Crazy Rich Asians. Tell us about the Hol­ly­wood ex­pe­ri­ence.

Pierre: It’s just amaz­ing, and so pro­fes­sional. The ex­pe­ri­ence was a real eye-opener. Now that I’ve seen what goes into mak­ing a Hol­ly­wood movie, I know why it’s called a Hol­ly­wood movie—ev­ery­one is so good at what they do.

How was the ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent from lo­cal show­biz?

Pierre: The bud­get’s much bigger, and the most sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence is that we have our own trail­ers, which at most, two peo­ple share at one time. The out­fits and the script for the day are all on your ta­ble. You have your own fridge, toi­let, air-con­di­tion­ing, and TV. You don’t even want to step out of your trailer be­cause it’s so con­ducive. They only call you when they need you. This is why Hol­ly­wood ac­tors can give their all and their per­for­mances are mag­i­cal. They’re not dis­tracted or asked to do any­thing other than act.

What made you ven­ture into Hol­ly­wood? An­drea: It came to him. (laughs)

Pierre: Every­thing in my life has found me in one way or an­other. I au­di­tioned, sub­mit­ted a showreel, and left it all to fate. In fact, I au­di­tioned for two roles in Crazy Rich Asians— the lead role and the lead role’s best buddy. I was one of the last few ac­tors to be au­di­tioned on the fi­nal day, and I thought I was a goner be­cause they didn’t want me for ei­ther role. And then they of­fered me this role.

You have a kiss scene in Crazy Rich Asians right?

Pierre: Let’s just say it wasn’t a kiss scene—it was more of a mak­ing out scene (with Brit ac­tress Gemma Chan who plays his wife in the film). I re­ally don’t know how those

“If Woofie had been hu­man, he’d have made the most pe rfect son.”

X-rated movie ac­tors do it! There were two cam­eras point­ing specif­i­cally at what­ever they wanted to cap­ture. I’d never felt more un­com­fort­able. It feels noth­ing like what you see. (laughs) When you’re do­ing it, you’re just so con­scious of your­self. Plus, I was on a Hol­ly­wood set so I couldn’t re­lax. I felt the pres­sure to give my all.

Was that the most in­ti­mate scene you’ve ever filmed?

An­drea: I think so.

Pierre: No lah.

An­drea: It has to be. When have you ever had to take off all your clothes on-screen? On lo­cal TV, you just have to do this (mocks a kiss­ing scene), then that’s it. Cut.

Pierre: For Zero Call­ing with Cynthia Koh... An­drea: No, it wasn’t to this ex­tent.

Pierre: Well, what An­drea says is true. Strip for a Hol­ly­wood movie? Why not? They even got me a trainer just for the movie. This is Hol­ly­wood for you. If they want you a par­tic­u­lar shape or build, they’ll make sure you get there.

How have you evolved as an ac­tor over the past two decades?

An­drea: His Man­darin has im­proved tremen­dously. (laughs)

Pierre: It is not where I want it to be, but it’s def­i­nitely a huge leap from when I grad­u­ated from school.

Given your mas­sive strug­gle with Man­darin, did you ever feel like giv­ing up?

Pierre: Hon­estly, there were so many times I wanted to give up. But giv­ing up would have meant that I threw in the towel. I would have caused some­body else go­ing through a sim­i­lar route to have self-doubt. If I’m go­ing to beat some­one, I’m go­ing to beat them at their own game. So if some­body’s go­ing to laugh at me and my Man­darin, fine. I’m go­ing to make sure they laugh with me—not at me—the next time. The day Me­di­a­corp says: “Zhan Fa (Pierre’s Man­darin name), buay tahan liao (Hokkien for ‘can’t tol­er­ate any­more’)”, I’ll ac­cept it. Oth­er­wise, I’m not go­ing to give up on my­self.

Are awards like Top 10 Most Pop­u­lar Male Artistes still im­por­tant to you?

Pierre: In all hon­esty, it means a lot to me. But it is not the sole rea­son why I act. These ac­co­lades are like mile­stones in your ca­reer, but at the same time, I don’t live for these awards. Each time I want to say that it means noth­ing to me, I look at other peo­ple who’ve never been given the chance. I look at those who would give an arm and a leg to be where I am right now, and I bite my tongue.

We’re re­ally sorry to hear about Woofie’s pass­ing. Can you tell us what hap­pened? An­drea: Woofie got mis­di­ag­nosed. The vets said that he had pan­cre­ati­tis, but he’s never had pan­cre­ati­tis. He ac­tu­ally had a heart con­di­tion, but they put him on a drip, which caused his lungs to fill up with fluid. He nearly died, so I rushed him to the an­i­mal hospi­tal and he stayed there for two weeks. Af­ter we brought him out, he lasted an­other four months. We sy­ringe-fed him un­til he was fi­nally able to eat on his own and gave him acupunc­ture treat­ment al­most ev­ery day. Un­for­tu­nately when your heart starts to fail, your other or­gans start to break down. Even­tu­ally, he died of kid­ney fail­ure.

What was so spe­cial about him?

An­drea: He was just a dar­ling and al­ways aimed to please.

Pierre: He was very in tune with our feel­ings and just knew how to com­fort us. Woofie made me feel com­plete. When I was away from home or if I were to sud­denly croak, I knew that he would be that one thing that would pull An­drea to­gether. If he had been hu­man, he’d have made the most per­fect son.

You were in Thai­land film­ing when Woofie passed.

An­drea: We FaceTimed Woofie’s fi­nal hours, so Pierre got to see every­thing.

Pierre: Im­me­di­ately af­ter he passed, I felt so lost. For­tu­nately, we were al­ready done for the day, so I aim­lessly walked out of my ho­tel room and into a con­ve­nience store. I was calm and lost at the same time. I knew we did the best we could, and I’m very proud of my wife and thank­ful for my helper. Although I wasn’t there when Woofie passed, I knew An­drea was in good hands and I knew there was noth­ing I could do. I had ac­cepted it a long time ago, but when shit hits the fan

and when it ac­tu­ally hap­pened, I felt numb. An­drea: We held off the cre­ma­tion un­til Pierre re­turned to Singapore. We brought Woofie to Mount Pleas­ant Vet­eri­nary Clinic at Whit­ley Road and they kept him in cold stor­age.

Pierre: An­drea wrapped him in my sarong be­cause that’s how I al­ways com­fort my furkids­—I put them in my sarong and stroke them to sleep. At the cre­ma­to­rium, I took my scapu­lar and put it over Woofie. (chokes up) I then held him and put him in the fur­nace.

How have things at home changed since Woofie passed?

Pierre: Lately, Oreo has been be­hav­ing a lit­tle like Woofie. She’s be­come very im­pa­tient and vo­cal.

An­drea: Ac­tu­ally, every­thing that’s changed in the two girls hap­pened af­ter their brother left. If you’re eat­ing and ig­nore Oreo, she’ll yell at you. If you’re asleep at 3am and she wants you to bring her up­stairs, she’ll bark. She never used to be like this, so it’s very strange.

Pierre: And this one (ges­tures to Cookie) sud­denly be­came very needy.

An­drea: She’s also be­come like a male dog. She never used to hump, but she started to do so af­ter Woofie left. They de­vel­oped all these strange be­hav­iours!

Do you have any plans to grow your fur clan?

Pierre: At the mo­ment, no. But never say never. I don’t think we’ll ever stop hav­ing an­i­mals or dogs in our lives. We might take a break for now, but we love hav­ing fur ba­bies too much to not ever have more.

Is there a rea­son be­hind adopt­ing only Shih Tzus?

An­drea: Des­tiny, re­ally. From the first one to the last one, peo­ple have al­ways ap­proached us with, “We’ve got a Shih Tzu, you want?”

It’s re­fresh­ing to see paw-rents who are so pro-adop­tion.

An­drea: Know­ing that we can’t have any chil­dren of our own, we’ve al­ways thought and taught about adopt­ing kids. So when it came to hav­ing pets, we were also of the mind­set that we could and should adopt. We didn’t need to buy.

Pierre: It’s also be­cause we’ve had per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences with res­cued and adopted dogs that are as lov­ing and intelligent as any furkid, and can give just as much joy. Also, we have an affin­ity with pups that have been ne­glected or are un­wanted.

Speak­ing of chil­dren, there was talk of you guys pos­si­bly try­ing for kids dur­ing the 10th an­niver­sary of An­drea’s liver trans­plant in 2012.

Pierre: Over the years, we’ve ac­cepted the fact that An­drea’s health may never be what it used to be. We leave every­thing in God’s hands.

An­drea: I’m quite closed on that topic al­ready, only be­cause my health hasn’t been great since the trans­plant. I re­alised that if I brought a kid into our lives and if I didn’t man­age to stay around long enough, I think it’d be pretty tough on Pierre to take care of the child alone. Both of us have kind of set­tled into this mar­riage that is pretty child­less—with just furkids.

When your health is like a roller coaster, you just want to en­joy life. You don’t want the ex­tra stress. I know hav­ing kids will bring joy to one’s life. I wanted about six when we got mar­ried. But now, I’ve eased into the fact that moth­er­hood is just not go­ing to hap­pen. And you know what? We’re be­gin­ning to en­joy it more and more be­cause we have so much time for each other. I couldn’t see my­self ded­i­cat­ing as much time to him as

I do now. I love this job as a wife, I love this mar­riage, and I love my life. Plus, I don’t think I have the en­ergy for a child any­more.

An­drea, you’ve had a few bouts of liver re­jec­tion. How do you feel phys­i­cally when that hap­pens?

An­drea: When your liver func­tion isn’t good, no mat­ter how much rest you get, you’re just flat out tired.

Pierre: That sounds like me af­ter ev­ery Chi­nese drama.

An­drea: With liver re­jec­tion, it’s much worse. You also feel nau­seous and you lose your ap­petite. I have to be put on steroids, which makes me bloat.

Do you get de­jected when­ever you

ex­pe­ri­ence liver re­jec­tion or your liver func­tion dips?

An­drea: It used to af­fect me. Not any­more. A cou­ple of months back, I wasn’t feel­ing great and it turned out my liver func­tion wasn’t good. The re­sults made me think that maybe we’re clos­ing in on time’s up. But it doesn’t bug me as much as it used to. When I talked about my re­cent liver func­tion re­sults with Pierre, he said that we’ve been through this be­fore and we can get through this again. Af­ter a while, we get quite numb to all of this.

Pierre, how has your health been? Pierre: Oc­ca­sion­ally, I test my liver to see if it’s still work­ing by go­ing out for drinks. (laughs) I have to. Monthly check-ups, you know?

It’s a big ques­tion, and I know you get asked this very of­ten…

Pierre: (in­ter­rupts) Yes...I’m straight. (laughs)

Well, 2022 will mark the 20th year since An­drea had her liver trans­plant. How do you han­dle the fact that she might be liv­ing on bor­rowed time?

Pierre: I per­son­ally feel it’s not the years in her life but the life in her years. So I tell An­drea this all the time and I’m not afraid to tell you this, but ev­ery­one’s life is a 50-50 chance. You could walk out on the streets and the traf­fic lights could be in your favour, but you could still be run over. I could be healthy, and to­mor­row I walk out and some NASA satel­lite falls on me and I’m dead. An­drea could be a trans­plant re­cip­i­ent and go through cer­vi­cal can­cer, but she might live longer than me. So what’s the dif­fer­ence?

The dif­fer­ence is how you live your life from now un­til what-if.

An­drea, how has Pierre fared through the thick and thin?

An­drea: He’s been a very sup­port­ive hus­band in ev­ery way. What­ever busi­ness I wish to do or if I want to study again, he’ll say, “You do it bet­ter than me or you study bet­ter, so you go ahead and do it.” There’s noth­ing he’s ever said no to. Even if he knows that I might fail at it, he al­lows me to en­deav­our.

Pierre: When­ever An­drea wants to do some­thing that I’m un­fa­mil­iar with, I’ll say, “Hang on to that thought. Let me go find out more.” I try to be sup­port­ive, like no other friend can. If I say no, I will ex­plain why. And not, “No, end of dis­cus­sion.”

An­drea: He’ll play devil’s ad­vo­cate, for sure. But he’s su­per sup­port­ive. When it comes to health, he’s the calm one. With Chi­nese scripts, maybe not so calm. (laughs)

Pierre: With ac­cep­tance speeches, even worse. (laughs)

The me­dia of­ten paints you as the per­fect hus­band. How true or un­true is it?

Pierre: Be­fore An­drea an­swers, I’ve only got one thing to say: I’ve made mis­takes and I will con­tinue to make mis­takes, but I will do what­ever I can not to re­peat them. I re­mind my­self that ev­ery day is an op­por­tu­nity to be a good hus­band. It’s eas­ier said than done, but I try. All I can say is I try to be a good hus­band.

An­drea: I’m not pro­tect­ing his ca­reer or any­thing, be­cause if there was some­thing re­ally bad, I’d say it. Trust me. (laughs) But he’s a great hus­band by all counts. He’s sup­port­ive in ev­ery way. He’s a good guy— truly. Not be­cause he gave me his liver. Pierre: This girl ah, very de­mand­ing you know. She didn’t just want an en­gage­ment ring. But wah, liver also want. (laughs)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore

© PressReader. All rights reserved.