Saturday, November 25, 2006

[The Sun 25/11/06]

Roger Kwok: From Bit Player to Number One in Twenty Years

People often compare life in television to the series of challenges in the fabled 'wooden man corridor' of Shaolin and in nearly twenty years in the industry, Roger Kwok had his humble beginnings as the young man who had to take the company minibus to work, live on cheap riceboxes and was looked down upon for being poor. Fortunately, with his natural baby face, he managed to win the hearts of some people who would protect him and he says frankly that to get to where he is now, he owes his gratitude to a group of 'big sisters' along the way for looking after him.

Seven Years on the Bus

Roger entered showbusiness in 1987, so embarking on his 20th year next year, he has passed through many hardships and thinking back, he can still smile. He says: "In the past, I could stand in the street and eat fishballs on a stick, but now as soon as I go to Mongkok, there will be a group of people around you before you even get to the stand. When I was on the bus, I would look out and see many curious things, but now with my busy life and the constant hounding from the paparazzi, this is the price of fame."

Roger admits that he was already taking male lead roles within two years of entering the industry, but he did not earn much from this. He says: "Newcomers made no money and I had been with TVB for seven years before I bought my own car. Before that, I had to take the bus, but the female leads in my series, such as Kitty Lai, Margie Tsang, Sheren Tang, Yammie Lam and Kathy Chow, were all very good to me and gave me lifts. They saw how hard it was for me waiting for the bus, so they felt sorry for me! Haha..."

Margie Taught him to Say No

At the time, all of these TVB 'big sisters' were heroines in Roger's eyes because whenever they saw something that was unfair, they would offer their assistance and Roger gained a lot from their actions: "I feel that the actresses then were very honourable and bold, because they did not speak to everyone and some were very cool and didn't even greet people. I was quite fortunate though and was quite popular among the men (said witha smug look on his face), maybe they felt I was a good boy! Someone innocent and worthy of their protection."

Roger also tells of a rather memorable incident: "I remember when I was filming for an ancient costume drama, there was a scene where I was having my blood sucked by a leech and they had to stick a fake leech to my face. As there was no more skin glue on the set, the PA (production assistant) wanted to use superglue on me instead. When he was about to do this, Margie grabbed hold of the PA's hand and pushed it into his own facem saying: 'If it's okay, you try it first!'. This shocked the PA, who tried it on his hand and then washed it off with turpentine, but it left him with a large red patch. Margie turned to me with a serious look and said: 'You have to learn to say no in the future.' At that moment, I felt that Margie was so heroic and I was very naive then as a newcomer, so I couldn't say no."

Bold Man in Front of his Wife

Of course, now that Roger is TVB's 'Number One', then no-one dares show their feelings to him now, but with his 'Ah Wong' type goofy smile, Roger is like a child who never grows up. In work and family life, he has always been the one who has been looked after as he says: "There are nine brothers and sisters at home and I am the youngest. Although I am in my forties now, when I get home, they still treat me like a little child and worry about everything for me."

It would seem that the only responsibility that Roger has to bear is for his wife Cindy Au. He smiles: "I like innocent girls and Cindy is someone who smiles very easily. I will help her to break down a lot of things and whenever I am with her, I will be happy."

Breaking the Mould with New Ventures

Roger has been playing singing sensation 'Ling Fung' in his recent production "Glittering Days", where his character goes from megastar idol to a nobody. Roger feels that this is a true reflection of showbusiness and it makes him think back to his own background: "I feel that our experiences are quite similar, our careers are like a roller coaster, always full of ups and downs."

Roger has already filmed nearly 1500 episodes of series, but he describes 1000 of them as being cheap labour and the turning point that changed this was from the days of 'Ah Wong'. One character of Ding Sheung Wong brought him two years of Best Actor awards and he says: "When I played Ah Wong, many people questioned my acting ability and felt that there would never be such a person in this world. I think that not even the company could have imagined it, but I convinced myself that I could do it because if I did not have confidence in myself, then it never would have succeeded. (Do you feel you are lucky?) Yes, after 20 years in the industry, you cannot disbelieve that."

Reaching these heights in his career, it will not be easy to get any higher, but the spirit of Ah Wong is to never give up and Roger hopes that he will bring a surprise to the viewers with each of his series in the coming year. "You cannot just dwell on the past in life, no matter how successful or great it was. I just hope that each of my characters will live up to the expectations. Take 'Glittering Days' for example, I had to play a pop star from the 70's, so I grew out my hair to give myself a quiff. Many people thought it was a wig and although it looked weird, I hope to bring in more changes and make people remember each character." With good reviews and ratings for the series, this proves that Roger has a point and will do what he says he will.

Epilogue: Be a True Brave

Roger really wants to be a 'true brave' and exude an air of authority. "I hope that I can be like Bowie Lam, with a deep voice and a very manly appearance..." he speaks tirelessly of his desire.

Yet on the other hand, a TVB City cleaning lady runs over and smiles: "I have not seen you for so long, you seem to have lost weight! But you do look more handsome..." The two laugh endlessly. No wonder that Roger can only sigh: "You can see! My appearance is one that will never mature and even the older women will come and start caring for me."


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