Sunday, December 10, 2006
[3 Weekly - Issue 373 - 02 Dec 2006]
Translated by Em @ TVBspace
Hot Favourite Dark Horse - Kenneth Ma
Kenneth Ma was originally a happy young horse, among the reasons are the following:
1. His father is an engineer and although they are not rich, they had no worries for their livelihood.
2. Apart from his parents, he also has a pair of twin elder sisters. As the youngest son in the family, he has the love of the whole family.
3. After graduating from the TVB acting class in 1999, many of his classmates are still passer-bys, but in just five years, Kenneth was promoted to one of the 'Six Olympic Stars' and then joined the ranks of second male lead, with quite a rapid rise up the ranks.
This is all on the surface though and few people know that he was once the person inside the cockroach suit to play 'Siu Keung' in Dayo Wong's MV.
After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineer, he had a great career ahead of him, but he chose to become an actor and those who do not understand his reasons, will think that he is seeking fame and fortune and deserves to end up as a cockroach.
From his days hiding behind the cockroach suit to boldly taking the award for 'Most Improved Male Artiste' at the TVB anniversary awards as a dark horse, there is a story of blood, sweat, tears and hard work that is worth learning from. However, he keeps his modest approach: "From beginning to end, I had never imagined I would win the award because there were many people there who were better than me."
Asked if he felt he was being bullied by Nat Chan, who sprayed him with red paint during the anniversary show, Kenneth defended Nat, saying: "We had expected to be made fun of that night and I thought they didn't take it far enough because they didn't even mention my rumours with Margie Tsang."
The hardest to believe is that when asked about his low points in his thirty odd years, he thinks dopily for a moment before saying: "I have not had any low points really."
No low points in life? That is strange.
Even stranger is that this Kenneth who often makes people laugh in front of the camera is not really one who talks or laughs a lot in private. He is cool, but not in a way that will leave you with hard feelings.
Following in the Footsteps of Benz Hui to be a Character Actor
Returning to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, Kenneth was lucky enough to be chosen as one of TVB's 'Six Olympic Stars'. At the time, he was 30 years of age and much older compared with the other stars: Raymond Lam, Ron Ng, Sammul Chan, Bosco Wong and Lai Lok Yi, you could say he was an 'overaged star' and this raised some criticisms. His age also affected his progress in showbiz, but life is full of surprises and three years later, the 33-year old Kenneth is becoming more and more popular.
The 'Most Improved' award winners of the past have included Moses Chan, Raymond, Ron and Bosco and they are all in the line of leading male artistes, so there is reason to believe that this award is a great step up for any male artiste, but Kenneth does not feel too much about this and has never thought that this would take him up a level. He has not put any more pressure on himself, because at the moment he is still second lead and whether the ratings are good or bad, it is not up to him to worry about it.
"Take for example the forthcoming series 'Curious Detective', the male lead is Roger Kwok and if anyone needs to worry, it is him and not me. From entering this industry, I just know that I have to do my job well and perform my roles well. You can say I have won 'Most Improved Actor', but to be honest, I am still finding my way in acting. I have never thought about being an idol, my target is to become a character actor like Benz Hui (Hui Siu Hung).
"Take my niece for instance, she likes to listen to A's songs today, but when I see her in a few days time, she will have changed to listening to B, The fans of the idols move around and it is very insecure. You say you are good looking, but tomorrow there will be someone even more good looking appearing on the scene. How can you stand that? Character acting is different, take Sean Lau and Benz Hui for example, have you ever heard of someone saying that they like Sean one day and then Benz the next?"
This photo was taken when Kenneth was about three years old, but he does not remember when or where this was. - After seven years in the industry, Kenneth has had minimal gossip, the biggest of which was being linked with Margie Tsang
Young Master Finds Independence in Canada
Kenneth attended secondary school at Chai Wan's Tse Yau School and loved playing football [soccer] from an early age. Throughout primary and secondary school, football was his life. As the youngest in the family, he did not have to worry about much at home, so he spent all his spare time kicking a ball around. At Form 5, he was well and truly the young master of the Ma family and it was only in 1992 when his family emigrated to Canada that he put this behind him and learned to be independent.
Kenneth went to school six days a week and played football six days a week, but despite this, his results were better than some, but not as good as others. At home he was the apple of his parents' eyes and he had whatever he wanted. When he learned that they were to emigrate, his HKCEE examinations were of no matter any more, but he still took part in them and passed all his exams, maybe thanks to his natural talent and potential.
After moving to Canada, he continued his studies and although he did not struggle in life, this young master had new responsibilities, because his father was an 'immigration spaceman' [a term for fathers who returned to Hong Kong to make a living after emigrating] and Kenneth was left in Canada having to look after his mother and sisters. As the only man in the house, he had to take on the burden of looking after the women and as well as doing the housework, doing things such as changing lightbulbs, clearing the snow and cutting the grass all became his responsibility, so Kenneth waved goodbye to his 'young master'personality.
"If I had not emigrated to Canada, or if my father did not have to return to Hong Kong, then I would still be a young master who did nothing." Kenneth's father is a mechanical engineer and under this influence, Kenneth chose to study this subject at university in the hope of forging a career for himself in the world of engineering, but it was the response from a letter applying for employment that changed the path of his life.
The happiest thing for Kenneth in winning an award was going home to celebratory soup from his mum and some lucky packets from his sisters - Before winning the award, Kenneth had been chosen by a skincare sponsor to be their new spokesperson.
Not Becoming an Engineer, Becoming 'Siu Keung' Instead
After a few years living in Canada, Kenneth's family decided they were more suited to life in Hong Kong, so in 1998 after Kenneth graduated, they moved back to Hong Kong. After returning, Kenneth tried to apply to work in an engineering firm, but he felt he did not fit in, so he thought about changing his career. He sent out sixty or seventy letters seeking employment but he only received a reply from one of them and that was for an interview at TVB's Artiste Training Class.
As a mechanical engineer, Kenneth's father naturally wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, but he is a very open-minded person and when he found out about the audition, he urged his son to give it a try, but Kenneth has other thoughts about this: "I have suspected that my father telling me to try it was because he thought I would definitely not get in, so he had no worries about me going."
In the end, Kenneth was accepted into the class and his family were very supportive. In 1999, after Kenneth graduated from the class, he was like all the other graduates and sent to gain experience from passer-by roles, the most memorable of which was to dress up in a cockroach suit for the music video of Dayo Wong's song 'Blue Sky'. "Beforehand, I did not know that I had to play Siu Keung, so when I arrived at the studio, I was a little shocked and I held some hard feelings, but afterwards I found it was quite fun and I treated it as a challenge in life."
After this, Kenneth's roles were by no means meaty, but at least he was able to show his face and he had more lines, as well as more NG's [outtakes]. For example in "At the Threshold of an Era II", he played one of Gallen Lo's men and in one scene, he had some lines, but NG'ed around thirty or forty times and the crew looked on in despair as they watched him goofing up over and over again, longing to finish and go home. "At the time, they kept improvising the script and I had a lot of long lines. The more nervous I got, the more I NG'ed and the more I NG'ed, the more nervous I became, so even up to now, I have a phobia of script improvisation." Kenneth is very hardworking, and despite loving to watch football, he has still spent time to learn his script well for 'Curious Detective' rather than watch his beloved English Premier League and Spanish football. Here is another example of how success has been forged through taking time to learn scripts well and not through pure luck.
Kenneth is a talented comedian and at the TVB artistes party, his imitation of Ekin Cheng was among the most popular acts - although Kenneth is a little cool, he is always game for a laugh and being sprayed with paint at the anniversary did not leave him upset, but he was calling for more instead.
Does Not Rule out Dating Margie Tsang
Kenneth's popularity has risen sharply recently. Apart from taking the 'Most Improved' award, he also became the highlight of the Annual Artiste's Presentation Party by dressing up as Ekin Cheng and then being the victim of Nat Chan's antics at the Anniversary show and being criticised by the viewers. His news has been covering the entertainment press of late, but before all this, there was very little gossip about Kenneth and if it wasn't for him being linked to Margie Tsang, there would have been next to no news about him.
As an artiste, appearing in the press is important to gain audience recognition, but for Kenneth when he first emerged on the scene, he was very afraid of seeing himself in the papers because he held the intention of just giving a good show. "Whenever I saw myself in the papers and magazines then, I would become very frightened, it was only after some advice from many seniors that I did not become as scared. For example, the first gossip I had was suggesting I was dating Kate Tsui and it was very unnerving. Now they link me with Margie Tsang and say that we have already split up, but then we are working together on 'Curious Detective', so they say we are getting back together. I have got used to it now."
Asked about the story of how he got to know Margie, Kenneth tells the story directly: "I met her once when I was on her radio show to promote 'Scavenger's Paradise' and she introduced me to some charity show work. We kept in touch after that and we are good friends." With him being so open, the opportunity was taken to ask if there is a chance of them developing a relationship. "I really daren't say, but I will not close all my doors and say it definitely will not happen. We don't know what will happen in the future and there is a chance of a relationship between anyone. At the moment, the spark is not there, but who knows what will happen in the future. If I am dating, then I will not be afraid to admit it."
Kenneth emphasises though that his first choice for a girlfriend would be someone from outside the industry and he does not just go for looks because he has many friends who have beautiful girlfriends, but their personalities are terrible. Kenneth says that he has a fear of troublesome women. Another thing is that if you want to be Kenneth's girl, then you must have one quality and that is to be able to live with his family. "My father and mother are renowned for being easy going, if you cannot live with them, then this is a problem and with this problem, there is no chance of marriage."
Change Change Change
Kenneth's manager beside him during the shoot said: "His image is too positive, even if he has gossip people will not believe it."
Kenneth says that in the seven years in showbiz, his personality has not changed very much, but he has started to adjust to the rules of the entertainment industry game.
Although he has not changed much, the change has been there.
Remember in 2004, when Kenneth joined the others as the 'Six Olympic Stars', this was the first chance for him to be introduced to the viewed and raise interest in him by the press.
At the time, I [reporter] was among those who were interviewing the six stars and my impression of Kenneth was of a person who did not say very much but was a man of action. The press would ask him a question and he would answer the question very politely. He was a typical 'good boy' image and one of those newcomers who would not find success through gossip.
Three years later, coming into contact again with Kenneth, the gossip is still minimal, but at least he knows what the press want from him and although he is still a man of few words, what he says is quality.
For example, when asked about his opinion on romance, he will say: "I will not be afraid of gossip and not pursue an affair with an older woman. When you love someone, then even if they are not a woman, then I would not mind if they were a man."
Another example, when you ask about the criteria for a lover, he will say: "I am afraid of girls with bad tempers, so if I meet these people, I often want to give them a good slapping."
Whether these comments are engineered purely for the press or whether they come from the heart, he has at least learned and changed how to talk to the media now.
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