NOTE: I decided to start up my "TVB Acting Class History" series again, since the last time I published was back in October 2010. Below is pretty much the original post that I wrote last year, with a few slight edits. Part 2 will be posted up shortly....
*** Original posting published in October 2010***
Reading all the articles about Kiki Sheung's wedding last week inspired me to write a blog post on the following topic --TVB's Acting Classes.
Just as a bit of background: Kiki graduated from TVB's 12th Acting Class in 1983 -- which, by the way, was the last year that TVB had the full year acting classes (more on this later). For her wedding, Kiki invited all of her classmates from Acting Class -- and pretty much all of them attended! As an 80s fanatic, I loved reading the articles and seeing the picture because it was basically like an Acting Class reunion -- especially since many of the artists are no longer active in HK's television industry and so we (audiences) may not have seen them for a long time! And I actually thought it was very sweet of her classmates to attend her wedding as well as go on stage to tell stories and give blessings to Kiki and her husband. I'm sure it meant alot to her -- especially since she probably hadn't seen many of the artists for a long time!
This leads me to the original topic at hand -- TVB's Acting Classes. The below is more of a "history" of the Acting Classes based on my memory (growing up in the 80s/90s) as well as some follow-up research that I had done. In the subsequent parts, I will list the artists for each year’s acting class, however note that the list will NOT be complete, as I will only be listing those artists who are either somewhat familiar to audiences or eventually became well-known.
One 'disclaimer' regarding the below info -- the summary as well as the list of artists for each year's acting class is based on a list I found on the internet as well as from my own compiled data from magazines, books, TV shows, and other sources (mostly interviews with some of the artists that I watched/read throughout the past 20 or so years). With that said, if anyone finds any inaccuracies with the information, please let me know. Thanks.
Quick summary / History
TVB's acting classes started in 1971 for the purpose of training up acting talent. In the early days, TVB’s acting classes were a collaborative effort with Shaw Brothers Studios – it wasn’t until the 9th class (1979) that the acting classes were organized exclusively by TVB (no longer collaborative with Shaw Brothers).
The initial classes lasted 1 full year and were full day classes (just like regular school). The 1 year was separated into 2 parts – the first 6 months were dedicated to learning basic knowledge needed for performing in front of the camera as well as various ‘behind-the-scenes’ concepts. Curriculum included: performance, dialogue, dance, martial arts, screenwriting theory, photography basics, television concepts, form and structure analogy, makeup, fashion, hairstyling, etc. The last 6 months were dedicated to ‘hands-on practice’ or internships out in the field. Of course, within the year, there are various tests that the students must take and only those who passed all the tests, went through all the courses, and successfully graduated were allowed to become TVB artists.
Since we’re talking about the TVB acting classes, I feel that it would be appropriate to mention one of the biggest reasons why the acting classes from the 70s and 80s were such a huge success: the instructors who taught each of the classes and were truly responsible for the success of many of the big name artists (i.e.: Chow Yun Fat, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Carina Lau, Sean Lau, etc.). The most famous acting class instructors back in the 70s/80s were Chung King Fai (King Sir), Chan You Hou, and Lau Fong Gong, among many others.
As a side note, I felt the need to talk a little bit about these instructors, as I find it unfortunate that they do not get much mention by TVB or by the general Media, even though their contributions to the industry are so great (fortunately, many of the artists from the 70s/80s who went through acting class DO mention the instructors often and express their gratitude to them for their teaching and instruction). Well, if TVB and the Media don’t care about giving credit where it’s due, that’s their issue – I personally have a lot of respect for these elders and so this is my way of paying tribute to them…
King Sir actually wears many hats, as he is active in both theater as well as television and has taken up posts in acting, directing, producing, teaching, etc. He has a doctorate degree, has gotten many awards, and has dedicated almost his entire life to the entertainment industry. He has actually worked at both TVB as well as ATV and is most famous for establishing the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts back in 1984 -- the HKAPA is the ONLY professional Performing Arts school in HK. (Some of the most famous graduates from the HKAPA: actors/actresses Sunny Chan, Power Chan, Rain Lau, Gigi Lai, Anthony Wong, Wong Cho Lam, Marco Ngai, etc. as well as singer G.E.M.). King Sir currently has gone back to his acting roots and continues to participate occasionally in TV series, though his real passion is for theater, which he continues to participate in actively. His most recent theater work was the stageplay “Richard III”, co-starring Bowie Lam.
Chan You Hou (known as ‘Uncle Hou’) is one of TV’s most senior actors who also started in theater. Ironically, his forte is actually in teaching, but he is probably the most well-known for his acting, at least for HK audiences (I actually never knew he was a teacher until my mom told me, then I went back and researched more about him). He participated in numerous series (too many to count) from the 1970s to the early 1990s and had also worked for ATV’s predecessor Rediffusion TV back in the 1970s. He retired and immigrated to Canada in the 1990s, but then returned to live permanently in Hong Kong later in the decade. Some of Uncle Hou’s most famous students: Chow Yun Fat, Liza Wang, Johnnie To, Alex Man, etc. Sadly, Chan You Hou passed away due to illness in June of this year at the age of 96.
Lau Fong Gong was a film director from Taiwan who formerly worked for the Shaw Brothers in the 1970s, then switched to TVB to become a writer/director and eventually became an instructor for the acting classes – in fact, he wasn’t just an instructor, he was actually the supervisor of the acting classes. Since he didn’t participate in any TV series like King Sir or Uncle Hou, many audiences may not know who he is – but I’m sure many people know actress Gigi Wong, whom he was married to for almost 10 years (they divorced in 1978). Lau Fong Gong is also credited with launching the careers of quite a few artists – the most famous ones were: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Carina Lau, Stephen Chow, as well as director Wong Kar Wai. Lau passed away in November 2004 at the age of 77..**
The acting classes in the full year format lasted 12 years, ending with the 12th Acting Class in 1983 (Kiki Sheung’s year).
Starting in 1984, TVB changed the format of the acting classes completely – instead of doing a 1 year course, they changed to a 3 month ‘crash course’. Also, the classes were no longer known as ‘Acting Classes’ but rather ‘Artist Recruitments’ that was divided into 3 main categories – actors, dancers, and hosts. So pretty much, instead of doing full-fledged classes and training people to become actors, they switched to ‘recruiting’ artists for each of the specific categories, then having them take the 3 month crash course to learn what they needed to know.
In my opinion, this actually wasn’t a bad format, since it allowed artists to focus on certain disciplines rather than just one (hey, you never know – some artists may not want to be actors and may want to be hosts or dancers instead). The only thing I don’t like about this format is the ‘fast-track’ approach, since 3 months really is not sufficient to learn the skills necessary to become truly great actors/actresses. I personally feel that this type of ‘fast-track’ course contributed TVB’s lack of quality artists in the later decades (1990s/2000s). As you’ll see later on when I post the lists of ‘well-known’ acting class / artist recruitment graduates, the number of ‘famous’ or even ‘known’ artists will dwindle drastically (meaning fewer recognizable artists).
In 1987, the official 'Acting Classes' were reinstated, but I'm sure that the curriculum changed from what it was prior to 1984. Also, it's not clear whether the length of the class went back to 1 year or remained at 3 months.
Unfortunately, around the late 1990s/early 2000s is when my ‘acting class history’ knowledge starts to get fuzzy, as that was around the time that I started getting disappointed with TVB and sort of stopped ‘following’ them as closely as I was before (though I resumed again several years ago and was able to ‘catch up’ for the most part). I had heard that some time in the 90s, TVB had reinstated the 6 month format in terms of the courses, but I don’t know for sure.
So there you go….thank you for reading my ‘in a nutshell’ version of TVB’s acting class history.
Please ‘stay tuned’ for the next topic in my ‘TVB Acting Class’ series!