Mingpao Interview: Felix Wong does not chase after fame and fortune, chases after soccer balls
Original article published 12/12/2010
Source: Mingpao (reposted on TVB Channel)
Translated by llwy12
Picture credits as listed
Felix Wong – a 30 year veteran in the HK entertainment industry -- graduated from TVB’s Acting Class in 1980 and almost immediately took on the role of leading actor in TV series. He’s known for being a bit ‘explosive’ at times when it comes to his work, but that is because he takes his work seriously and has high expectations – in other words, Felix is merely trying to do his job well. Felix does not fight for any awards and actually feels that earning too much money is troublesome, so in terms of chasing after fame and fortune, there’s no need to include him – he is perfectly happy living a quiet, leisurely life doing what he loves best: ‘chasing balls’ on the soccer field. So then, what is it that has motivated Felix to film so many classic and memorable television series all these years? Felix replies: “Since I promised to do the job, I have to do it well! Actually, I don’t like this career (being an actor) at all and do not have an ‘acting addiction’ – to me, this is purely a ‘job’, but I still have to do it well!”
Even though he has been doing this ‘job’ for 30 years, Felix never mentions anything about having a passion for acting; instead, he claims that he only ‘loves’ soccer.
Felix: “After graduating from high school, I tried enrolling in the army, but was not successful, so I applied for TVB’s Acting Class. My personality is not a good fit for the entertainment industry, as I dislike being hypocritical and am not the type to ‘network’ or be sociable – I feel that trying to force myself to change in order to accommodate someone else is extremely painful. Even when my work became very difficult and exhausting, I never thought about giving up – I guess this is one of the attributes of those born in the 60s: willingness to endure hardship. I also don’t like changing to new environments, so if I had not entered the entertainment industry, I would probably be a soccer player. Luckily though, I was not drafted to any soccer teams back then because the career of a professional soccer player only lasts about 10 years, so it would have been hard for me to make the type of living that I did in order to have a good life now. I never did too well in school, however those from my generation who did do well in school may not have the same type of leisurely and carefree lifestyle that I have now either. In my opinion, those who are easily satisfied are the happiest.”
More Money = More Troubles
In the past 10 years, Felix has not ‘worked’ a whole lot and gave up on many opportunities to earn money. Why? Because he chose to allow himself to ‘slow down’.
Felix: “I worked very hard in the 1980s because at that time, I had a mortgage to pay; it wasn’t until I had accumulated a decent amount of savings and no longer had to worry about being burdened financially that I was able to choose for myself the life that I wanted to live. The amount of money that I earn from filming series in mainland China is several times greater than what I earn in Hong Kong, plus the filming schedule is already determined at the time the contract is signed, so it’s not as exhausting, however it would require me to be away from home for 4 to 6 months in the year, which won’t work for me. Filming in HK is more exhausting and difficult, but at least I’m able to go home to rest – that’s why I rejected a lot of opportunities to film series in mainland China. Even if it’s live stage performances in China, I try not to do too many either – though if I were willing to accept those job offers, I could have bought several houses already! Actually, my thought is that more money equals more troubles. A person needs to be able to pick up and let go – if the more you are willing to give up physically, the more you’ll eventually gain.” Though the opportunities to earn money are right in front of Felix, he doesn’t bother to pursue them. Even Felix’s assistant admits that when he arranges jobs for Felix, the primary ‘requirement’ is to ensure that the work does not affect his ‘Happy Wednesdays’, as that is the day that he has soccer practice with the HK Celebrity Soccer Team.
Teaches younger generation to build a solid foundation
Earlier, when Felix agreed to film the series 'Gun Metal Grey', he had to sacrifice his ‘Happy Wednesdays’ – now that the series has finished airing, Felix expresses that after not filming a TVB series for 9 years, this was a new experience for him.
Felix: “The artists I collaborated with in this series are all very hard-working and really threw themselves into their roles – it was a very happy experience. I didn’t put myself on a pedestal when interacting with the newer artists, but rather I chose to act as a role model for them by fully preparing my scenes before entering the studio. A newbie once asked for my opinion, saying that he has been in the industry for a year already but still has not encountered many opportunities for growth. I told him to look at artists such as Wayne Lai and Evergreen Mak – they worked for 20 plus years before they encountered such an opportunity. In this industry, a lot depends on fate as well as luck – there are even more older generation artists who never get such an opportunity in their entire lifetimes. Before trying to ‘stand out’ and be above everyone else, it’s necessary to first perform one’s own duties well; once that solid foundation is built, then the opportunities will come. I was one of the lucky few, as I entered the television industry during its golden era, so I was already playing the lead role in my very first series, 'The Lonely Hunter'. I was also most fortunate to encounter many seniors (older generation artists) who were willing to teach me.”
He continues: “In the past, filming series was really about working as a team and even though everyone spent most of the energy hard at work, emphasis was on team spirit. This time, when I returned to TVB, I felt that things have become more ‘systematic’ and no one dares to overstep their bounds. True, the company is physically ‘bigger’, but there is less of that family-like feel – luckily, I had already prepared myself emotionally for the ‘change’ in the work environment, so it was a matter of getting used to it. If TVB asked me to film another series, I’m willing to think about it – if it could be a comedy, that would be great, but most important is to be able to work with a group of colleagues who take their work seriously. My only ‘requirement’ would be to make sure I get good lighting so that I can look younger on screen and the audience can’t see the bags under my eyes…haha!”
Award ‘in the bag’ but ‘fell’ out
Felix’s performance in 'Gun Metal Grey' brought him a TV King nomination, but in the end, he lost out. Does he regret not winning any awards?
Felix: “The awards ceremony is merely a game and I already made it clear that I would not participate. The fact that the series itself garnered good feedback and word of mouth, I am already very happy; I don’t need awards. I’ve never been ‘lucky’ in terms of winning awards and I’ve already accepted this fact – I once had a good chance of winning an award, to the point of it being ‘in the bag’, but in the end, it ‘fell’ out. Back in 1997, during the first year of the anniversary awards, I was nominated for my role as Kiu Fung in 'The Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils 1997', the performance was not bad and the fighting scenes were done well – at the time, I thought that I had a pretty big chance at winning TV King, but in the end, I lost to Gallen Lo. It was the same with movies – I was nominated for Best Supporting Actor twice, but the first time I lost by one point to Anthony Wong and the second time, because I did not attend the Asian Film Festival, a Korean actor won instead. If you win an award, you still have to work and if you don’t win one, you’ll still get job opportunities – awards only bring fleeting happiness. If I was asked to film a series / movie for the purposes of winning an award, I definitely wouldn’t do it, as I don’t want the added pressure.”
Enjoy life and it will last longer
Slow down, enjoy life, and it will last longer. These are words of wisdom from Felix Wong.
Felix: “The amount of working I did in the first 20 years of my career is equivalent to 40 years worth of work for someone else, so I should be allowed to rest now, right? This industry is very weird – when I’m working hard, people advise me that I should slow down and rest, but then when I’m ‘resting’, people are endlessly asking me when I will be going back to work. Looks like the best thing to do is knead me together with Andy Lau, then redistribute, as he is quite the opposite – I’m constantly advising him to rest, but he always tells me it’s not exhausting and he likes working.”
Other than his Wednesday soccer practices and occasionally performing in mainland China, how else does Felix keep himself busy?
“Haha! I’m very busy! I ‘hang out’ at home playing video games, watching TV, gardening…also, there are 2 new ‘members’ of the family now, 2 dogs that I have to take care of. I also need to take my daughter to school and take care of some matters related to the Celebrity Soccer Team. Who says that I have a lot of free time? I’m also constantly re-watching my old series – recently, I re-watched 'The Lonely Hunter' as well as 'Legend of the Condor Heroes'. In doing so, I realized that back then, I didn’t know how to act at all! When I watch my performances from back then, I can’t help but laugh at myself!”
'The Lonely Hunter', 'Legend of the Condor Heroes', and 'Soldier of Fortune' are all classic TV series from the 80s, however many of those born in the 90s and after have never seen these series (including Felix’s daughter Zi-Ching). Asked for recommendations, Felix suggests re-watching 'Racking Peak', 'Looking Back in Anger', and 'Secret of the Heart', all series that he really likes. As for series from the 80s, he says that 'Soldier of Fortune' is definitely worth re-watching.
Felix is currently 49 years old – next year, he’ll be at the ‘half century’ mark (50 years old).
Felix: “Next year, I am going to change my name to『半百人』(‘half century person’) or『50人』(’50 person’). I don’t worry about age, as many people who are 50 or 60 years old are still quite healthy and energetic in today’s world. A fan once commented that ‘Felix Wong certainly looks like he has aged!’. Of course, it’s normal for me to look like I’ve aged, as I’m certainly not young anymore, unless I go get plastic surgery, then maybe I can still keep my face looking youthful. Hey, come to think about it…in the past, I never felt that I needed plastic surgery, but in recent years, I’ve been more accepting of it…perhaps I should go get surgery done for the bags under my eyes! Hahaha!!”
Good husband, good father
Felix Wong and former TVB actress Annie Leung married in 1988. Annie was Felix’s ‘first love’ – they dated for 8 years before getting married, so this year, they celebrate 30 years together. All these years, they’ve stood together to face life’s ups and downs and even to this day, Felix has never wavered in his determination to be a good husband and a good father.
Felix’s 20-year old daughter Zi-Ching is the beloved ‘pearl in his palm’ – he plays the part of chauffeur every day driving her to and from school. Ever the benevolent father, Felix even accompanied his daughter last year to meet her idol, Taiwanese boy band Lollipop-F – his great love for his daughter is obvious! As for his relationship with his wife Annie, some of HK’s gossip mags have used words such as ‘boring’, ‘dull’, and ‘each have their own fun’ to describe it.
Felix: “I love soccer and she loves Cantonese opera, so I guess you could say that we do have ‘our own fun’. However, recently, when we had personal gatherings with the GMG cast and crew, she participated as well. As for our marriage, it’s actually not ‘boring’ or ‘dull’ at all, rather, it has ascended to the highest level – being able to understand each other’s thoughts completely and having mutual respect and concern for each other, it has actually made our marriage even stronger. In the past 10 years, as I’ve reduced my workload, I’ve truly been able to enjoy our romance more; plus our daughter is grown up now and is dating, so my wife and I have more one-on-one time together. In the past, I would be working non-stop and any little free time I had would be spent sleeping. But now, I have the time to do the ‘ordinary’ activities that I never got a chance to do before, such as taking a stroll down the street with my wife, going to see a movie, going on vacations, etc. For me, being able to spend that time with my wife doing ‘ordinary’ things, it’s definitely a joy.”
Asked which places Felix likes to take his wife to for a nice dinner, he replied that there are a few places in Tsim Sha Tsui and Kowloon Tong that they go to often. Another ‘hot spot’ for them is the ‘BB Happy Restaurant, a small eatery in the Tai Po district – in fact, when asked where he wanted to do this interview, he picked this particular restaurant. As soon as he sat down at the restaurant, the owner already filled the table with all his favorite dishes and drinks (he didn’t even need to look at the menu)!
Three famous songs
Felix Wong and fellow actor Eddie Cheung are good friends and the 2 of them often perform in mainland China together in one of their famous ‘Fai Wong’ concerts [TN: ‘Fai’ is Eddie’s Chinese name Cheung Siu Fai and ‘Wong’ is of course Felix’s surname]. Every year, they do 20 to 30 shows and sometimes, they even travel outside of HK and China for their shows.
Felix: “It’s a pretty good living. We came up with the 'Fai Wong’ concerts thanks to Liza Wang – one time, she asked me why I don’t try going back to mainland China to perform onstage? I told her that my singing is really bad, but she said not to worry, as the fans won’t mind since I’m not a professional singer – she advised me to learn a few songs very well, then when I get on stage, perform the songs and play a couple games with the fans, and that’s it. So I learned to sing 2 of the themesongs from 'Legend of the Condor Heroes' as well as Liza’s classic song ‘Chinese People’; Eddie also has his own ‘specialty’ songs. For the past 6 years, no matter which event, we pretty much only perform these few songs, however the reaction from the audiences has always been very strong. Finally, I am able to experience the satisfaction that singers get when they receive applause and praise from the audiences.”
Though Felix and Eddie travel to mainland China often, Felix indicates that their wives don’t have to worry, as they don’t participate in any social events over there – in fact, they rarely go outside of their own hotel rooms.
Felix: When we’re performing in mainland China, the only 2 places that we go to are the performance location and the hotel – we refuse all parties and other social events, as it is easy to get in trouble when artists go to KTV places or bars. When we’re not performing, both Eddie and I choose to stay in our hotel rooms and do our own things – Eddie likes to have a cigar and some red wine, while I like listening to music and ‘playing’ Weibo. One time, it was really funny because we traveled to a very underdeveloped city in China and even though we stayed at one of the city’s best hotels, the condition was not too great and there were a lot of flies in the room. The hotel attendant gave me a fly swatter, so that day, my assistant and I played ‘swat the flies’ all day in my room!”
Addicted to Weibo
Felix is an admitted ‘Weibo fanatic’…in addition to ‘bursting out’ at TVB earlier on his Weibo, he also uses the platform to share the latest information about his life and career with more than 70,000 fans.
Felix: “I never thought that Weibo would be so far-reaching! With the ‘outburst’ situation, I was simply expressing what I felt was unfair from an audience’s perspective, didn’t realize the situation would spiral as big as it did. I’m a firm believer that if there’s sufficient evidence to back up a particular situation, it will gain attention and support. When I first started on Weibo, I thought it was merely a promotional platform for artists to interact with their fans, but turns out that it is a good communication tool – in the entertainment industry, artists don’t see each other often and even when we do get together face to face, it’s not always easy to open our mouths to express support for a certain person or situation. With Weibo, it brings us closer together and breaks down some of that awkwardness from a face to face encounter.”
Felix’s daughter is also on Weibo and is also one of his ‘Weibo fans’, however the 2 of them do not interact on-line. She said that she has already ‘followed’ him on Weibo, however Felix admits that he actually does not know his daughter’s Weibo screenname.