Anyway, this week’s issue included an in-depth interview with actor Raymond Cho, who is one of my favorite supporting actors at TVB (my list of ‘favorites’ in the supporting actor category is probably longer than my list of leading actors…LOL!). I’ve always felt that Raymond is a hugely talented actor who is very much underrated at TVB (not surprisingly, TVB hasn’t tapped into his full potential) – he really hasn’t gotten very many good roles at TVB, which is a shame because he is such a good actor!
One of the things I love most about Raymond is his sense of humor – he always manages to turn something negative into a positive (just found out from the article that he learned this from Wayne Lai…hehe!) and make people laugh. I absolutely enjoy ‘following’ his Weibo everyday and reading all the stuff he posts as well as seeing his interaction with his friends – brings a smile to my face each time (his recent ‘bantering’ back and forth with Edwin Siu over the pettiest of things absolutely cracks me up)!
Actually, this interview came at the perfect time because for the past few weeks, I’ve been watching the series “Journey of Love”, which is one of Raymond’s earlier TVB series from the mid-90s -- in fact, I think this was actually his first series, but need to check to make sure, since I don’t really remember (I’ll be doing a review of the series later). It’s definitely interesting to read the below interview and understand what his struggles were during that same time period (mid-90s). I definitely have more respect for Raymond after reading this interview!
Lastly – the interview is LONG (as MP’s interviews usually are), but definitely worth reading! Hope it was as enjoyable a read for you as it was for me! :0)
Mingpao Interview with Raymond Cho: Grateful to his wife for her support; looks up to Wayne Lai as his example to emulate
Source: Mingpao Weekly, Issue 2275
Due to filming in Hengdian [China] for TVB series Beauty at War《金枝慾孽（貳）》, Raymond Cho did not get the chance to spend Father’s Day (June 17th) with his 2 children, which already caused in him feelings of regret – in addition to that though, he also was not able to physically take part in his daughter Erin Cho’s one year old birthday celebration. Luckily, with the advances in technology, he was able to stay in communication with his children via video chat on his phone. Little Erin is able to talk to her father constantly using this method, so even when he has to be away for 3 weeks filming in China, Raymond does not have to worry that his daughter doesn’t recognize him – as soon as he returns home, she welcomes him with a bright smile as though he had never been gone. For Raymond Cho, there is nothing else in life right now that gives him more satisfaction than having a happy family and being blessed with a great wife as well as 2 adorable kids [son Brandon is 4 and daughter Erin is 1].
Since he started in the industry 18 years ago, Raymond’s career has not been smooth-sailing – in fact, it can be said that he’s had mostly bad luck in his career. In 1994, he started off as a singer and released a few albums, however he was not met with much success – his subsequent career in the entertainment industry was bumpy and filled with frustrations: “At that time, it was impossible to earn any money being singer. For a period of time, I had even gone to Malaysia to film TV series, but after 2 series, the entire production company went under and I had to return to Hong Kong.”
That period was the lowest point in Raymond’s life – not only was he unable to make enough money to cover basic living expenses for himself, he also was unable to provide for his family, which made him feel ashamed. Without much income coming in, he had no choice but to take out advances on his credit cards to cover his debts: “From 1994 to 1999, I had over $100,000 [HKD] in credit card advances and no matter how much I tried to scrimp and save, I was only able to pay off a little bit of interest each time – it was almost impossible to pay off the credit card debt completely.”
[During the interview], as he recounted this low point in his life, Raymond was able to keep a relatively peaceful tone – after all, this happened more than a decade ago – however life experiences, no matter how pleasant or difficult, are ultimately etched in one’s memory forever: “During that time, I felt absolutely miserable. Luckily though, I had 2 older brothers and 1 younger brother who were able to take up the responsibility of providing for the family – indirectly, this was a great help to me, as my family was very understanding of my situation. Despite how difficult things were, they saw how hard I worked and never once did they ask me to change careers.”
Used one credit card to cover another
It is often stated that when you start to have bad luck, it continues to follow you for a period of time – this certainly seemed to be the case with Raymond. At that time, since he didn’t have any money, Raymond thought about selling the second-hand car he owned for a few thousand dollars to cover his living expenses: “I remember the year was 1996. The day I was to sell my car, a huge rainstorm struck – the moment I drove my car out, it swerved into a gutter near a construction site and the entire car was totaled – just like that, I lost a few thousand bucks!” Right after the accident, in the face of such horrible luck, Raymond looked up at the heavens, gave out a heavy sigh, and silently, the tears began to flow: “It was at that very moment that I finally thought about changing careers – since 2 of my brothers had opened insurance companies, I thought about going into the same field; or I could go into real estate, but I didn’t know anyone in that industry at the time.” Coincidentally, as he was debating the career change, he received an invitation to film a movie – this gave him the little bit of hope he needed to completely dispel the thought of changing careers.
In 1999, Raymond returned to TVB through the help of a friend. At the time, TVB offered him a monthly salary of $3600 [HKD], which was way less than what he made when he first started in the industry – thinking of his plight, the tears again started to flow: “I cried because that’s when the realization finally hit home – being in this industry, of course I understand that the amount of salary the company is willing to give you represents the level of worth you have in their eyes.” After wiping away the tears, he made up his mind to return to TVB and start all over again. Fortunately, one of the directors liked how he spoke clearly and eloquently, so he was asked to film numerous travelogue specials. Even though he finally had income coming in, it still wasn’t enough to pay for basic expenses and he had to continue living a life of using one credit card to cover the debts from another card.
The turning point in Raymond’s career came after he filmed Healing Hands 2 《妙手仁心２》in which he played Dr. Chris Heung – the role was well-received by audiences and soon, Raymond’s salary increased. After much effort, he was finally able to pay off all his credit card debts and was even able to give a monthly allowance to his parents: “At the time, I thought that the tide had finally turned and I could make a comeback in my career, but then shortly after that, I didn’t have any series to film for a long period of time and again, my career stalled.” Career-wise, he experienced many instances of endless hope, only to be heavily disappointed in the end – having to face numerous ups and downs, he expressed: “My feelings at the time was that the road ahead was immense and the future was very fuzzy – just when I thought that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, I experienced a period where I didn’t have any work for 9 months.”
With the ups and downs in his career, Raymond started to believe that a lot of things in life are arranged by fate and began to understand that some things cannot be forced. Now, he constantly remembers the advice that one of his seniors once gave him – do not hope that you will suddenly shoot to the top because the more you hope for it, the more you will be disappointed: “I once had high hopes for a few of the series I had participated in, but in the end, things didn’t go as I thought….” Gradually, he started to understand the ‘rules of the game’.
Got drunk to numb himself
During the lowest periods in his life, in the stillness of the night, sometimes his heart would be filled with melancholy -- in a helpless state of depression, Raymond would grumble at the unfairness of his plight and lament his constant bad luck: “Whenever I thought about my plight, I would cry and my temper would become irritable. I would lie awake every night worried about my future and think about how to carry on with life – sometimes I would also wonder whether I had perhaps offended someone – pretty much all my thoughts were negative.” At one point, he had tried ‘knocking on the producer’s door’ [TN: approaching producer directly to solicit work], but unfortunately, the producer was only willing to give him a very minor role, so he decided to turn it down. This made him realize that the more you tried to knock on someone’s door, the more the person will feel that you’re ‘not worth it.’ Back then, when he was in a bad mood, he would take sleeping pills to help him sleep and also drink alcohol in the hopes of numbing himself so that he didn’t have to think too much.
Three years ago, when his son Brandon was a little over 1 year old, Raymond also experienced a time when he was out of work for months – at the time, he also went through mood swings and felt frustrated: “When my career wasn’t going well, my mood was easily affected – sometimes, when I felt a little depressed, even when I got home, I wouldn’t talk much and instead would constantly be thinking about things. Later on, I learned to cope with it by focusing all my energy on my son – when I saw how happy he was every day, it made me feel better in my heart.” Even though TVB didn’t give him any work for 9 months, Raymond did receive quite a few invitations to film commercials, which helped him earn extra income and also helped ease his feelings of frustration.
Back when his son Brandon was born, Raymond felt that he was truly a gift from the Heavens and happily accepted it – however when his wife Elaine [Chiang] unexpectedly became pregnant again [with daughter Erin], he felt a bit apprehensive and worried: “With another baby on the way, of course the expenses would be higher. I kept thinking about the future and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to provide the best for our second child – I definitely wasn’t prepared.” He expressed that the first time he found out about his wife’s second pregnancy, he felt like fainting because he knew he would now need to consider many things, such as moving to a bigger home to accommodate his growing family and also hiring another domestic helper to help take care of the baby: “The hardships I endured in the past made me feel a bit insecure about my career – I’ve always felt that being an actor is very passive and the future can be very unstable; therefore, I started to feel worried and pressured.”
Right now is the happiest point in life
Luckily, Raymond had friends whom he was able to confide in and they helped to ease his anxiety: “I was told to stop worrying! There are so many people in this world who want to have children but can’t – I have a son and a daughter, what more could I ask for? Plus, if we’re going to take on the role of parents, we have an obligation to raise our children and give them the best life possible.” His good friend Roger Kwok (郭晉安) would often share parenting tips with him and also would advise him not to worry so much.
Undoubtedly, Raymond is a very responsible father, which is partly why he often worried about providing the best life possible for his children – he didn’t want them to suffer one bit. Earlier, there were reports that Raymond encountered financial hardship and therefore had to sell his home at below market price – in reality, he actually sold his home in order to buy a more spacious one, since his wife was due to give birth soon and he wanted to make sure the family was situated.
“Whenever I want to buy anything for myself, I think about it for a long time, but whenever my kids want to buy something, I take out my wallet right away! That’s the attitude most parents take.” He and his wife Elaine barely have time to themselves nowadays – on days that he does not need to work, he would be responsible for buying groceries and cooking dinner: “We pretty much don’t have any time to ourselves – everything that we do, we take the kids into consideration first.”
When little Erin was born, Raymond finally tossed away all worry and happily accepted this new member into the household – in fact, he finds joy in taking care of his daughter now. At the mention of his daughter, Raymond truly comes alive and endlessly talks about how cute she is. He expressed that the thing that makes him most proud is that his son and daughter get along so well – Brandon loves his little sister a lot and every time Erin sees her big brother, she would grin happily: “Right now is the happiest point in my life. I understand now that I am more fortunate than many people and there is no need to worry about what life might have in store – as long as I put my best effort into providing for my family, that is enough.”
His son Brandon is his ‘lucky charm’ when it comes to filming commercials while his daughter Erin is his ‘lucky charm’ for filming series – in the past year or so since Erin was born, Raymond has already filmed 5 series practically back to back, with each role in the series having pretty good development. Two of the series have already aired and one will be an anniversary series – Raymond hopes that his acting will be accepted and recognized by audiences.
His wife quits her job to start own business
Raymond Cho has an excellent wife, Elaine Chiang (姜依蘭), who has accompanied him throughout many of the low points in his life – whether experiencing happy moments or unpleasant ones, she has been by his side supporting him: “Even during the most frustrating and disappointing moments of my career, she never once asked me to change jobs – this is very important to me!” Elaine is a quick thinker and has an overall positive outlook on life; she also comes from a well-educated background, so Raymond often consults with her on matters involving documents and such. Raymond expressed that though he lacks the educational background that his wife has, he has more life and society experience, so he and Elaine complement each other quite well: “We’ve been able to find a good balance and are able to get along very well.” Even though they hired 2 domestic helpers to support with the household chores, Raymond still takes it upon himself to help wash dishes or mop the floor when he is at home – whenever his wife sees him doing this, she always tells him that he doesn’t need to do it, but he doesn’t mind one bit.
Elaine is veteran actor John Chiang’s (姜大衛) daughter and was pretty much raised in a good environment her entire life – since she never experienced financial hardship, she didn’t have the same financial ‘burdens’ that Raymond did, so when the two of them were dating, she never gave him any pressure: “My father-in-law John and mother-in-law Maggie [Li] are great people – all along, they’ve been very supportive of me.”
Previously, Elaine had a steady job with very good income – with both of their salaries together, life was comfortable. When Elaine wanted to quit her job in order to start her own business, Raymond was opposed at first, as he felt that having a steady job provided financial security. However, after their daughter Erin was born, Elaine wanted to focus more time taking care of the kids at home: “With her previous job, she did make good money, but she also worked long hours so by the time she got home, it was very late at night. At that time, I did not have a lot of series to film, so when Brandon was born, I would take care of him more, which is why he’s closer with me. When she decided to quit her job, I objected at first, but seeing that she was going into the children’s apparel business and would only need to be at work for a few hours a day, which gave her more time to spend with the kids, I had no more reason to object. True, it’s necessary to make money, but choosing happiness is also very important.”
Being in the industry 18 years, Raymond no longer concerns himself with being ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’ – he takes his job very seriously and is very good about arriving to work on time and being one of the last to leave. No matter what type of role or script that TVB gives him, he always makes sure to do his homework and accumulate experience. Lately, TVB has been giving him roles with better opportunity for development, such as those in Ghetto Justice 2 《怒火街頭２》and The Confidant 《大太監》. Because of their collaboration in The Confidant, Raymond became good friends with the series’ star Wayne Lai (黎耀祥) – he praises Wayne’s work ethic and positive attitude: He [Wayne] is constantly sharing with us his philosophy on life as well as his many years of experience working at TVB. He very much enjoys the acting process and always tells us that no matter how exhaustive the process may be, don’t dwell too much on it – as long as you make enough money to put food on the table, then let it be. Also, no matter what type of character you get, always put your best effort into it – try not to have too much negative energy.” Wayne’s wife Julia often tells us that no matter what kind of adversity her husband encounters, he faces it and never complains.
Wayne Lai never complains
When it comes to Wayne’s advice, Raymond truly takes it to heart – because both of them are close in age and have gone through similar life experiences, they are able to get along well. Wayne often shares parenting tips with him as well: for instance, he said that when his son wants to buy something, he doesn’t buy it for him right away – rather, he gives his son time to think about it more to see if it’s something he truly likes or if he just wants it because his friends have it.
Raymond has nothing but praises for Wayne and his wife Julia – he expressed that both of them are great people and Wayne especially is a great example to emulate: despite his popularity, he is very humble, down-to-earth, sincere and treats all people with kindness and respect. Whenever they film on location and go out to eat, Wayne always insists on treating – even when they are ‘fighting’ over paying the bill, Wayne still does so with an amiable and modest attitude. Raymond expressed that one of the things he admires most about Wayne is his ability to handle all matters with a positive attitude: “No matter how exhaustive or difficult his work, never once have I seen him complain – he also never gets angry or upset. For instance, most actors who have to film all night without sleep and then have to make a 7am shoot the next morning would probably get upset and yell at the PA (production assistant) for arranging such a bad schedule – but Wayne is different, as he never gets upset over those types of things. He never goofs off and never complains – he always has a grateful attitude toward work.”
Wayne’s philosophy is that he should be counting his blessings that he even has a job – that’s why whatever work opportunities he gets, he treasures and puts all his effort into it. Seeing Wayne’s optimism and contentment when it comes to his career, Raymond couldn’t help saying: “Being in Wayne’s presence, I definitely learn a lot!” It’s precisely because he has an example to follow now that Raymond is slowly learning to look at the positive side to every situation and to complain less. In the past, he would feel that work was exhausting and difficult, but now looking back, he is grateful for the opportunity to sharpen his skills – without the hardships he endured in the past, he would not have treasured the current fruits of his labor as much as he does now: “At one point, I was so scared of not having enough money that I would constantly scrimp and save, then when things would get better and I’d have extra money, the temptation would be to splurge it – but now, my past experiences have taught me to spend wisely. In life too, I’ve learned to be more steadfast and down-to-earth – that’s why it’s true that one’s life experiences definitely helps one to grow.”