Rebecca Chan is actually another veteran actress whom I grew up watching. She’s definitely a talented actress, as I’ve actually enjoyed her acting even since the 80s, when she was a young fadan at TVB – she had quite a few memorable performances, both back then (during her young actress days) as well as currently. Though she mostly plays villain characters now, I’m actually ok with it because with her level of acting skill, her villain characters are very convincing and her performances are still quite enjoyable to watch – plus it shows that she is versatile in her acting. I actually still remember Rebecca’s performance in The Final Verdict (good series, but very depressing and tragic) as well as in many of the other series she was in back in the 80s – I especially liked Rebecca’s ancient series back then because I felt that she was one of those actresses who always looked great in ancient costume.
I actually knew a long time ago that Rebecca was a single mother because she never hid that fact in her interviews. For those who might not know, Rebecca was actually pregnant with her son back when she was filming Detective Investigation Files IV in 1999. The first time I watched that series, I actually had no clue she was pregnant (goes to show they hid it well at that time) – it wasn’t until I saw an interview she did later on where she talked about some of the creative ways they tried to hide her pregnancy while filming that I found out she was actually pregnant. Of course, afterwards, when I re-watched the series, I then noticed all the stuff she talked about (how she would wear loose fitting clothes or stand behind a counter or at certain angles for particular scenes or hold a pillow in her lap when she was sitting on a couch, etc. so as to hide her belly). Very interesting indeed!
I admire Rebecca for making the choice to be a single mother – it takes a lot of courage and strength to choose that path, especially in a situation like hers where she doesn’t have a huge network of friends and extended family to help out.
Anyway, best of luck to Rebecca and look forward to watching her next series!
Mingpao Interview with Rebecca Chan: A Mother’s Choice
Source: Mingpao Weekly, Issue 2283
Article originally published on August 11, 2012
This interview was one year in the making. Last year, when War and Beauty《金枝慾孽》was re-broadcast in the midnight timeslot, watching the Empress and Concubine Yu battling wits, I called the ‘Empress’ Rebecca Chan (陳秀珠) in the hopes of getting together for an interview – at the time, she was in the U.S. accompanying her son in his studies. Later on, watching her play an evil woman in Bottled Passion 《我的如意狼君》, notorious Tang dynasty Empress WuZeTian (武則天) in The Greatness of a Hero《盛世仁傑》, and Adam Cheng’s (鄭少秋) ex-wife in Master of Play 《心戰》, each time I called, she was not in Hong Kong. It turns out that this ‘filial’ mother decided to stay in the U.S. for the entire year to accompany her son in his studies.
Thirteen years ago, when she decided to give birth to her son without getting married and subsequently raise him entirely on her own, Rebecca already knew that being a single mother would not be easy. Even though Rebecca is not an ‘Empress’ in real life, at home, her son is definitely a ‘Prince’. Returning to HK with her son in tow this past summer, Rebecca expressed that her son is the center of her life – this is a choice she made, the choice of a single mother.
Having played an Empress as well as WuZeTian, Rebecca believes more and more that there isn’t much that a woman can’t do.
Injured her ribs in an accident
With the blink of an eye, Rebecca’s son is already 13 years old – last year, she accompanied him to the U.S. to start school: “Pursuing an education in HK is much more difficult. My son is not exactly a stellar student – we tried traditional schools, but the pressure was too great, so in his third year, I switched him to an international school in the hopes that it would be easier for him to adapt to the U.S. education system.”
She didn’t feel comfortable with her son staying in the U.S. all by himself, so she decided to stop working and accompany him to San Francisco [located in the state of California] to start school: “For the next 2 years, I plan to accompany him more and help him get adjusted first, then later on plan my own time.”
As for her filming obligations with TVB, it wasn’t until she returned to HK with her son earlier this summer that she had the time to discuss her next series. For the next few years, she plans to only film 1 series per year so she can focus on accompanying her son in his studies.
The last series that Rebecca filmed prior to leaving HK was Bottled Passion. On the last day of filming, as everyone was getting ready to leave, an accident occurred – Rebecca suddenly lost her balance and fell, her chest hitting the corner of a table: “The pain was so great that I thought I was going to die! They had an ambulance take me to the hospital right away and after some x-rays, it was discovered that my ribs were cracked in a few places!”
Due to her injury, she had to completely stop working in order to rest, so she decided to move her plan of accompanying her son in his studies forward a few years: “As the saying goes, life is unpredictable!” Oftentimes, things do not always go as planned. Given the situation, Rebecca decided to take the entire year off from work.
Her son, Tiga Chan (陳迪加), was named after a Japanese anime superhero. Even though he was born in California, Rebecca admits that for the first 6 months after the two of them arrived in San Francisco, adjusting to life there was very difficult: “We had to rent a house and buy furniture. Language barrier was also a problem, as only English was spoken at the schools…help! I also had to take English lessons. I told my son: ‘Let’s give it one year and if it still doesn’t work out, then we’ll leave!’ That’s why I always feel that no matter what you do, never burn your bridges – always leave an ‘out’ for yourself.”
Made the right choice to become a single mom
One person going to school, yet essentially two people were doing the homework. When it came to her son’s studies, Rebecca was right there next to him, helping him look stuff up in the dictionary: “Whether it was Roman history, Islamic history, or U.S. history, I took more notes than he did – it was more exhausting than filming series! Back when my son was born, I had gone back to work in less than a year, so I had never experienced being a ‘full-time’ stay-at-home mom before. It took some getting used to in the beginning, as I not only had to take care of my son, I also had to cook 3 meals a day as well as do the household chores, since there are no maids in the U.S.”
The most difficult thing about being a single mother is having to play the role of both mother and father to her son: “Sometimes I feel like I have split personalities, like the characters in Master of Play – at times, I feel like doting on him more while other times I feel I have to be more strict with him. I do spoil him though sometimes. He loves reading a particular Japanese anime, but I’m not too fond of him reading it – however I often tell him that I’ll buy the comic for him but he has to get certain grade in school. Of course, he always answers with ‘yes, yes, yes’ but after I buy it for him, he doesn’t follow through with the grades. Even now, I still give in to his sweet-talk.”
Her son likes to draw and has quite the artistic talent – oftentimes, he would draw pictures to express his feelings in his journal and whenever Rebecca would see it, she would feel warm inside. Back then, Rebecca made the decision to have a child without getting married and over the course of the next 13 years, her son has been the main motivational force in her life: “I would say that the decision wasn’t wrong at all. Over the years, things have been relatively smooth and I’m enjoying it. I live according to my own plan! When I first made the decision, I already knew the path wouldn’t be easy, but it hasn’t been too bad either – a lot of people are worse off than me. Basically taking it one step at a time – working in order to make a living and provide for my son. The most important thing is that my son is happy and healthy – that’s enough for me. After all, it was my own decision – no one forced me, so I can’t complain. I always tell myself to look on the positive side of things.”
Even if her son ever asks about his father, it won’t be too difficult for Rebecca to answer: “I’m already prepared with answers, but so far, he rarely asks. Sometimes, when he’s watching a series and sees a father mistreating his own son, he would say to me: ‘Luckily I don’t have a father!’ When I hear him say this, I know things are ok because he feels that life with his mother is very happy and he doesn’t feel like anything was lacking in his childhood. I try hard to provide him with everything he’d possibly need and constantly tell him: ‘Other kids may have dads and you don’t, but at least you’re happy – enjoy and live your life happily, that’s already enough.’”
Will consider finding a life partner
Rebecca expressed that even her 80 year old dad is able to accept her being a single mother – in this day and age, the whole world shouldn’t have a problem with it: “The most important thing is to be a responsible person. The new series that I’ll be filming talks about an ‘after-90s’ girl who gets pregnant early in life and after giving birth, abandons the baby – obviously a lot of problems occur. But me, I resolve to be a responsible parent! I read designer Eddie Lau (劉培基)’s column in your magazine where he describes his childhood experience – how could a mother be so cruel? Crazy!”
When Rebecca gave birth to her son, she was already 39 years old – though maturity was on her side, her age made the pregnancy higher risk. She expressed that due to this, it was a difficult experience: “That’s why I feel that you should have children when you’re young. Now that my son is grown, he’ll ask me to watch videos on the internet or play video games with him – I don’t have enough energy for all that, very tiring. However I have a huge sense of responsibility – since I already signed up to go visit the Three Gorges [tourist site in China] with my son, I will still go, even if I have to take painkillers for my injury.”
When actress Shirley Yeung (楊思琦) also became a single mother earlier this year, Rebecca expressed that she understood exactly the type of pressure she had to go through: “I sent her a text message to encourage her – I wrote: ‘Women are very capable and can carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, you can do it!’ She’s still young, so definitely in a better position than I was.”
After thirteen years as a single mother, Rebecca expressed that her son will be independent in 2 years and can stay overseas on his own, so she can start thinking about her own life: “At my age now, I would like to have someone to lean on and listen to my troubles.” When she was in the U.S. for a year, she was busy with her son’s matters, so didn’t have time to meet anyone new – luckily, her ‘requirements’ for choosing a partner are quite flexible: “His age and nationality don’t matter to me, the most important thing is that we’re able to click – even if he’s a Westerner, as long as we’re able to communicate with each other, then it’s not a problem. I’ve been single for so long that I’m used to it already, so sometimes it’s hard to have to accommodate someone else. Of course, he must get along with my son – most important is that Tiga likes him as well.”
Rebecca admits that in the past 13 years, she has not encountered anyone whom she feels can be a dad to her son: “The main reason is because I never really thought about it [finding a partner] before; it’s only now that my son is grown up and will be more independent that I’ve started to think about it – plus seeing some of my friends in the U.S. with their significant others and how happy they were also made me think more about it. If I were in HK, my focus would have been primarily on work and wouldn’t have time to think about it at all – now I can consider it.”
Most memorable relationship with her Malaysian ex-boyfriend
Rebecca expressed that all of her previous boyfriends were from outside the industry. The only artist she was heavily rumored with was Shek Sau (石修), however she expressed that the two of them were merely on-screen partners and never had a relationship in real life.
When she went to Malaysia to film series for a few years, she met a man whom she loved enough to stay in Malaysia for: “I don’t’ like the weather in Malaysia, as it’s way too hot – I like places that have clearly defined 4 seasons.” How about Malaysian men? Rebecca expressed that they were not bad – her Malaysian boyfriend was actually the son of a rich tycoon and at that time, their relationship had even reached the marriage stage. So what was their reason for breaking up? She expressed: “The timing wasn’t right – such a pity! Actually, out of all the relationships I’ve had, this one was the most memorable for me. He was a very good man – very simple, not complicated at all. I like simple people.” Rebecca emphasized that their breakup had nothing to do with her boyfriend’s wealth or family status: “It was a compatibility issue between the two of us.”
If she had become a ‘Malaysian bride’ back then, her fate would have been very different: “It’s actually quite interesting – if back then I had continued to work as ground crew at the airline instead of participating in the Miss HK pageant, I probably would have become a supervisor already. I like rotating shifts – if I had to stay in an office all day long, I’d be bored to death.”
The primary reason why Rebecca participated in the Miss HK pageant was to meet her idol Cora Miao (繆騫人): “From the way she [Cora] talked to the way she dressed, she always came across very cool and charismatic.” Cora Miao participated in the 1976 Miss HK pageant while Rebecca was a contestant in the 1979 pageant – both experienced a similar fate in that neither made it into the top 3 rankings: “Unfortunately, by the time I entered the industry, Cora had already left TVB. When I was in San Francisco, I had hoped to bump into her, but it didn’t happen.”
One time, back when she was young, Rebecca had also gone the ‘rebellious’ route and took some sexy photos that had resulted in her losing a few hosting gigs at TVB due to her image not being ‘healthy’ enough – luckily, it didn’t impact her career permanently and she went from being TVB fa dan [in the 1980s] to a steady, talent-path actress.
Wanted to get her mole removed
Rebecca has a mole near the corner of her mouth that has become somewhat of a trademark for her. She states that in the past, she constantly thought about getting the mole removed, however her friends were opposed to it: “A geomancer once told me I won’t have to worry much about putting ‘food’ on the table [meaning ‘making money’]; indeed I’ve tasted many fine ‘delicacies’ in the past but I feel that I may have the fame, but not necessarily the fortune.”
Rebecca has worked for TVB 30 years and throughout that time, she has filmed series after series, playing a variety of different characters. Having filmed series since the 1980s until now, she understands very clearly in her heart that the quality of TVB series has dropped: “I still feel that series from the 1980s were a lot better to watch. My favorite is The Final Verdict 《誓不低頭》 (1988) – every time Adam and I collaborate, our characters in the series don’t have good results. I really liked the script for this series because the story isn’t just focused on the main lead, but rather, it’s very spread out – every character has a chance to shine.”
In terms of recent works, Rebecca is the most satisfied with her performance in Master of Play: “I quite like [producer] Jonathan Chik (戚其義), as he has a unique style to his filming, however I don’t like how his scripts are always done ‘on the fly’ [飛紙仔]. During the broadcast of the series, people would ask me about the plot, but I would have absolutely no clue: ‘Oh, Maggie Siu (邵美琪) kills that many people?’ I told Jonathan not to include me in his future series – I’m too old and can’t remember so much dialogue in such a short amount of time.”
Prior to Master of Play, Rebecca had also collaborated with producer Chik on War and Beauty: “It was a very satisfying experience, especially getting the chance to act with Sheren Tang (鄧萃雯). Whether it was on or off the camera, the two of us would still remain in character and constantly try to ‘outdo’ each other in all aspects, from hairstyle to makeup to costume. I would use the Empress’s tone of voice and facial expression to say to her: ‘I am the Empress, you are only a Concubine, you need to bow to me!’”
In 2009’s The Greatness of a Hero, Rebecca got the chance to play the ‘female Emperor’ WuZeTian: “Definitely no regrets! Playing the role of an emperor was very high – everyone was constantly bowing to you and if you didn’t like someone, you could send them off to to die. What other woman gets a chance like that to sit on the throne?”
For consummate actors like Rebecca who are very passionate about their craft, their work is their entertainment. Rebecca expressed that she is open to collaborating with different parties – whether it’s Mainland China, the new TV stations in HK, or TVB, she welcomes all of them to seek her out. Of course, priority will be given to those with a completed script.
Likes to drink
Looking back at the days before she had her son, Rebecca admits that she was a party-goer who enjoyed going around eating and drinking: “It was pretty intensive – every night I’d go out drinking. In Malaysia, there’s a street very similar to Lan Kwai Fong – I liked to drink until I felt a bit high…pretty happy.”
However looking back at those ‘wild days’ now, Rebecca feels that she had wasted her time: “If I didn’t have my son, I think I would have continued that type of lifestyle. I’m grateful for my son, as he is my motivation for working hard. He definitely changed me a lot.”
The only thing that hasn’t changed is Rebecca’s fondness for the taste of alcohol. She revealed that sometimes, when her son is in school, she would have a drink or two at home: “When we’d go out for sushi, my son would let me have a little bit of sake.” When her son was an infant, she had once added a few drops of beer to his milk – having received ‘training’ at such a young age, her son now knows how to drink carbonated wine. Rebecca Chan is that type of ‘playful’ mother.