Saturday, December 29, 2012

Interview with former TVB veteran actor Deno Cheung: The ‘spoiled young master’ endures with all his might

Here's an article I came across last week about another 'veteran' former TVB green leaf artist whom I 'grew up' watching (well, sort of):  actor Deno Cheung. 

I actually first started noticing Deno in the series Untraceable Evidence where he played a rookie cop who reported to Bowie Lam's character (it was also the first series where I started to notice Koo Ming Wah as well).  Even though I do remember Deno also from DIF 2 (his first series) where he also played a rookie cop (though reporting to Michael Tao this time), his role was really not as significant compared to the one in UE -- plus he had mostly 'group' scenes, so he didn't really stand out. 

For me, the 2 series that really caused me to get to know Deno more and appreciate his acting were Rural Hero and Plain Love II.  He had pretty significant roles in both series (in fact, if I remember correctly, in Rural Hero, I believe he was even billed as '3rd male lead' after Roger Kwok and Jackie Lui) and his performances in both really left an impression on me.  To be honest, even though I don't really consider the 'spoiled younger master' role a villain persay (especially not in Plain Love II, since Deno's 'Young Master Wing' in that series actually does turn good in the end if I recall correctly), the article was definitely correct in saying that Deno has turned that particular type of role into his 'specialty' over the years -- nowadays, whenever I think of a spoiled young master, the first person who comes to mind is Deno!

Deno left TVB in June of this year and currently works for HKTV (CTI) -- so far, he has filmed 2 series for HKTV (Three Sides of Shape Doctors and Police Boundaries) and I'm sure there are more in the works.  I had actually read an interview that Deno did a couple months back where he talked about why he left TVB and since then, there's been a lingering question in my mind that I don't think I'll ever find out the answer to:  Deno is one of those artists who has both the looks as well as acting talent plus good work ethics (which is a rare combination actually), so you'd think that TVB would be 'jumping' to promote him, right?  Um, well, apparently not, since it looks like TVB pretty much 'ignored' him for most of his 18 year tenure with them (I mean, he's probably been in close to 100 series but yet, he only had a handful of 'decent' roles....such a huge imbalance!) -- that's the part that doesn't make much sense to me.  Oh and I'm sorry, but to not give your employees a pay raise for 12 years when they've obviously been performing above standard throughout that time is just completely WRONG (and I'm speaking from the perspective of an employer as well as a business person here)!!  No wonder Deno made the decision to leave TVB!  Even though HKTV doesn't have their license yet, at least Deno is getting opportunities over there that he never would have gotten if he had stayed with TVB (not to mention he's getting better treatment as well as respect from his new employer).

Anyway....back to the article -- it's actually a pretty interesting read, as it reveals quite alot about Deno as well as about his former employer (TVB).  Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!


Interview with former TVB veteran actor Deno Cheung:  The ‘spoiled young master’ endures with all his might

Source:  HKChannel
Translation:  llwy12

Having toiled silently at TVB for 18 years, Deno Cheung (張松枝) is best known for his villain roles, which he started playing back in 1999 when he portrayed the role of a spoiled, rich young master in the series Plain Love II (茶是故鄉濃) – since then, that ‘spoiled young master’ image stuck with him and had become his ‘specialty’ role of sorts over the years.  Fortunately for him, audiences seem to like and appreciate Deno’s villain roles – when fans bump into him on the street, they ‘chide’ him for being ‘such a bad person’ [referring to his characters in the series], but yet at the same time, they have smiles on their faces.  This little bit of ‘recognition’ can be attributed to the years of hard work and effort that Deno put in to building his career.  At one point, Deno reveals his experience of almost going into shock while filming a particularly strenuous scene, yet at the end of the day, he endured it with all his might and successfully completed the filming.

Deno Cheung entered the industry when he was 20 years old.  He recalls how he was swimming at a beach in Shek O one day where, coincidentally, a commercial was being filmed – the PA (production assistant) went over to him and asked if he wanted to participate, and just like that, his filming career began.  In those first few years, Deno filmed commercials for all sorts of products, including toothpaste, M&Ms, real estate, etc.   During the height of the karaoke craze in the early 90s, Deno switched to filming karaoke MVs (music videos) – in 4 short years, he filmed close to a thousand MVs and got the opportunity to work with some of HK’s most popular singers at the time, such as Kelly Chen (陳慧琳), Cass Pang (彭羚), etc.  Deno recalls those early years with fondness:  “Back then, we filmed 4 days a week and sometimes, we would even travel offsite to various locations.”  Asked about his experience filming the MV for music queen Kelly Chen’s hit ‘Care Too Much About You’ (對你太在乎), Deno smiled and praised Kelly’s down-to-earth personality:  “I remember how much she loved talking about food!  During filming, she would constantly ask what we would be eating for lunch and where we should eat when we got off work!”

No pay raise for 12 years

It turns out that filming MVs was actually only a ‘side job’ for Deno – his ‘real’ job was in mechanics:  “My friend had a company that specialized in buying second hand cell phones from Japan, refurbishing them in HK, then selling them in Mainland China -- since I had studied mechanical engineering, I was the one responsible for refurbishing the phones.  It wasn’t really a full time job, so I still had time to film MVs on the side.”  So with 2 salaries coming in, life must have been worry-free then?  With a slight smile, Deno replied:  “Worry-free?  Of course not -- in fact, the work was quite arduous!  Later on, I joined a certain company [TVB] and in a few years, that ‘double income’ was gone.”

In 1994, through a friend who worked behind-the-scenes at TVB, Deno was introduced to the station’s manager of the artists’ department at the time, Hsiao Siu Ming (蕭笑鳴).  [TN:  蕭笑鳴  left TVB not too long after Virginia Lok took over the Artists’ Department in 2004;  she is the wife of TVB’s production head Tommy Leung (梁家) and the mother of TVB actress Toby Leung (梁靖)].   After meeting with ‘Ba Jeh’ (Hsiao Siu Ming’s nickname), Deno signed with TVB and with that, started his 18 year ‘relationship’ with the company.  Deno expressed that his early years with TVB were the happiest – at one point, he was practically filming non-stop and participated in so many series that he was able to accumulate over 290 ‘shows’ in one year!  However, all of that changed in 2000 when, during the filming of the series Gods of Honour (封神榜), TVB held up Deno’s schedule for 7 months, yet only had him film for 3 days – as a result, Deno didn’t have enough ‘shows’ to fulfill his contract and had to rely on his meager salary from previous months to survive.  Luckily, the next year, producer Lau Shi Yu (劉仕) invited him to participate in the series Country Spirit (酒是故鄉醇), which allowed him to ‘recover’ the lost wages.  Deno revealed that for 12 years, he was never given a pay raise, which definitely made life difficult:  “Luckily, I consistently had work and was very careful about spending money – at least eating the boxed lunches at TVB helped me save a lot of money on food!”

Filming action scenes in extremely hot weather almost sent him into shock

As the saying goes:  ‘One minute on stage takes ten years of practice/hard work (台上一分鐘,台下十年功) – this has definitely been true in Deno Cheung’s case.  Deno expressed that from the moment he joined TVB and filmed his first series, he was already ‘learning’ from the many experienced artists he collaborated with – one of those artists was actor Michael Tao (陶大宇):  “Back when I participated in Detective Investigation Files 2 (刑事偵緝檔案II), I got the chance to work closely with Michael practically every day.   Every time we had scenes to film together, I would practice by looking through the script and try to memorize all his lines, then imagine myself filming the scene in his position – when it came time to actually film the scene, I would observe the way Michael did it and see if there were any similarities with the way I practiced it – this was my way of learning.  After that, I started doing the same thing with every series and slowly, it helped me learn a lot about acting – more importantly though, it also helped me develop a good memory.    I remember back when I filmed Eternal Happiness (再生緣), I had a scene with Raymond Lam (林峯) where my character had 5 pages of dialogue – we did that scene in one take!  Another time, when filming a scene for Country Spirit with Paul Chun (秦沛), my character had 3 full pages of dialogue for that particular segment.  At first, I thought that since I was somewhat of a ‘newcomer’ at the time, Paul Gor wouldn’t pay much attention to me, but then, as I was practicing that particular scene with the director, Paul Gor heard me reciting those 3 pages of dialogue practically in one breath – when he noticed me practicing that scene, he immediately told the people around me to keep the noise level down so that I could concentrate.  Seeing him do this truly made me feel very happy in my heart!”

In one of his last series with TVB, 2012’s Three Kingdoms RPG (回到三國), Deno played the historical character of Zhao Zi Long (趙子龍) – his performance was very well-received by audiences.  Deno expressed that even though he already knew going into it that the character wouldn’t have much screen time, it was still important for him to do the best job he possibly could with it:  “The action choreographer told me that at the end of the day, I’m the one in front of the audiences and so how much effort I put in to doing the action scenes, the audiences will definitely notice.  The 2 days that we spent filming those scenes were very grueling and arduous.  Coincidentally, that was also the time when the extras [temporary workers] went on strike – originally I was told that there would be 50 extras filming the scenes, however when I arrived, I found out that there were no extras at all due to the strike.  Therefore, the production team had to call around last minute and eventually were able to find 10 students from the acting classes and 5 stuntmen to serve as extras – since we would have to re-use the same people as extras in the other scenes, we couldn’t have the cameras focus on them too much, so the cameras ended up being focused more on me and showing them fighting in the background with their backs toward me.  This meant that I would actually have to be the one ‘fighting’ the entire time – throughout the filming, I felt like I had ‘died’ 4 times because we were filming outside under extremely hot weather with heavy costumes and armor.  In between some of the fighting sequences, I would have to rest for 5 to 10 minutes to catch my breath and drink water – it was so strenuous that I almost went into a state of shock!  I ended up drinking 8 bottles of water just filming those scenes alone!”  Looking back now, Deno expressed that even though the filming was exhausting, the memory of that collaboration was a happy one, as he was able to work together with the production team to overcome the difficulties and finish the scenes.

In many of the series he participated in, Deno often played similar characters:  the spoiled young master, the chap who betrays his triad boss, and other similar ‘villain’ characters – towards this, Deno laughed and stated:  “Sure I would like to play other types of characters such as comical ones for example, but it rarely happened.  Actually, come to think of it, producer Poon Ka Tak (潘嘉德) helped me a lot in the beginning, as he was the one who initially gave me the ‘good guy’ roles to play, such as the ones in Rural Hero (離島特警), Untraceable Evidence (鑑證實錄), The Awakening Story (婚前昏後), etc., but later on, even he started asking me to do villain roles too…haha!  In terms of the ‘spoiled young master’ character, producer Lau Shi Yu (劉仕裕) was actually the first one to have me play this type of role back during Plain Love II (茶是故鄉濃) – from that time on, I continued playing that role.”   Even though Deno did play a lot of typecasted roles, at least his performances were well-received by audiences – in fact, a netizen recently suggested that Deno should get together with other ‘known villains’  [artists who regularly play villain characters in series] such as Timothy Cheng (鄭子誠), Ricky Wong Chung Tong (王俊棠), Wong Man Piu (黃文標), and Cheng Kar Sheng (鄭家生) to film a ‘battle of the villains’ series:  “Hey, if you send the idea to HKTV (CTI), there’s a huge possibility it might happen, as there is a lot of flexibility with their series – it could be 5 episodes, 10 episodes, even more!  Since there’s 5 of us, we could do a 5 episode series and it would only take 1 week to air!”


  1. Thx for this great interview. Too bad he doesn't have any backings and/or lack shoe polishing skills otherwise he would've been promoted a long time ago.

    Looking forward seeing him in CTI series.

    1. @exoidus: No problem! :o)

      Yup, unfortunately Deno is another one of those artists who fell victim to TVB's politics and was sacrificed (though of course, he's not the only one)...

      I'm looking forward to seeing him again too, since I actually haven't seen much of him in TVB series the past couple years because he was cast in so many insignificant of luck to him!!

  2. Happy New Year, llwy12 ! Thank you very much for all your great articles and looking fwd to more in 2013:)

    I've to admit I haven't been paying much attention to Deno as most of his roles are so insignificant that my family calls him the 'big kalefe'. Also, TVB typecasted him playing villian roles so whenever I see him on TVB, I'll automatically think here comes the baddie. I really cannot remember any of his good guy roles. Anyway I do feel bad for him that his bad guy image is so strongly embedded in the audience's mind which restricts his career progress & the lack of pay rise. He must have love acting very much to persevere for so long. It is not easy to achieve fame in the entertainment world if you lack connection, appearance & opportunity eventhought you are hard working, enthusiastic & dedicated. I look fwd to see him in more meaty good guy role to see if he is able to change my perception of him on tv.

    1. @BOGAEfan: First of all, Happy New Year! :0) Second, so sorry for this late response….I only realized just now that I hadn’t responded to your comment yet….

      Anyway, thanks for your comment! To be honest, I actually never really thought of Deno as a ‘villain’, probably because I watched his ‘good guy’ roles prior to his ‘bad guy’ ones, so his ‘good guy’ image was already ingrained in my brain. But it’s true that he does play the ‘spoiled young master’ characters really well –this was apparent especially after watching Plain Love II.

      It’s definitely a shame that Deno was not more ‘valued’ by TVB – he’s a good actor and has the looks too. It’s sad whenever I see supporting artists like him who persevere at the ‘slave shop’ TVB for so long with low pay, no recognition, and pretty much being treated like dirt, then when they leave to pursue better opportunities, instead of being happy for them, the Media (and some of the audiences) bash them for being ‘traitors’ because they are ‘going against’ the ‘all-powerful’ (triad) TVB….feel sorry for him and all artists in the HK entertainment industry in general.

    2. Actually Deno's final TVB roles were starting to be good guy roles such as the one in 3 Kingdoms and another one which I forgot. I was actually surprised that TVB was starting to finally give him such heroic roles to play!

      llwy12 I completely agree with you! These actors work so hard and get mistreated at TVB and when they leave for better roles the audience "brainwashed" by TVB calls them a traitor?! Many other people change their jobs for better future so why can't actors too?! I hate it when these audience fail to realize how bad the condition of working for TVB are! TVB was the one who didn't cherish these actors at first so they have every Right to leave!

  3. Actually I've always noticed Deno even in his evil roles! He's had some good guy roles such as the minor role in Untraceable Evidence as a member of Bowie's team.

    llwy12 Thank You so much for translating this article about Deno! I've started to like him ever since his last two roles at TVB!

  4. Oh The "battle of the villains" would be so cool! I suggest they film a 10 episode series called battle of the villains! At times like these I wish Mark Kwok was still in acting. When you think of looks Mark Kwok was always Male Lead material! He stayed with TVB for 10+ years and never got promoted after Time Off! Somehow I really wish Ricky Wong would get Mark back since he's gotten a few veterans who hasn't filmed in a while?

    1. @sport3888: Sorry for the late response...still trying to catch up on a few things...

      Interesting that you mention Mark Kwok. Yup, he definitely had potential, but unfortunately, he was underutilized and his potential wasn't completely tapped in to...if it was, he probably would have been able to get to a better position.

      Well, never say never -- with all the people that Ricky Wong has been able to persuade to join his company so far, including many veterans who had already left the industry, there is definitely a chance that a collaboration might pretty much just depends upon whether Mark is willing...

  5. Mark also was labelled "Female Lead's boyfriend" the boyfriend/husband that always cheated! I felt so sorry for him! Such gorgeous looks better than alot of TVB's current Male leads in fact!

    Funny how Deno also mentioned Kelly because Mark Kwok also filmed a music special with Kelly! It was one of his rare good guy roles and he looked so handsome!

  6. Oh my gosh, he looked so dashing and full of charisma as Zhiu Zhi Long in the Three Kingdoms!! I've been noticing him and I always feel so bad each time I see him getting casted in minor roles - he definitely deserves much bigger, better roles! His acting skill and everything else is up to the standard.

    1. @Anonymous: Yup, totally agree with you. Though in a way, it's also pretty sad that audiences only started 'recognizing' Deno after his Three Kingdoms role, which happens to be one of his last series with TVB when he really should have gotten that 'recognition' ages ago.

      I'm actually glad that Deno left TVB because at least now, he can be treated with respect and can get better opportunities -- both of which he would not have gotten if he stayed with TVB.

    2. Wow, thanks for replying. Just want to let you know that your work here with the veteran actors' articles are very good and I appreciate you writing the translation and posting them up. I'm one of those who feel deeply for them as they've never gotten the chances and luck to be promoted to what they deserve. Supporting casts are extremely important in making a series successful, but TVB treats them like rubbish. Saddening.
      Btw, do you have any article on KK Cheung and also the other veteran actor who acted in Missing You as Lo Lan's angry brother? KK Cheung to me is a hugely unappreciated actor despite the high acting skill he has over the many varying roles throughout all these years!
      Thanks :)

    3. @Anonymous: You're welcome and thanks! I've actually always had a soft spot in my heart for supportingveteran artists, probably because I grew up watching these artists and so it saddens me to see how badly they are treated. Hopefully by translating these articles, it helps to give these artists more exposure.

      To answer your question...yes, there is an interview with KK Cheung, but it's from last year...I had wanted to translate it last year when I saw it, but didn't have time. I'll have to go back and dig it up to translate (KK is another one of my favorites, so definitely would like to do it). As for the'brother', his name is Law Lok Lam (another great veteran actor who actually used to be a very popular leading actor). I actually did translate a detailed interview of his last year...let me go back and look for the link....

    4. Oh my gosh, I hope you'll translate KK Cheung's interview cuz he deserves more from all that he's done! :D and thanks for looking up the link on Law Lok Lam!

    5. @Anonymous: Sorry for the delay. Here's the link to the interview with Law Lok's actually an old interview from April 2011. I had translated and posted it up on one of the forums I frequent back in 2011, but somehow forgot to post it on my blog as well (which I usually do whenever I translate these types of interviews). Therefore, I went ahead and "re-posted" the interview here on my blog (in case others who aren't part of that forum didn't get a chance to read it).

      Also, yes, I will try to get to the KK Cheung interview soon -- I'm actually working on another translation right now (another veteran artist interview), so I probably won't get to the KK one until later on.