Despite my busy schedule, I’ve actually been able to squeeze in quite a bit of ‘leisure’ activity lately in the form of watching TV (while multi-tasking of course…LOL). Since there hasn’t been much to watch on the TVB front in the past few months (I’m talking about new series and programs), I’ve resorted to re-watching old Hong Kong TV series and variety programs – at the same time, I’ve also been ‘venturing out’ more by trying to watch shows from other countries (Taiwan and Mainland for example).
Those who’ve been following entertainment news in recent months will probably remember that there was quite a bit of buzz a few months ago about a ‘high profile’ HK celebrity being invited to participate in season 2 of one of Mainland China’s most popular and highly rated reality show, Where Are We Going Dad. Of course, we all know that HK celebrity was Chilam Cheung – supposedly, the production crew was aggressively pursuing him, offering him large sums of money to appear on the show with his son Morton. Honestly, when I initially heard the news, my first reaction was that the deal would never go through, as I highly doubted that Chilam’s wife Anita Yuen would allow Morton to constantly be in the spotlight like that. Well, turns out I was right (at least partially), as Chilam decided to decline the offer in the end (the ‘official’ reason was because the filming schedule would interfere with his son’s school schedule).
Not long after that, the participants in the show were officially announced via press conference – even though we all knew that Chilam and Morton wouldn’t be on the show, many of us were surprised to learn that another ‘high profile’ HK celebrity father/son pairing would take their place instead: Francis Ng and his 5 year old son Feynman!!
Why was it such a surprise? Well, I don’t think I need to explain, right? (the interview below actually does a pretty good job of explaining why).
Anyway, when I found out that Francis was going to be on the show with his son (who, up to this point, had never really been seen in public), my curiosity got the better of me and I decided I would try watching the show. I know what people are probably thinking, so for the record – no, I’m not a Francis fan. With that said though, Francis is an absolutely awesome actor (I grew up watching his series and later his movies and have always had a lot of respect for him as an actor) and I like him well enough as a person (his personality is quite interesting and ‘unique’)…besides, I was already planning on giving the show a try back when it was announced that they were going to try and get a HK celebrity on the show.
So basically, I started watching the show in its second season and after only 2 episodes, I was already hooked (they’ve aired up to episode 5 now) – to the point that I started reading up a bit on the show so I could find out more about it. In fact, I also decided to go back and watch all of season 1 as well which I ended up finishing in no time. I quite enjoyed the first season and so far, the second season has been good as well (though I already see some differences between the two seasons…but I will wait until the second season is done before passing judgment).
The below article is actually the written version of an interview that Francis did with Sina Entertainment. The interview actually came out more than a week and a half ago, right before episode 4 had aired (that was the episode where Feynman fell into the water). There have actually been a few articles about Francis that have come out in the weeks since Where Are We Going Dad 2 started airing – so far, the below is the most in-depth one I’ve read. Not only that, it’s also the one that reflects the most closely with Francis’ personality (the way he answers some of the questions is totally him…haha), probably because this one is basically a transcription of an actual sit-down interview with him versus some of the other articles were just ‘paraphrased’ summaries, mostly from tabloid publications.
In any case, this interview was definitely an interesting read for me and overall serves as a pretty good ‘supplemental piece’ to the show. For those who are currently watching the show, I recommend not only reading the text version of this interview, but also watching the 3 minute excerpt of it on Sina’s website (for those who understand Mandarin – well, HK style Mandarin that is, since Francis speaks Mandarin with a heavy Cantonese accent…LOL -- there is actually ‘bonus footage’ in the video version, as there were some questions asked there that weren’t in the text/written version – for instance, the 24 million dollar question that everyone seems to be asking as of late: What is Feynman’s Chinese name?). There’s also a longer 7 minute excerpt that has a lot more questions not part of the text version (here’s the link to the video for those interested: http://ent.sina.com.cn/z/v/2014-07-08/17144171749.shtml)
One last note: as with all interviews where there is a video and written version, there will always be some differences in interpretation of what was actually said between the 2 versions, especially since it’s harder to relay the same emotion on paper. My translation was based purely on the text version of the interview so there will probably be a few questions/answers that don’t match up exactly to the video version. I tried to get it as close as possible though….
Lastly – here’s a mini-documentary that the production crew of Where Are We Going Dad 2 put together – each of the fathers and their kids are featured in one of the episodes. The point of the video is to show how the fathers and their kids interact outside of the show. The one below focuses on Francis and Feynman -- the crew actually went to HK to ‘follow’ Francis and Feynman around for a day to see how they interact. I chose to include this video because it actually complements the below interview perfectly, as it shows just how much of a ‘big kid’ Francis truly is! (Here's the link: http://www.hunantv.com/v/1/52884/f/704200.html)
Sina Entertainment Interview – Francis Ng loves to madly kiss his son Feynman while he sleeps
Article originally published 7/8/2014
Anthony Wong (黃秋生) once assessed his good friend Francis Ng (吳鎮宇) in this manner: “He is truly ‘Wong Yeuk Si (黃藥師)’ [the character from Jin Yong’s novel Legend of the Condor Heroes] – every move he makes is strange , odd, mysterious…you never know what his next move will be!”
Recently, Francis Ng demonstrated one of those ‘strange’ moves! Personality-wise, Francis is known for being proudly aloof and socially awkward, dislikes conforming to society’s norms, and absolutely loathes constant public exposure– yet ironically, he chooses to participate in a wildly popular TV program that publicly ‘exposes’ him to millions of television viewers every week: the second season of Mainland China’s highly rated reality show Where Are We Going, Dad? (爸爸去哪儿). Not only that…even more ‘strange’ is the fact that Francis -- who has always been extremely low key when it comes to his family and tries to fiercely protect his son Feynman Ng from the prying eyes of the Media as much as possible -- decided to take everyone by surprise and put his son into the spotlight as well by participating in the program with him.
In preparation for this interview, our reporter had diligently reviewed many of Francis’ past interviews with various media outlets, hoping to understand what to expect when Francis walks in the door. Of course, the result is unexpected: Francis saunters carefreely into the room, carrying a small bag on his back, holding a water cup, wearing framed glasses that complemented his casual, playful look. According to the Where Are We Going, Dad 2 production crew, that’s how Francis is like in real life – basically, he’s a big kid at heart.
Given his personality, many people were interested in knowing how Francis approached filming for the program. Towards this, Francis expressed that the key was finding self-amusement: “I don’t have a tremendous amount of social interaction with the other dads and I’m definitely not the type to make small talk about nothing just to be polite – to me, that’s too fake. Don’t give me a script either and ask me to conform to it – as long as I know the rules of the game and play by them, then I can have fun with the rest of it.” Francis describes his filming experience for the program similar to going back in time to the ‘primitive’ era where everyone has to rely on their natural, basic instincts to survive.
During the interview, Francis would become particularly animated and excited whenever the subject of his son Feynman came up. He describes his son as having an ‘artist’s temper’ who often did things that were ‘out of the ordinary’ – and would then proceed to imitate his son’s ‘out of the ordinary’ gestures or describe an ‘out of the ordinary’ thing that his son did. As the conversation went on, it became apparent that Francis wasn’t just describing his son -- he was also describing himself. In that sense, Feynman wasn’t just Francis’ son – in inheriting his same ‘mysterious’ characteristics and qualities, Feynman was also his ‘soulmate’ and an extension of his own self.
While he enjoys the ‘playful’ and ‘active’ side of Feynman, Francis expressed that he loves his son’s ‘peaceful’ side the most. Francis describes Feynman as having very ‘delicate’ and ‘pretty’ features as well as a smooth complexion that would make females jealous. This is something that makes Francis especially satisfied and content -- whenever he sees Feynman sleeping peacefully in his bed, he can’t help ‘madly’ kissing his son, to the point that Feynman, amidst his deep slumber, would unconsciously lift up his hand to cover his mouth and face. Once he has kissed his son enough, Francis happily and contentedly goes to sleep himself. While describing his feverish love for his son, Francis continued to repeatedly praise his son’s pretty features and smooth complexion – at that moment, it seemed as though a completely different Francis Ng was standing in front of us, showing a side of himself that most of us are not used to seeing.
It’s no secret that Francis has a ‘unique’ way of looking at things and dealing with matters that many of us would find ‘odd’ or ‘strange’. At first glance, his viewpoint may seem weird and hard to understand, but upon deeper thought and reflection, we start to realize that his opinions are actually in-line with his philosophy on life – that is, to maintain somewhat of a crafty, mischievous relationship with the world and its surroundings. With life being so heavy and challenging at times, why not loosen the ties first and learn to take things less seriously?
For this interview, we put together a few tough, ‘out of the ordinary’ questions for Francis to answer, through which we can pretty much sum up this ‘unconventional’ father’s value system this way: “Always be yourself and don’t be concerned whether others are able to put up with you or not.”
SR = Sina Reporter
FN = Francis Ng
SR: A lot of people call you ‘three year old Ng’ – is that how old you feel you are mentally?
FN: I actually taught them [the fans] that nickname. When some people worship idols, they lose all sense of reason and sometimes they end up acting foolishly – I’m actually not too fond of people like that, as I believe those people must not be too smart to begin with to act in such a way. But then I realize sometimes there are moments when even I put my wisdom aside in order to ‘chase’ an idol– like last time for example when I met Yao Ming (姚明) and yelled out in excitement, just like kids do when they see their idols.
SR: How did your ‘three year old Ng’ nickname come about?
FN: Awhile back ago, every time my father-in-law saw me, he would tell my wife: “Your husband is quite interesting – even though he is already 40-something [years old], he doesn’t look his age at all. From the back, watching him when he walks, he looks like a 20 – 30 year old and when he turns around, he looks even younger. And as soon as he opens his mouth, you can tell that he is only a kid – someone with an intellect of a 3 year old!” That’s my father-in-law’s opinion of me.
SR: How about your wife? Does she act ‘3 years old’ toward you at times? Are you her idol?
FN: She’s stronger than me when it comes to getting along with people – she has good social skills and can quickly become friends with people. She’s also more direct and takes the initiative to make friends. In other areas, I’m like a father watching over her [and Feynman] – for instance, the weather in Singapore where they used to live is very hot, since it’s always summer there, but here in Hong Kong, the weather can vary greatly from hot to cold…I often have to remind her to adjust accordingly.
SR: Are you an attentive, considerate husband?
FN: No. Actually, I dislike doing that kind of stuff, it takes too much time.
SR: So your personality complements your wife’s then? She’s more outgoing and you’re more reserved.
FN: No, not really ‘complement’. From a relationship standpoint, I feel that it’s better for us to manage our personalities on our separate ‘platforms’ – her platform is taking care of our home and our son while mine is my work. She doesn’t step onto my platform and I don’t step onto hers. If there’s a difference of opinion in an area that she’s responsible for, she gets to make the final decision and I don’t intervene– it’s very simple. But then when it comes to my work, she doesn’t interfere either or insert any opinions.
SR: The other dads on the show all call their wives at night to update status, but you’re the only one who doesn’t.
FN: Why don’t you guys look at it from the perspective that maybe they’re afraid their wives will worry, so they feel they need to report status every night? Or perhaps they had a bad record in the past so they feel they’re better off giving their wives updates? (laughs)
SR: Once the other dads hear you say this, what do you think they’ll say the next time they see you?
FN: They will say: “How did you know?!” (laughs). I actually do call as well, but there usually isn’t anything to talk about. Feynman likes to play around with the buttons on the phone and when he accidentally dials his mom’s number, he hangs up as soon as he hears her voice. Perhaps the other kids call often because their moms didn’t accompany them over here. My wife always accompanies Feynman up to the last leg of the trip, then Feynman and I go up to the mountains for a day or two and right when we come down, he sees his mom again.
SR: Do you consider yourself the type of husband that your wife never has to worry about?
FN: I feel that nowadays, none of the wives need to worry about their husbands because there is a lot of ‘public monitoring’ going on – no matter where you go, you will get photographed. Even if you try to wear a mask, someone will still recognize you; if you want to change your skin and become a different person, you won’t even know where to go to get it done without someone seeing you.
SR: During an interview, Feynman was asked what kind of animal you resemble and he replied “a mouse”. When asked why, he said “because you are so small”. What did he mean by that?
FN: I’m not sure. I don’t know why he said that. A lot of times, after he says things, even he doesn’t know what he’s trying to say. Doesn’t matter though, as long as he is happy, it’s fine. That’s the interesting thing about Feynman – he understands how to make good use of punchlines and sometimes, when an adult asks him something, he’ll try to respond with something funny to make people laugh.
SR: When Feynman accidentally fell into the water, why didn’t you go to him right away?
FN: Sometimes when people do foolish things, accidents happen. People ask me why I’m so strict toward my son and I tell them: how many times in a day am I able to help him up? Every ten steps he walks, he trips one step – that’s how his life is…trips, gets up, trips, gets up – I have no reason to accommodate and help him up each time. That’s why I didn’t go to him right away – I wanted him to reflect on his actions.
SR: Is Feynman an only child?
FN: He has a ‘twin’ sister! [Francis once uploaded a ‘girlish’ picture of Feynman onto his Weibo with the caption “Feynman’s twin!”]
SR: Do you like the ‘boy’ Feynman or the ‘girl’ Feynman better?
FN: He’s a very interesting kid. Sometimes, he truly does act like a girl, very quiet and reserved, and I feel like just holding him in my arms and hugging him close. Other times, he’s like a hooligan who misbehaves and doesn’t want to abide by the rules – that’s when the real Feynman comes out. When he sleeps, he looks like a little girl, so sweet and peaceful, I can’t help kissing him madly, to the point that he would cover his mouth with his hand while still sleeping. It’s almost like he has a dual purpose – sometimes when he acts like a girl, you embrace him and he leans against you, sticks to you, then the boy in him comes out and you become a bit stricter with him, discipline him. He truly is very cute and interesting.
SR: Your wife must find it annoying when you do that [kiss his son madly while he sleeps]?
FN: Yes, definitely. She doesn’t like it, but that’s okay – I just wait until she’s asleep, then I go check on my son and kiss him. I’m actually a very light sleeper and wake up easily, so I usually wait until everyone is asleep before I go to bed. Every night, when my son is asleep, I go over and kiss him until I’m happy and satisfied, then I go to sleep. Isn’t that my right as his dad? He’s truly a lot of fun, especially when he’s asleep! His skin is also very smooth and delicate, no one can compare.
SR: Is that why you let him grow his hair out longer?
FN: Actually, he’s the one who likes his hair longer because it makes him look like his idol Bruce Lee. I take him to watch Bruce Lee movies all the time. Spiderman too….another favorite. He’s the one who refuses to cut his hair short. It’s actually better this way – with his ‘girlish’ side, makes it easier to dote on him.
SR: So if he were to cut his hair short, you would be much stricter with him?
FN: Yes, a lot stricter.
SR: Have you ever bought him a dress?
FN: Of course not. Besides, he would never allow it. That’s why I wait until he’s asleep to kiss and dote on him. The ‘peaceful’ Feynman is truly very pretty and sweet.
SR: In your son’s heart, are you a hero to him, like Spiderman?
FN: I don’t know. I guess he thinks I’m an amusing person who can sometimes be very strict. We also goof around a lot too – like sometimes when I’m napping, he would put his feet with stinky socks on my face and keep harassing me until I wake up. Or we would play tricks on each other…we have a lot of fun together.
SR: How much of what we see in Where Are We Going Dad 2 is the ‘real’ you?
FN: 100% of it is the real me. It’s true that they don’t give you a script – they only provide a rough blueprint of the activities involved. The person who tried to ‘guide’ us on what to do no longer exists – we buried him back in Tiankeng [the first filming location for season 2]! (laughs)
SR: Did something like that actually happen [someone trying to ‘guide’ them]?
FN: One time they asked me: for the question from earlier, can you change a few words in your answer? I told them “no – if you are going to do that, then might as well just give me a script and I’ll perform to everyone’s liking. Like right now, I’m going against what you tell me, you should be filming this too..no need to edit it out!”
SR: You’re actually quite popular on the show. Did you anticipate such good results?
FN: When a savage, an animal from the outside world suddenly sets foot in the city, of course it will attract some attention and maybe even become a topic of discussion. It’s natural for people to be curious and excited over something they’ve never seen before.
SR: People are so interested in you because in the past, you usually give off the image of being cool, yet distant.
FN: That’s true, but being cool and distant helped me earn a living and make lots of money – in comparisons, this current ‘job’ [appearing on the show] doesn’t help much in terms of money. [TN: In an interview with Mingpao last week, Francis revealed that his remuneration fee for appearing on the show is the lowest of the 5 fathers.] However, it does give me the chance to have a crazy time with Feynman – plus there are so many people to keep us company and play with us. Oh and of course there’s the production crew constantly thinking up interesting games for us to play and arranging different living conditions for us to experience – I see no reason not to participate.
SR: In one of the episodes, you and the other dads had to learn to sing ‘chuanjiang haozi’ (labor songs). What was up with that high-pitch accent you used? You’re normally a pretty good singer, so hearing you sing in that manner was definitely a highlight of the episode!
FN: Actually, it’s because at the time, I was too much ‘in the moment’. I was actually imitating that guy – what’s his name again, the guy with the white towel around his head who is always singing in a high pitched voice? (Ah Bao?) Yes, yes, ah Bao! He was singing in that same accent and I thought it was quite funny, so I decided to learn it.
SR: When it comes to appearance, you seem to have high standards and oftentimes, you take care of hair and makeup yourself. This time around, your ‘look’ on the show is not as ‘cool’ as what people might expect. You don’t have any ‘idol baggage’? After all, you are a celebrity with lots of fans.
FN: Why is there need for makeup? The purpose of going on trips is to have fun and create beautiful memories to look back upon, not worry about how one looks. Leave the ‘idol baggage’ to the idols! Honestly, if memories have to be ‘dressed up’ too, then life will really become meaningless and painful! I don’t feel that I have a whole lot of weird habits, but sometimes, people focus on the one or two unfavorable traits and can become blind to the favorable ones. People like it when I’m overbearing or when I don’t conform to others’ expectations so they don’t pay much attention to the more personable traits. To me, ‘idols’ are not too personable – they are hard to get close to because they want people to admire them from afar. Actually, it’s kind of interesting that a lot of idols are ‘kids’ [TN: teen idols, for example]…why do you think that is? Well, because up here (points to his head), they still think like kids – if they were truly mature and ‘grown up’, they would let go of that child-like thinking. In a way, it’s kind of sad.
SR: Have you had the chance to practice those ‘labor songs’ more with the other dads?
FN: No. I’m not the type who likes to chit-chat or hang out with others – why is it necessary when I’m able to keep myself amused? Actually, self-amusement is something I’m an expert at, just like my son –we’re perfectly happy playing alone. Like how Feynman pretends to be Spiderman, it makes him happy. I scold him for wearing that mask all the time, especially when it’s hot outside and he can barely walk straight because he can’t see too well…..but hey, it makes him happy so in the end I just let it alone. That’s why sometimes when you guys see that I’m stricter than usual with Feynman, it’s because at that moment, his bold, unrestrained personality went a bit overboard.
SR: So you rarely interact with the other dads? Always off finding amusement by yourself?
FN: It’s better for me when a game has rules. Otherwise, when you don’t know someone too well, it’s hard to find something to talk about. You don’t want to be overly polite either – ‘How are you? I’m fine. Have you eaten yet? Oh, you’re participating in this show too? Me too!’ – people will think you’re being way too fake. It’s better to be a little bit detached, distant. If we only see each other once, then fine, be overly courteous and polite, doesn’t matter as much – but having to see each other so often, definitely not a good idea to be fake.
SR: How do you usually interact with your close friends?
FN: When we interact, our main goal is to ‘insult’ each other as much as possible with our ‘poisonous tongues’. Since almost all my friends are theater actors, their speaking skills are excellent, so we always have a great time poking fun at each other …it’s very satisfying. If I had to change the way I interact with them or if it’s people I don’t know, I wouldn’t be able to just chat like that. I feel that for guys, this type of communication method is the best when interacting with close friends.
SR: Do you share parenting tips and experiences with your buddy Anthony Wong? Anthony once said that he will not let his kid spend his hard-earned money. Do you agree with that?
FN: Of course he won’t let his kid spend his money – he doesn’t make much money in the first place! He doesn’t even have enough money to spend himself, since his income is so low. (laughs)
SR: Talking about him like that, aren’t you afraid he’s going to beat you up?
FN: Sure, he can try to beat me up, but I’ll win the fight! (laughs). Joking aside though…nowadays a lot of sensible kids have the ability to be independent and don’t want to use their parents’ money. There are also a lot of millionaires who don’t leave money for their kids either. I actually never liked spending my dad’s money – he worked hard his entire life earning the money, he should be able to spend it how he wished. Unfortunately, I was never able to truly take care of my dad– by the time I was able to earn enough money, he had already passed away. My mom also has never asked me for money to spend – in fact, I probably still owe her money from all the times I’ve borrowed from her!