Twenty years ago, I was working as an English tutor in the 育成 tutorial centre in Causeway Bay when one day, one of the teachers working with me told me of a poster at her school searching for a Cantonese-speaking Caucasian to act for a TVB series. I called the number she gave me and a Pakistani agent answered the phone. I was very unsure of my chances because at the time, I had absolutely no acting training or experience of any kind save for a few extra roles in high school plays. The agent however was reassuring, and encouraged me to go to the interview. He was reassuring because he could find no one else. I was his only chance.
At the interview with Miss 曾勵珍, I sat frozen in my seat looking at the few lines of English dialog in the script she had handed me. As the minutes of tense silence passed, I told myself that if I didn't take the chance and speak the lines no matter how badly I might say them, I would regret it for the rest of my life. When I finally spoke the lines with a loud reprimanding voice as apparently required by the scene in question, Miss 曾勵珍 who had turned her back to me, jumped in her seat, startled by my sudden outburst. I wasn't good, but again, TVB could find no one else and I was hired to play my first TVB role, a police officer in the series 「大茶園」. That was January 1988, a very long time ago, and a very special moment in my life.
Two years ago, as I had frequently done before, I once again seriously considered my future. Even with eighteen years of loyal service to TVB, I was still seemingly insignificant in their eyes, or at least not significant enough to be given heavier roles. I do not grudge TVB for this because Hong Kong is after all a Chinese region and as such, major Caucasian roles are almost always unnecessary. Regardless, I could not see a happy ending for myself if I walked the safe path and stayed at TVB. I decided to leave. When I informed TVB of my decision, they implored me to stay on, signing a freer one-show no-salary contract instead of the regular monthly-salary contract. I agreed and stayed on, but as time passed, I was time and time again reminded that my value at TVB would always be less than ideal.
The last few years have seen many important events in my life. My wife lost her parents who I was close to. I starred for the first time in a musical stage production "They’re Playing Our Song (2007)" and enjoyed a creative development process which was not possible in all my years at TVB, while at the same time missing out on the long-running Caucasian role in TVB's 「同事三分親」. And I encountered the one and only 周潤發.
In November of 2007, I informed TVB in writing that I would not be renewing my contract. On the 27th of December 2007, I performed for the last time at TVB. The 6th of January 2008 was officially my last day at TVB, almost exactly twenty years after my first day at TVB. On the 8th of January 2008, I was on a Cathay Pacific flight, taking the first steps of the next stage of my life.
As one magazine recently put it, the (TVB) 河國榮 era has come to an end.
At this very moment as I sit typing this in a hotel restaurant in Mexico's Durango, I am no longer a TVB artist. I have begun the next stage in my life and I'm excited at what might ensue.
Coming soon… The Untold Story