Saturday, July 10, 2004

Here are a couple of articles I did today for my Roger site...

[TVB Weekly Issue 369]

Roger Kwok - Self-found Enlightenment

In the series "To Get Unstuck in Time", Roger Kwok's character and his father are separated by twenty years of time, but their obstacle is broken down by a mobile phone that allows them to solve cases together. In real life, for Roger to communicate with his father who has memory loss, he has to chat to him for half an hour to jog his father's memory of himself. In fiction and in reality, there seems to be some difficulties with the communication between father and son, but in the story, he and his father can speak directly to ensure understanding; in reality father and son may not be able to share a true conversation. When Roger is asked if he has any regrets, he says: "No! As long as he is healthy then that is enough." With a rather curt and direct personality, Roger has suddenly been awakened and he wants to change himself to become less demanding and to find one's own freedom. What has led him to this enlightenment?

Father just wanted us not to go bad

In past interviews, Roger rarely speaks of his father, but because his new series tells of a father and son's love across generations, so one is curious as to how he and his father get on in real life. Roger thinks and says: "In my memory, my father would leave for work every dat at six or seven in the morning and work for over ten hours until six or seven in the evening. He is a man of few words, so when he came home, he showered, drank a cup of tea, ate dinner and then rested before going to sleep. He would sometimes ask if we had been good and obedient, but would rarely ask about our homework. The only demand he had from us was not to gamble or smoke and he hated seeing playing cards and dice. When we were children, we loved to play with picture cards, but he mistook these for playing careds and it took us a long time to explain to him that these were not gambling implements. Sometimes he would see people taking drugs or robberies on the television and he would say to us: 'You must not do this, otherwise you will go to jail.' His words did not have much philosophy behind them, but were very practical. As well as listening to his teaching, the most that we would speak to each other would be when he returned home and told me to go and buy beer and pop with him. As I was not allowed to drink, then I would ask him to buy a soft drink so that I could have half."

Roger's father worked hard every day and earned $50 a day for his labours. It seems like a small amount, but in those days it was enough to feed his nine children. "In those days, you could have a big meal for $20, so my father was also able to save some money, but he worked as a boat repairman and he was paid daily, so there could be times when he would have no work for more than ten days at a time. When work stopped, there was no food, so he would always stock up for a rainy day and save some more money up. The pressure on him from the family was quite great and there was always a feeling of danger, but my father never gave in as he grit his teeth to bring us up. Nowadays, people will commit suicide when they meet with problems, but in truth life can never be as bad as it was then. People got through it then, so why can't people bear it now?"

Only want Father to be healthy

Roger's father is already in his eighties and he has problems with his memory, so every time Roger goes to visit him, he has to spend half an hour just chatting with his father to jog his memories of his son. He is unaware of Roger's current success and cannot share with him the moment of happiness when he got his award. Does Roger feel regret towards this? He shakes his head and says: "No, I will accept this reality and will not feel uncomfortable about it. As long as he is healthy and free of any illness, then it is enough. I will be treasuring any time I can catch with him and my mother and with the nine of us taking turns to spend time with them, they will never be lonely."

With his father picking up odd jobs when he was in the repair business, Roger laughs that he is also doing 'odd jobs' as an artiste. "We are very unstable, we only have work when people offer us series and films, if there are no offers, then there is no income. When you have finished your contracted series, or before the offer of a new contract, then there will be times of instability and you need to have a great confidence in yourself. If you downgrade yourself from say a first lead to a second or third lead role just for the job, then it may be more difficult to get back up to the top spot again."

No complaints about long hours

It is hard to move up, it is even harder to keep your position at the top and as well as having good acting ability, a good attitude to your work is also the key to success. Remembering the time during the filming of "To Get Unstuck in Time", he had to work until 4 am one night and then was due to start location filming again three hours later. Not only that, but the location was on top of an advertisement hoarding three storeys high and faced with jumping onto a moving truck and a chase scene, Roger still arrived on time and did his utmost to complete the scene without a word of complaint. "I am luckier than most in my work as it is working with personal creativity and without any boredom. I feel that working like this is not hard work. I have heard some younger artistes often complain about having to work until four and then start at six the next day and they will moan about this several times. I feel that with this kind of attitude, they are better off not doing this job. We are getting older and older, so we are not as agile as the youngsters, but if we don't feel that this is hard work, then neither should they. They should not hold resentment, but work hard to complete their responsibilities."

Learned to find one's own peace

Roger has just returned from Wuxi, where he was filming for mainland production "The Best in the World" and he admits that this was the hardest show he has filmed in the last ten years. "Every day there would be a fight scene and I spent more time with the fight choreographer than with any other co-star or crew member as I personally did most of my fighting scenes. As well as this, I was also responsible for the comedy scenes and these were a physical challenge because I had to use a lot of energy and brain power to think about it. To make people laugh out loud is a very difficult thing and I admire myself for being able to do this!"

Apart from stretching him physically and mentally, this series has also given Roger a great change in his personality. "In the past I was very impatient, wanting to finish all my work in a short period and always racing against time. This led to a bad habit that was I would think about work when I was eating or sleeping and this naturally affected my digestion and sleep patterns. I said to myself that I should not think about it, but the pressure was still there. Suddenly one day I made a decision that to throw away this bad habit, I had to do things in sync with the pace. Even if this meant that I had to let go of everything and lose out on some things, it didn't matter. I had to learn to go with the flow and let everything run its course so that I could enjoy life. Take the day when filming finished for this series. Usually I would finish in the morning and be heading back to Hong Kong in the afternoon, but on that day there were problems that meant that filming was delayed until late in the evening. On that day I said to myself: 'If I don't finish today, I can carry on tomorrow before I head back at my leisure, there is no rush.' Then there was another change as one of the other stars had a hairstyle change and my scenes were finished first. When I went round and shook the hand of everyone there to thank them and thank myself for finally finishing the work. This experience taught me not to force myself too hard because everything has its process and cannot be forced. I hope that I can be more mature and not allow my environment to affect my mood."

Originally, Roger had planned a holiday this summer to travel or to learn something new, but he finally agreed to film TVB's new series "Same Work Same Bowl" because he wanted to find happiness. "I have been working non-stop since September of last year and I did want to take a break, but after reading the script, I felt that I would be very happy filming this series, even happier than having sunshine and seaside. Since making 'Square Pegs', my first consideration for taking on work is whether I will be happy. If so, then I will do it, but if I will be unhappy then I will not force myself, being happy is the only way to enjoy one's work. Those who work for another purpose for purely for money will find it difficult, facing it with a feeling of enjoyment will make everything better!"

Having spoken briefly earlier about his own father, has Roger ever considered becoming a father himself? He says: "Having babies is about destiny because life is a gift from the heavens and not something you can have if you want it. Although I am already in the age group for marriage, I will not intentionally think about it. However I feel that I will be a father who never grows up because I understand children and get on well with them so I would be able to give them a happy environment to grow up in. No-one knows what will happen in the future, if I want children, a lot still depends on the other half and this is not something I can control."

Talking of the other half, Roger and his girlfriend Cindy Au have been dating for five years and with Roger's current success, he should be able to allow Cindy to pull out from working so hard in this business and fulfil his dream of becoming a father, but he has not and in fact hopes for his girlfriend to be able to gain some success in her career. "Men and women need to keep up with the times and I do not agree with the adage of 'Men ruling the world and women ruling the roost'. Those men who do not allow their partners to work are not 'big men', but 'small men' - small-minded men. Many women find great success in their careers and also manage to look after their husbands and children in the home. I hope that Cindy can give her all to her work when she is working, but live a stress-free life outside of work. Although we give each other a lot of space, but our feelings for each other have never slipped as we work hard to keep the relationship going. Couples who have been dating for a while will begin to take things for granted, not saying please or thank you to each other, but we will not do that. If she makes me a cup of tea or cooks me a meal, I will say 'Thank you' to her. This is because she does not have to do this for me, but she does it unconditionally and I should thank her. Some people say this is being overly polite, but I feel it is necessary to let the other person that you care about what they do." These words appear to be coming from Roger's maturity towards both his work and his feelings, this is true maturity!


[TVB Weekly 370]

TVB Children's Festival Ambassador Roger Kwok's letter to the Children

I am very honoured to be assigned as an ambassador for the TVB Children's festival and I still remember the time when I was appointed, I was away filming at the time and I was rather shocked because I have never done a children's show since I entered the industry and although I once sung a children's song, I can't even remember the name of the song! How am I qualified for the role? Thinking back for a little while, I finally found the answer, I still have some childish innocence, my attitude is very happy and I am prepared to look after my young friends, so I guess I do fit the bill after all.

When I was a child I had few material luxuries, my usual games included flicking marbles and picture cards. The most interesting thing I remember was bending four toothpicks in half and arranging them into a cross shape, then when a few drops of water was placed onto them, then they would unravel into a star shape. When we went to school yesterday, I would play rock-scissors-paper with my sister because whoever lost had to carry the other person's schoolbag, but my sister really looked out for me and even when I lost, she would still carry my bag for me. Our relationship is still the closest and maybe it was because of those times together as I don't deny that our childhood will affect us a lot when we grow up.

As for our summer holidays, we would head up to the hills to collect the meadow grasses and bask in the sun. Watermelon and cabbage cake would become our cooling foods. As my family did not let me eat any cold foods, not to mention fizzy drinks, but how can you drink a hot drink during the hot summer weather, so when I couldn't stand it, I would take the hot drink and plunge the whole cup into a bowl of cold water and turn it into a cold drink. The most memorable occasion was when I was thirteen years old and I went to summer camp. As my family was rather conservative, I didn't know how to explain what a summer camp was, so I had to tell them that I was staying at a friend's house instead and they let me go. This summer camp was the first time I had been away from home and I was very excited to be able to chat with my friends and play group games, learning what it is to live in a community and look after each other. I feel that these group activities are very important, but I don't agree with keeping the truth from your family, because if anything happens, you should be able to talk to your family and tell them everything, facing them and being able to discuss things.

In this summer holiday, I hope that the children will have a truly happy summer and learn what is happiness. Happiness is very simple, it comes from nature, go and do something meaningful with your family such as going to plant trees as a family or maybe take a morning to clean out the home with the family and relish in the experience, you should not just waste time and just make contact with the computer. From this summer, discover the joy of happiness!

Kwok Chun On


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