Saturday, January 01, 2005
[3 Weekly - 28/12/04]
Willow Branch Jade Dew (Yeung Chi Yuk Lo) - Bondy Chiu
"Virtues of Harmony" has been filming for three years and behind the laughter, it has been a hectic time for Bondy Chiu.
Waking up at the crack of dawn, seven days a week, riding in her convertible into the TV station to film. Through wind or rain, shooting from 6am through to 8pm, Bondy has worked hard in portraying her conceited and selfish wife character, regardless of whether people like her or not, only afraid of the housewife fans complaining about there not being enough laughs.
"Virtues" has reached 420 episodes and Bondy says that the show's viewers reaches the far corners of the Zhujiang Delta and as long as people can tune in, then no-one does not know "Lam Yuk Lo", so no matter how hard she works, it is still worth it in the end.
"After 'Virtues' begain airing, my popularity in the mainland has risen sharply, so I have had many invitations to do stage performances and at the height of it, I once headed up there after work one night to sing two songs before making the several hour journey back in time to start filming again at 6am."
What others would describe as 'hectic', for Bondy, she calls it 'practical': "What I need now is to keep my rate of exposure and have a steady income. During the three years of filming 'Virtues', with so many friend laughing and joking, it has been a very happy time."
There was once a time when Bondy was the top female singer at Fitto Enterprises (later EEG) selling record numbers of over 10,000 copies. Top artiste manager Mani Fok was at the time her PA and in the year that Hong Kong was returned to China, Bondy was still sworn to serve Fitto, with her recording contract running to 2002. The good days were not to last though and when Fitto was dispanded and taken over by the realm of EEG, the reality is the top spot belongs to Joey Yung and not Bondy Chiu.
When her dreams of pop stardom were shattered, Bondy looked to the future and she looked for security and a man. Even if she was not the most precious or most popular, at least there were some people who appreciated her. Bondy is very stubborn and ambitious and is bears none of the vulnerability expected from a girl. Seeing her transcend from being a pop idol into comedy TV star, whether it is for fame and fortune or just to feed herself, from beginning to end, she has managed to hang in there.
Bondy's independent personality stems from her fatherless childhood.
"When I was four years old, my father died in an accident and my brother was only 8 months old at the time. My mother was looking after us on her own, receiving benefits that paid the rent but were not enough to buy food. When my mum wanted to bring home clothes to sew, the government would check on her very closely, so in the end, my family decided not to apply for grants any more and my mum went out to find work to support the family."
When Bondy was young, she has once cried into a pillow and asked the question "Why do I not have a father?" in the same way as the leading roles of the classic films. "When I was in kindergarten, I would go and have dinner at the neighbouring granny's home and when I was in Primary 3, I had learned to cook my own dinner. The situation had forced me to face the problem and ever since I was very small, my mother would talk to me and so my thoughts were very mature."
Graduating from the 3rd TV City Acting Class in Clearwater Bay in 1990, Bondy has been in the industry for 13 years now and at first, she was sent to work in TVB's Information and Education department to be a host in the female magazine programme "Women's New Style" and "Entertainment Eye". "Thinking back, those days were very happy. Working on 'Women' on Monday and Tuesday, then doing 'Eye' on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I came into contact with many people on different levels in the film world and the music world. In those days, there was a lot of support for TVB programmes and Mrs Chan and Mrs Lee would watch 'Women' during the day and then in the evening, the children would tune into 'Eye'. After a year, the whole family knew my name and I had successfully gotten into the home."
In 1993, Bondy signed for Fitto Entertainment and waved goodbye to the goggle box. "At the time, 'Eye' was doing a show from Discovery Bay and I don't know how but I went on stage and sung a song. On tht night, I was spotted by Fitto boss Yip Chi Ming and became a singer. I remember when I went for an audition, I was very nervous and I chose Shirley Kwan's 'Will do Anything' and was surprised when I got through and not thinking about very much at the time, I felt that singing was fun, so I gave it a try. In those years, I was the only singer at Fitto and I felt it was quite good because I did not have to share the limelight and it was before the days of piracy, so my records sold on average about 80-100 thousand copies and I felt that the company treated me well. I have never thought about turning around those years."
Bondy says that there is very little she has not been through, having experienced a record selling over 100,000 copies in the blink of an eye and then turning to nothing overnight and suddenly finding herself a pop star and at the forefront of the spotlight, but she still feels that the days where she just does her part are the most comfortable: "In these past few years, there have been a few offers of people asking me to return to singing and I have had discussions with record companies, but none have been successful. If I have to force myself to record an album, then why don't I channel my energies into doing it properly. My voice has been with me all along and with the sword always here and being kept sharp, then it will come in useful again one day."
In 2000, during the prime of EEG, Bondy was absent from the company photograph, suggesting that the top star of Fitto had been relinquished by EEG. In 2001, Bondy's contract expired and she left the company, seemingly on good terms, but in reality, it could only be described as an unhappy departure. Bondy says that when she left, she was very depressed for a while: "Everyday I would call around asking for work, stage appearances, club singing, I had to make what I could." Finding petty jobs was better than not having any money to pay for her home, so at the time when TVB asked her to film for 'Virtues of Harmony', then she put aside her pop star image and successfully changed her path.
"When I was at EEG, in the last two years, I did come out to see anyone very much and did not even promote the final album much. Luckily there were still some mainland shows and TVB aired 'On the Track or Off' that year, where my character was a big change becoming very evil. Although I was not singing any more, the audience still remembered me."
As the Twins song goes: 'Popularity is like a soap bubble' and for Bondy, popularity was secondary, the most important thing was that the fee in her pocket. As a person matures, they become more practical and what she was seeking was no longer the popularity sought by the young newcomers to the music industry and no matter what came at her, the most important thing was to balance the books. "In the whole of 2000, I did not go out and just spent my time working the stage appearance circuit. To be frank, the money I made that year was much more than I made as a singer."
Being released by EEG, Bondy was not angry or frustrated, nor was she jealous of the three 'little flowers' of EEG at the time (Joey Yung, Grace Yip and Lillian Ho). "At the time, Fitto even sold off my contract with them and I thought it was a good thing, but I never thought it would be so complicated. I was actually quite confident because there were still a lot of Fitto staff working there and another artiste Joyce Li, but when she was not invited to the shoot, then we felt in a dangerous position and the company went on to sign a lot of newcomers."
Moving from Fitto to EEG, the channel had changed and Bondy's directness could no longer be tolerated. "The newcomers at EEG were very smart, but the problem was that I had already been around for several years and was no longer fresh blood. I had expectations of myself and maybe they felt that Bondy Chiu had a little too much to say. However, I could not be as naive as the newcomers and be a pawn to their cause."
Bondy Chiu is a character of conviction and in her love life, she was not afraid of the consequences. She has never been afraid of revealing her relationships, but has a single fear of being named together with Nicholas Tse once again.
In 1997, when they were dating, it was revealed by the press that she had stayed overnight at Nicholas's apartment and she was splashed across the front pages. Bondy tried hard to evade the issue, saying that they were just ordinary friends playing computer games through the night, announcing: "I have no feelings for him, I have said that I do not love Nicholas Tse and just treat him as a brother." The lie was great, so much that when they split up, there was no need to tell the press at all. In recent years, Nic's love life has been rather interesting, with him first falling for Faye Wong and then Cecilia Cheung and each affair has been extremely open.
Comparing these to his relationship with Bondy, it appears that it was not as open then. Was this a joint decision not to reveal their affair?
"We were discovered at a very unsuitable time. At the time, he was just appearing on the scene and we were in the same record company. I did not want people to think I was trying to get publicity from him and at the time our relationship was not very stable, so we did not reveal it. Even when we split up, it was not mentioned it directly, only through his mother."
This big sister- little brother affair ended in 2001 and with a few more mentions and critical articles, it seemed to be a predestined result, but Bondy's thoughts on Nic are surprisingly: "A very beautiful memory."
"He is a very mature man and thinks about everything very carefully. At the time he supported me a lot and if it was not for him, I would have been even more unhappy at that time. He helped me a lot and these things I will remember. When we first split up, we still kept in contact on the phone, but afterwards he became very busy and I was busy filming for 'On the Track' so we lost touch.
"I remember once when I was at a stage performance in Singapore, he called me and his voice was very deep. He asked me where I was and I said I was not in Hong Kong. When I heard his voice, I knew there was something wrong and when I read the papers upon my return, I knew that there was a big problem. When he is unhappy, he would call me - of course he no longer does that because we are both so busy and have our own things to deal with. I will treat him as a very important male friend in my life and he understands me well, but I have not been in touch for so long now, so we will not call each other if there is no need to. Sometimes feelings are best kept in the heart."
After Nicholas, Bondy has met a boyfriend from outside the industry, whom she has dated for two years and she gets on with very well, forever acting like best friends. "He grew up in Britain and his mentality is very western, he is very gentlemanly and we do not take each other for granted, so we are both prepared to give."
With the nourishment of love, Bondy has become prettier and recently has been signed as spokesperson for a health food brand. Before the camera, Bondy is full of confidence with every move of the body and this confidence has been built up over time.
Goodbye, Yuk Lo
"Virtues of Harmony" will be ending in January next year.
Bondy says happily that she does not have to set her alarm every night any more, worried she will be late for work and one can congratulate her for no longer having to be possessed by the bossy and ruthless Yuk Lo to bring laughter to all.
Even the viewers have become confused - is it Bondy Chiu who has brought Lam Yuk Lo to life or is it Lam Yuk Lo who has brought life to Bondy Chiu?
Putting down the baggage of moving from pop star to comedy actress is not as heavy as first imagined: "In these three years, the pressure has been quite great. When I was a singer, the time was very free and there were a lot of people looking after me all the time. Now I have to get up at half five to go to work and when I leave the house, the TV is still airing 'Folk Tales'. At first, they said I was always late and I admit it because I was not used to this lifestyle then, but I quickly adapt and with the steady income from 'Virtues' and even exceeding my quotas in the past, it was not as bad as everyone suggested."
At the end of the interview, Bondy opened her eyes wide and said that after the end of 'Virtues', she will be touring US and Canada to 'dig some gold' in stage performances and then there are a few mainland shows to do. Even if she just sings one or two songs, then it is still worth the pocketful of money she receives for it.
"When I go out, people forget I am called Bondy and only remember me as 'Ah Lo'. I wonder when I can use my own name again."
It is finally understood - for Bondy to have survived in this industry is all thanks to 'Lam Yuk Lo'.
[Ta Kung Pao 01/01/05]
Leila Tong is a fan of animation and earlier she was a guest at the premiere for "Dragon Blade". For yesterday's New Year's Eve, she spent the evening with her family because she has been busy working recently and has not spent the occasion with her family for a long time. When asked if she has given up the chance to do a stage performance for this, she says that the pay is better on the actual holidays themselves and she worked on Christmas Day, so she kept this day free to spend with her folks.
When asked about the Tsunami disaster, Leila says that she will be discussing donations with her family. Having taken part in filming for "The Last Breakthrough", she fully understands the importants of the Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) organisation and she will consider donating to them. Leila often visits Phuket herelf and she has been there twice this year. She knows that a lot of people like this place and she had planned to go there on holiday again at the Chinese New Year and never would have thought something like this would have happened. Leila says that thinking back to the hotels she has once visited being destroyed in this way, she feels very sad for them.
[Ta Kung Pao, The Sun & Oriental Daily 01/01/05]
On New Year's Eve yesterday, Myolie Wu was working in TVB City filming for "My Sassy Mother-in-Law" together with newcomer Stephen Wong (Ka Lok) in a scene where mother-in-law Liza Wang shows her wrath once again, leading to Myolie and Stephen having to dress up to escape. Myolie was dressed up as a rather cute granny, but her costume was not as eyecatching as Stephen's as he was dressed up as a heavily made up woman and even he thought he was scary. He laughs: "Originally we did not need to put so much make up on, but this is a comedy, so I wanted to leave a deeper impression, I wouldn't mind if I looked even uglier!"
Stephen also had to carry Myolie on his back, but he still managed to run very fast, laughing there was no difficulty, but Myolie remarked: "Filming this series has been the hardest work since I entered the industry because I have to fight and shout and be soaked. so I have lost a lot of weight. I am very afraid of the cold and although the costume is quite thick, I still have to wear extra clothes underneath. Luckily the water scenes will not be filmed until later, otherwise I will become ill from the cold."
As she was on the early shift with just one studio shoot, Myolie was able to finish work early and have dinner with her family. She also planned to go and support Stephen Chow after dinner, but she was worried she would not be able to get tickets for "Kung Fu Hustle". As for whether she would take part in the countdown, she says she will not as she has to start work early the next day, but she is already happy to be able to have hotpot with her family and watch a movie together.
What hopes does she have as we step into the new year? Myolie says that her progress last year was not bad, with many opportunities for series and advertisements, but it was all a little quiet for her, so she hopes that more of her series will be aired this year and she has the opportunity to win an award at the next anniversary. Talking of the earthquake and Tsunami disaster, Myolie reveals that she was in the affected island of Khao Lak just a month ago and seeing the area being turned into a wasteland, she cannot bear to think about it. She says: "Thinking back that those people who were giving me massage or working in the restaurant may not be alive any more, I feel very uncomfortable, so I will be donating to the Red Cross to do my part."
Myolie says that the hotel she went to stay at had only been open for ten days and her room was very close to the sea, only 200m away, so if she had been on holiday when disaster struck, she would not have survived because she cannot swim. Originally, she had planned to go to Thailand on vacation at the Chinese New Year with her family, but they will be going somewhere else now. The rebuilding of the area will take an estimated two years at least and she does not want to be upset when she goes there.
[Oriental Daily & The Sun 01/01/05]
In the past year, Sheren Tang has reaped great rewards in her performing career and has been recognised for her acting talents. Although she did not win the top female award at this year's TVB anniversary, she still feels satisfied with her achievements, so when asked about her hopes for the new year, she had to think for a long time before she responded.
However, with the recent tragedy in Southern Asia after the earthquake and tsunami, Sheren has been very distressed and she says that although she has personal wishes, after seeing the scenes of the natural disaster, her first wish for the year will be that everyone has good health and will treasure those around them. Even if natural disasters cannot be avoided, we should not waste our lives.
The new year is usually an ideal chance for artistes to make money especially as Sheren used her time at Christmas for the Church, but she will be doing something a little different for the new year. Sheren says: "For the new year we should be doing work that is even more meaningful, so with the disaster appeal for Southern Asia, we in Hong Kong have some fundraising events and I will be going to help them out and doing my part. (Have you donated?) Yes, but I will not say how much. I have donated anonymously because I do not want to be compared to others in this way."
[Ta Kung Pao 01/01/05]
Steven Ma was in Hengdian earlier to guest star in a "Universal" mainland production of "The Exile of Lady Wang". Steven is making a guest performance in the character of 'Wang Mang', working opposite veteran Mainland actors including Tang Guo Qiang and Sun Chun, making him very excited to be able to share acting experiences with them. The production company treated their artistes well and whilst in Hengdian, Steven was accommodated in a top class hotel and also worked with an extremely professional cast and crew, leaving him very relaxed and able to improve his acting abilities.
This series stars Gallen Lo and Rain Li and in the show, Steven will have a romantic lead with Rain's 'Lady Wang' character and be working closely with her, but will not have any scenes with Gallen. He says: "It is very strange, Gallen has worked at TVB for over twenty years and I have been with them for eleven but we have never worked together before and now we are in the same series but still do not get to fulfil our wish to co-operate." Steven hopes that there will be a day when they can get together and make a good show.
Universal have put a lot of emphasis on this production and during filming, held a special press conference where Gallen, Rain and Steven had a chance to meet the public. Steven has a lot of fans in the area and they not only arrived early brandishing Steven's books and photographs, when Steven handed out bookmarks to them, they fought crazily to get them. As Steven was in his ancient costume, one tug from a fan at his clothes nearly brought him to the ground, but luckily he was caught by a member of the security team and escaped danger. Steven's fans also called out: "Steven, you are so good looking!" making him extremely happy.
Hengdian has become China's largest film and TV production city and whilst he was there, Steven bumped into old friends Daniel Chan and Ewong Yung. "I never thought I would meet so many friends here. Although this is my first time here, it does not feel strange at all and I have a very good impression of the place."
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