If getting nominated for a Golden Horse award is a feat to applaud, try winning the award on your first nomination. That is what Taiwanese actor Ko Chen Tung managed to bag on the night of the Golden Horse awards just last year for his stellar performance in You Are The Apple of My Eye. Awarded the Best Newcomer, the 21-year-old went from zero to hero instantly, making headlines overnight. Playing the role of a high school prankster who harbours an undying crush on his classmate, Ko garnered himself a legion of fans throughout the Chinese diaspora.
Ko’s big screen success is followed by the release of his debut album Be Yourself last November; and Ko has been the busiest young man since, travelling around the region to promote the album, of which this interview and photoshoot is part.
It’s no surprise then that when the tall and lean actor first stepped into the studio, signs of fatigue wore over his pallor. Wearing a black cap with a black leather bomber jacket over a white tee, he slumped into his seat after an exchange of vague pleasantries, and instantly zoned out. I was later informed that they had come straight from the airport after touching down; they came straight from Kuala Lumpur via Penang (with a quick dinner in Gurney Drive of which details are fuzzy). “The travelling wears me out,” chimes Ko as he sits impatiently while waiting for his hair and make-up to be done, periodically checking for Facebook updates on his iPhone. Once prepped and rested in the makeup chair, the restlessness in him quickly dissipated, and he was ready for the camera.
“Showbiz is not all about the glitz and glamour, a certain amount of hard work and dedication has to be put in as well.”
What are your new projects?
I’m in the midst of filming two movies, one is a love story filmed in Taiwan, while the other is a Hong Kong production which will end by April. I actually took days off school to finish up my promotional work for the album, after which I will head back to resume school at Taipei University.
How does winning such an important award for your first movie make you feel?
To be honest, I really wasn’t expecting it. Of course, I am very happy to know that my first piece of work received such recognition from critics and audiences. It feels really good knowing that the hard work and effort that you have put in is being acknowledged. I really have to thank my lucky stars.
Do you think it will pose a challenge that you were credited for your acting at such an early stage of your career?
Of course, there will be greater expectation to do well, and I guess that’s where the pressure comes in. It also reinforces the fact that showbiz is not all about the glitz and glamour, a certain amount of hard work and dedication has to be put in as well.
Was the transition from acting to singing easy for you?
These fields are very different for me. Acting requires more expression, movement and preparation before engaging the role while singing is only about using your voice. However, for a movie, I don’t have to act in front of the audience, I can retake a particular scene if it is not ideal. But for singing, I have to be able to perform well in front of a crowd, I cannot retake. In a way, the pressure is different.
“I am a minimalist. I tend to go for one single tone; I don’t like wearing too many colours.”
In this album, what was the message you were trying to convey?
It is titled Be Yourself, to encourage people to strive for what they believe in, and to have confidence in themselves. The songs mainly revolve around love, but mostly I want to inspire people to say what they feel deep down inside, to express themselves without inhibitions and simply to be themselves. It is akin to the themes in the movie, You are the Apple of my Eye.
Now that you have experienced both acting and singing, which do you prefer?
I have always preferred acting to singing. However, after all the promotional work and autograph sessions, getting the passionate responses that I have from fans has boosted my confidence in singing, and it has become something I want to do well in. To be frank, I have always enjoyed singing, but to do it in a recording studio is a little different, it takes much more than just a good voice.
Tell us something about yourself that fans don’t already know.
I still have the child in me, I like to tease and do stuff that people would not expect, like pranks etc. It makes me happy to put a smile on everyone’s face. I think it’s important to learn how to be happy in life, and not to take things too seriously. Having said that, I only behave in this manner in front of my close friends.
Do you have any immediate plans for the future?
I am pretty spontaneous, I will accept whatever opportunities come along my way. When I first started filming, I told myself I need to be happy in order to enjoy what I am doing. When we wrapped up the production, I was very happy as the entire production team was satisfied with the filming, and to me it was a success. Perhaps my plan for the future would be to continue being happy doing what I do.
“I have become more confident, getting more accustomed to meeting new people and even to being in front of the press. As for my personal life, I am still adapting to the attention. Having rumours in the tabloids are all part and parcel of showbiz and I guess it is inevitable.”
Photography: Mark Law
Styling: Daniel Goh