IT SEEMS not too long ago when fans were starstruck by this Malaysian actor’s witty role in Story of Yanxi Palace.
Now, following his breakout in the 2018 Chinese period drama, Lawrence Wong is adding to his reputation as a heartthrob with his latest role in the Chinese webseries Girlfriend, which has garnered over 900 million online views since its release on April 5 on MangoTV and YouTube.
Girlfriend marks his first lead role in a drama series in China. I’ve been told that the 36-episode show’s girl-meets-boy, Cinderella-esque storyline has gotten many viewers emotionally invested.
Other than its epic love story, heartwarming moments and likeable characters, the drama also involves some steamy build-ups and thirst trap scenes. It’s no wonder why so many are fond of it.
In an interview with theSun from his home in Singapore, where he stays when he is not in Beijing, Wong shares: “I’ve been spending time reading, watching TV dramas and catching up on things that I didn’t have the time to see to.
“I was supposed to start filming for a new drama in Johor Baru in March, but it has been postponed until the movement control order (MCO) is lifted.”
How did you get into acting?
“I began as a model for a lot of
TV commercials and print advertisements.
“It was only when a TV station was searching for good looking extras as background actors or for cameo appearances, then they would approach modelling agencies.
“From playing minor roles in a few TV dramas, it led me to my first lead role in the telemovie The Promise in 2009. It just so happened that the husband of one of the producers for a commercial I did was casting for The Promise, so she asked if I was interested to audition for it, which I did.
“That became my first lead role which kickstarted my career as an actor, and from then onwards, I just kept on acting.”
When did the leap into singing occur?
“It’s difficult to remember when it happened, but it was only possible thanks to my music producer Percy Phang. He’s an incredibly talented composer, writer and producer for a lot of the Mandarin hit songs by renowned pop artistes including Stephanie Sun, Fish Leong, Z-Chen and Yoga Lin. He was the one who suggested that I should give singing a go.
“I started off singing the theme song for a Malaysian drama series that I acted in, and sometime later I managed to accumulate a few new songs to be compiled into an extended play (EP) album.”
Are there any similarities in terms of the creative process between acting and singing?
“They are individually different creative outlets for me to express what I want to say or get my message across.
“Acting relies heavily on the character that I play, together with the script and the story plot.
“I find singing to be a lot more personal and sentimental, or at least that’s how I see it. It’s almost like a side gig for me, but let’s face it, people rarely buy physical albums anymore, hence, it’s harder to make a profit from the albums.
“Yet, I still make music because it’s able to hold all the personal values that I resonate with. It really is about making the kind of music I want and delivering the kind of message that I want. I was never concerned with what the market was looking for, or what my fans want for that matter. Making music is how I want to project myself and what I want to relay.”
How important do you think it is to be interdisciplinary today?
“It’s important to me in the sense that, if you’re aware of what the director wants, how the lighting technician operates, or how the scriptwriter conceives the storyline and such, it will help you work as an actor, and make you a better actor as well.”
How do you define value for your work?
“It really depends on which phase of career you’re in and the type of projects you’re doing.
“Some projects I’ve done were all for the experience, and others I did for the so-called ‘end results’, and what I could get out from it.
“It’s important to have a balance of both; you need experience as well as a certain sense of accomplishment for you to be motivated and encouraged to keep going.”
You have done so many projects and gigs over the years. How do you decide which to take on or decline?
“It’s a lot about the feeling, I guess. For an actor to take on a certain project, there are a lot of factors involved – the schedule, relations with producer and the studio initiating the project, your agency’s input, as well as yourself as an actor and which phase of career you think you’re at; what interests you now may not be the same two years later.
“What I’d do is whenever I receive a script, I’d often imagine myself as these characters or roles, and if nothing comes up, or if I don’t see how the roles would resonate with me, then I know it probably won’t work for me.”
From starring in Story of Yanxi Palace to your most recent drama Girlfriend, do you feel like you’ve made it on the international stage?
“You know, I’ve never thought of it that way, even when Story of Yanxi Palace became such a hit. Though people have been saying that I’ve made China become more aware of Malaysia and Singapore, because I think it has been years since an actor from Malaysia or Singapore has made it into China.
“The period drama has also garnered a lot of attention in other parts of Southeast Asia, so if you put that into perspective – that I’m more known and managed to [reach] a broader audience – then yes.
“However, with Girlfriend, the idea is even more etched into their mind. I’ve been receiving a lot of direct messages and new followers on Instagram and Facebook from all over the region. I’m blessed in that way.”
What does success look like to you?
“Success is being in the state of feeling at ease and at peace with what you’ve achieved, with the working process and also with your life. Essentially, you would feel a sense of comfort, joy and at the same time, be motivated and unafraid to push the boundaries further.”