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Malaysian actor Yuan Teng hopes to explore acting opportunities in China

ONG YUAN TENG, better known as Yuan Teng, has acted in roles that can touch your heart in the most profound manner. One good example is his 2018 portrayal of a troubled youth with drug problems in the movie The Paradise, which was directed by Taiwanese director Shih-Han Liao.

He clinched the Asian New Talent Award at the 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival for his role and was also nominated for Best New Performer at the 56th Golden Horse Awards that took place in Taipei, Taiwan.

“I will always create a complete profile for my character,” said the 27-year-old Kuala Lumpur-born actor when asked how he “psych up” for a new role.

“First, I will take the background of my character from the script. From what is not written in the script, I will create some facts about the character. Sometimes, I will talk to real-life people from similar backgrounds.”

Besides going the extra mile to do more background research to make his role more convincing, Yuan likes to write scripts, practise his kickboxing moves and watch movies when he can find the time.


Did you dream of becoming an actor when you were young?

Being an actor was not my first ambition. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a policeman. I wanted to protect the weak. I also found the police uniform to be cool and I wanted to wear it badly. My other dream was to be an athlete.

How did you stumble into acting then?

In my high school days, I used to participate in drama competitions, winning praise from my teachers each time. For my diploma in Broadcast, Television and Film at One World Hanxin College, I also took a class on basic acting skills. The class teachers also praised me for my performances. They hoped that I would develop my skills as an actor and so I decided to give acting a try.

Can you describe your journey as an actor?

I started working as an extra in Chinese TV dramas. Later, in between sets working in a film crew, I attended many auditions. However, I failed to land any role. The setbacks made me almost want to give up my ambition to become an actor and just focus on being in a film crew.

Why did you not give up on your dream to be an actor?

A casting manager kept persuading me to attend a particular audition as she believed I would be the perfect fit for the role. I remember attending the audition totally unprepared. I had been working long hours the previous night. I was really tired and could not remember my lines, so I improvised. The director, Teddy Chin, was impressed that I did not follow the script. He chose me to play one of the key roles in his movie, In My Heart. That’s how I got my first break. I was so happy that day.

$!Yuan with his award at the 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival. – PICTURE COURTESY OF YUAN TENG

Name the actor you admire most and want to emulate.

Huang Bo (an actor from China). I admire him because he really works very hard. Although he is plain-looking, he made his mark with his captivating performances. He is humble and highly intelligent, an actor worth learning from.

What is the biggest challenge you faced as a Malaysian actor?

Making money by acting is hard in Malaysia. There were days when I was thinking about how to survive the next month when I only had RM50 left in my bank account. It was a horrible thought.

Some actors have gone into business to survive while pursuing acting. Do you plan to do the same?

That may be an option for me a few years from now. Right now, I want to focus on acting. I have so much to learn about this craft. Maybe, I would like to try to my luck as an actor outside Malaysia. I want to focus on China. It would give me a chance to see the world from a different perspective. I am also toying with the idea of becoming a film director someday. Making my own film would be awesome. I have stories to tell!

Describe your childhood years.

My childhood was no different from other children. I loved to play with my friends and very often, I was too lazy to do school assignments. I was an introvert and suffered from low self-esteem, which made me a good target for bullies. For that reason, I grew up feeling strongly about this issue. My father is a construction worker and my mother is a tailor. I have an older sister and a younger sister. Like any parent, they want me to find a job that will give me a steady income. Nevertheless, I have their full blessings to pursue what my heart desires. I am very lucky to have their support.

$!Yuan in a scene from The Paradise. – PICTURE COURTESY OF YUAN TENG