Sunday October 25, 2009
By SETO KIT YAN
A wealth of factors combines to make Born Rich a special show.
TVB’s latest flagship production about a prominent banking family does not just boast the usual glitz and glamour or revolve around money and power. Born Rich, significantly, reunites a band of stars that was once part of the acting powerhouse of the popular TV network.
Well-known TVB alumni like Ray Lui, Gallen Lo, Jamie Chik and Kenix Kwok are making a comeback to the Hong Kong station by featuring in the drama series’ line-up. Also on board is film star Anita Yuen, whose portrayal of the scion of a powerful clan is only her second starring role with TVB.
Making up the stellar ensemble cast are leading man Joe Ma, stalwarts Nancy Sit, Lau Kong and Lau Siu Ming as well as the up-and-coming Sharon Chan and Kenneth Ma.
Born Rich, or Fu Kuai Moon in Cantonese, runs over 41 episodes. It is being simulcast in Hong Kong and Malaysia (Astro on Demand currently offers the show on subscription).
The dramatic saga produced in celebration of TVB’s 42nd anniversary centres on the family feud within a large banking corporation triggered by the appearance of an impostor. The swindler hookwinks the family into believing that he is the long-lost illegitimate son. Taking on this plum role is none other than Gallen Lo, who is back to play yet another baddie.
Much of the lavish production was shot in Sabah earlier this year. It saw TVB (Television Broadcasts Limited) collaborating with Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Sabah Tourism Promotion Board and Malaysia Airlines.
The show’s “smart, suave, sexy and sophisticated” style is personified by Ray Lui in his role as tycoon Marcus Cheuk Yat Yuen.
Born Rich marks Lui’s comeback to TVB after an absence of 19 years. He was courted by the management for a year-and-a-half before he finally said yes to the leading role. During this time some of TVB’s top officials worked hard behind the scenes to secure his service.
“Mona Fong (Shaw Bros and TVB deputy chairman and general manager and wife of movie mogul Sir Run Run Shaw) and Stephen Chan (TVB general manager) engaged Tommy Leung (TVB deputy chief director and producer) to work on some scripts. They were very sincere in their talks with me,” Lui revealed in Kota Kinabalu last week when he was in the Sabah state capital with some of the cast members to promote the new series.
In person, the Vietnam-born Hong Kong actor was voluble and charming, qualities that were unfortunately missing from his fellow stars, who appeared fatigued and less enthusiastic when speaking to the press.
Upon the successful negotiations with TVB, Lui was delighted to learn the identities of the other cast members on Born Rich.
“We’ve not seen a cast like that in recent years. I believe it’s quite impossible to top one like it!” gushed the youthful-looking 52-year-old who left TVB in 1990 to pursue acting in China.
Born Rich is said to be loosely based on the life story of the eldest of the Kwok brothers (played by Lui), who form the third wealthiest family in Hong Kong after those of tycoons Li Ka Shing and Lee Shau Kee.
Lui is best remembered for playing triad member Ding Lik, opposite Chow Yun-Fat’s Hui Man Keung, in 1980’s The Bund, the hit TVB series set in pre-war Shanghai. He admitted to feeling apprehensive about making his comeback in a TVB anniversary special.
“I’ve never portrayed such a role at TVB before. He’s a goody-two-shoes, a loving husband, responsible father and filial son. He’s exceptionally nice, even when he is facing his adversary (played by Gallen Lo). He tries to persuade the man to end his evil ways. He doesn’t want them to fall out, preferring instead to give the man another chance to turn over a new leaf. Unfortunately, his kindly advice is ignored and he is forced to battle him.
“It’s very different from the characters I am used to playing. So I do not know if the audience would accept me in this ‘softer’ role. They’ve always liked watching me play mobsters, heroes or tough guys.”
The attractive Jamie Chik, 47, was also coaxed out of retirement to play Cheuk’s wife, Ho Tseuk Nin. The veteran actress withdrew from TVB after she tied the knot with colleague Michael Miu Kiu Wai in 1990, to help him with his eyewear business. They have two children. Still dashing at 51, Miu made a successful comeback to showbiz in 2004 and even received several best-actor nominations for his inspired performances.
Collaborating with Chik for the first time in over 20 years since they co-starred in Shuet Sun Fei Wu (The Flying Fox of Snowy Mountain, 1985), Lui hailed his co-star for her ability to adapt.
“I’ve continued acting in films and TV series in China while she had quit the acting scene for more than a dozen years. So she was understandably rather nervous in the beginning and worried about her ability to recall her lines. I told her to relax and offered to prompt her. Amazingly, she improved by leaps and bounds and performed beyond my expectations. She’s truly outstanding.”
When asked whether audiences will see him in another swordplay with TVB soon, Lui promptly said no. “I’ve been filming lots of such series in China. At present I’m filming the 80-episode classic Shui Wu Juan (Water Margin) in Shandong, so I definitely won’t take up another similar series with TVB.”
With several love triangles on Born Rich (Kenix-Ray-Jamie, Gallen-Anita-Joe, Gallen-Sharon-Kenneth), the show’s romance department definitely sizzles, what with daring love scenes thrown in for good measure.
The story goes that Cheuk Yat Yuen used to date Tung Ling Chi (Kenix Kwok) but she went abroad after he wed Tseuk Nin.
“This role has the highest number of kissing scenes I’ve ever done and Kenix is the actress that I’ve kissed the most times in all my years of acting!” exclaimed Lui before quickly adding: “But our relationship is purely professional and I treat her as my younger sister.”
For Lui himself, after a relationship with actress Kathy Chow Hoi Mei and two failed marriages – to singer Cally Kwong Mei Wan (they tied the knot in 1996) and actress Yang Xiao Juan (2001) – he is now with his third wife, Chan Siu Koon. They have a son.
A staunch believer in lifelong learning, Lui is currently pursuing a PhD in finance from Beijing University. The multilingual actor speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, English and Thai.
His latest comeback to TVB marks his first villainous role in 12 years. The 46-year-old actor made a lasting impression on viewers when he played baddie Tsui Ka Lap in Cold Blood Warm Heart (1995). Leaving TVB in 2003 when his contract expired, Lo went on to make TV serials in China. Last year, he returned to TVB to fulfil a 10-episode commitment by acting in When a Dog Loves a Cat. After the end of his 10-year marriage in 2008, he married mainland actress Sophie Su Yan this year.
Kwok, 39, is back starring in Born Rich after a two-year break from TVB, during which she acted in China TV series Redtask. She got involved in showbiz after taking part in the 1993 Miss Hong Kong pageant. She married fellow actor Frankie Lam Mun Loong in 2004 after a 10-year courtship. Last month, she announced that she was four months pregnant and due to deliver in February.
Born Rich is the 38-year-old’s second TVB project after a six-year hiatus from the network; she returned to TVB last year in Love Exchange. At age 18, she was crowned Miss Hong Kong 1990. A prolific movie actress, Yuen has starred in the movies The Days of Being Dumb (1992), C’est La Vie, Mon Cherie (1994), He’s a Woman, She’s a Man (1994), Till Death Do Us Part (1998), and Protege (2007). She married fellow actor Julian Cheung Chi Lam in San Francisco in 2001, and gave birth to their son, Morton, in 2006. She’s also appeared in China and Taiwanese TV series.
‘Born Rich’ airs on Astro on Demand (Channel 921) at 9.30pm every weekday. To subscribe to the show, call 1-300-82-8888 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.astro.com.my/premiumchannels/aod/order.asp (subtitles in Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese are available).