Exclusive Interview: Up Close and Personal with Elvin Ng

(Photo courtesy of Elvin Ng)
(Photo courtesy of Elvin Ng)

Ever since he was discovered at NUS by Mediacorp’s variety show, “School Belle and the Beau”, Elvin Ng has been breaking boundaries with his stellar performance and outstanding talent.

His acting career started in 2005 after signing on as a MediaCorp Artiste, and he went on to receive two nominations in the Star Awards 2006. He won the Rocket Award for the biggest breakthrough at the Star Awards 2010. Fast forwarding to today, Elvin is a proud recipient of the All-Time Favourite Artiste award at the Star Awards 2017.

1) Share with us the activities you partook in during your time in NUS.

I was really more like a part-time student, and a full-time tutor and part-time model during my time in NUS. Ever since my army days, I wanted to be independent and didn’t want to get a single cent from my parents as I felt I was too sheltered previously. Looking back, I wish I had more of a campus life to speak of and engaged in more school activities with my peers, but it was satisfying and fulfilling too in its own ways.

The only times I was on campus were to attend classes, do research and write essays at the computer lab, and to play soccer at the handball court every once in a while. My timetables each semester would be arranged into a three or four-day work week, so I could attend to about five students in the weekdays and do modelling jobs over the weekends. I also started acting by chance in my third year, which carried on into my honours year.

2) What was the motivation behind your thesis on the carnivalesque in the female grotesque?

I was a literature student but I must confess that I’ve never really been much of a bookworm, so I can’t imagine how we had to read an average of twenty-five books per semester. I’d say that I enjoy writing a lot more than the more tedious process of reading, so I had to pay attention during classes to absorb and take away as much as I could –the gist of each book and module which was taken up.

I’ve always preferred the more modern prose literatures of post-colonialism (Asian and African literature) and postmodernism to the classic Shakespeare and old English poetry, probably because they dealt with the search for self-identity and belonged to a more anti-establishment, deconstructive, and rebellious kind of literature. Equality of race, gender and humanity, in general, spoke to me too, so I wrote a thesis on the carnivalesque in the female grotesque, in which the female body was deliberately objectified and made grotesque by the female artist (Frida Kahlo), in a proud and celebratory fashion, in a bid to resist and undermine any form of definition by others in asserting control of the self.

3) What is one takeaway you took from NUS?

The one takeaway would be that to each, his or her own, but it is up to yourself how you want it to be and what you hope to get out of it. Being a mature adult and at a major crossroad in your life, it’s up to you to take control and show self-discipline and produce hard work to achieve what you want, and what you choose to do now will determine what you will be in the future, but you can always do it your way as long as you show great responsibility.

4) What was the motivation behind your publication, Our Epic Little Lives? Why the obsession with horses?

It’s not an obsession with horses; it’s an obsession with love, romance, intimacy, and intensity. Well, horses are also known to be strong, steadfast, and kind, so they’re sort of symbolic figures. I had many thoughts going on in my head ever since my NUS days, which I guess needed some release, so it was good to really empty myself out writing my book. It’s really a part-reality, part-fantasy whimsical kind of children’s literature about how people come to meet and fall in love, which traverses time and space. I hope for people to take an inward and introspective journey, amidst our relationships with others, to be self-reflective and self-reflexive at the same time. Given my platform as an artiste, I wish to be a good and positive influence on my followers and also youths who might look up to me as a role model.

5) Amongst all the drama you have acted in, which is your favourite show and character? Why?

My favourite is probably my role as Zou Jieming, a young savant boy with autism in the drama “Breakout”, who loved to eat his chocolates but at specific timings only, and who was well-loved and remembered by the audience for his innocence and simplicity. This was a more extreme role which I had to do more research and homework for as I didn’t want to just imitate or imagine the character and portray a person with autism inaccurately, so I went to a school for children with special needs and spent time with the students there.

That was when I first learnt about the condition of autism and the social difficulties faced by people with autism and their families, and it was also what got me started to become the ambassador for the Autism Association of Singapore today, to help promote autism awareness; that they’re not abnormal but differently enabled, and just need a little more understanding and tolerance from our society. Living in the world of Zou Jieming made me realise our very own blind spots, that perhaps they could see things with a lot more simplicity and hence clarity, and to appreciate the little things in life with fewer intentions and more gratitude.

6) Your new house looks stunning, sophisticated and impeccable! How long did you spend thinking about how to build a dream house for your family members? Was this gesture one of your life’s goals/dream? (5,500 square feet family home)

Credit to 8days.sg
Credit to 8days.sg

Thank you! It was my dad’s dream to have a landed house for the family, and it was only after my dad’s passing in the year 2012 that I made it my dream too. I was hoping to find a place that we could move into where my parents used to live as neighbours and date each other because I thought it would be of great sentimental value to my mom, but it didn’t work out that way. Instead, we found an old house in another area nearby and had to do a total reconstruction, which took nearly a year to complete.

I did not engage an interior designer as I knew clearly what look I wanted for the house and also to customise it to my family members’ needs, but it took a lot of commitment and patience amidst my filming schedule to ensure everything was in place. I’m just glad it all worked out finally and my family are happily settled into the house. It’s definitely one of my, if not the, greatest achievements so far in my life and I’m just happy to have everyone living under the same roof harmoniously. Through the whole process of buying and building a house, I definitely learnt a lot in terms of dealing with people from different walks of life and also realised that I actually do have an eye and feel for interior design and attention to detail.

7) We all know that you like Paige Chua! How is your love life? Are you on the lookout for a partner? What attributes do you look for in your ideal partner? What are your values or beliefs in the arena of love?

It’s not only Paige Chua, I also really work or get along well with a number of other actresses like Rui En, Rebecca Lim, Jesseca Liu, and Sheila Sim, just to name a few. It’s rare and not easy to find someone you’re comfortable with and have great mutual understanding or chemistry together, both at work and in love, so we have to treasure them when such opportunities arise.

Love has always been the most important thing in my life, be it romantic, familial or platonic love, because it’s, to me, the one thing that really gives true meaning to our lives. But I’ve always tried to keep my love and private life separate from my public life as a celebrity, or at least as low profile as it can be, because there is no need for it to be publicised. To be real and unpretentious, comfortable in your own skin, kind and compassionate, with a pleasant aura, and possessing traditional Asian values of filial piety and a sense of responsibility will be what I look for in a partner.

8) What advice would you give to young undergraduates who are still looking for their career path in life? Or those who are still looking for their true purpose and meaning in life?

You’re never lost, you’re only searching. It’s alright to be confused or to make mistakes every once in awhile, but we have to learn from them and show growth, maturity, and wisdom as we go forward. People can tell you what they think or what you should do, and you should always be open to advise but always follow your heart and own gut feeling, because, at the end of the day, you’re always going to have to face yourself and be accountable to yourself and your loved ones. If you’re still looking for a true purpose and meaning in life, I’d say “keep searching”, and you’ll “keep finding” too, so smile and have fun on the joyride!

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