SMU grad Joshua Lim taking the road less travelled in acting

(photo courtesy of Joshua Lim)
(photo courtesy of Joshua Lim)

As an actor, voiceover artist, musician and host, Joshua is proud to be taking the road less travelled after graduating with a Social Sciences degree from the Singapore Management University, where he played the lead roles in Honk! (2009) and Just So (2010).

Digital Senior is honoured to find out more about his endeavours in SMU, post SMU and today.

1) Tell us more about the activities you took part in, in SMU.

I was in the school of Social Sciences and majored in psychology and corporate communications. I was part of the SMU band, Symphonia, in my university days and spent a lot of time practicing the flute. We were famously known as full-time Symphonians and part-time students, this was how we lived.

I was also part of the executive committee (EXCO) of the SMU band. As part of the EXCO, I had to plan numerous band camps for my band members. I also played a part in organising trips to Perth and Sydney for band festivals and musical festivals. I remember that we received a standing ovation from the crowd after playing a medley of songs by ABBA during our performance at the Sydney Opera House. This exposure was super fun and filled with jubilation!

My love for music started when I was 13 in 1998, where I picked up the flute and went for many band competitions and took part in the biennial Singapore Youth Festival. Once, we managed to secure a spot in the top five and had the golden opportunity to perform in the esplanade in the secondary competition. We couldn’t be more psyched!

In SMU, I remembered that Symphonia got to play and compete at the National Band Competitions, World Band Festival, and various community events. We even scored top marks for one of the open category of the National Band Competitions. We were beyond ecstatic! These were some of the most memorable moments of my life. I was also part of the military band during my conscription.

In 2009, I started venturing into theatre and went for several auditions for local plays and musicals. My first foray into the theatre was when I landed the lead role in Honk! It was the story of ugly duckling where I played Ugly, the ugly duckling who initially felt out of place but eventually transformed into a beautiful Swan.

The show went on for two performances, and I had two solo numbers for myself and that was fun to do. I enjoyed myself immensely and it was an experience of a lifetime. I then started playing with the idea that I could do this full time and make a professional career out of performing.

Through Honk!, I got acquainted with Sebastian Tan, who directed Honk! at that time who saw a potential in me as an actor. Subsequently, he brought me into the musical industry after my graduation and I landed a role in Fried Rice Paradise. Sebastian, well-known for his role as Broadway Beng, also introduced the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) to me. Looking back, I was so glad I managed to go for the audition for the role of Ugly! The whole journey was a blast! It was an exhilarating experience for me and an opportunity which I am eternally grateful for.

Apart from my school activities, I did a Civil Service Internship Programme (CSIP) in 2008 where I was deployed to the then Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA). It is known as the Ministry of Communication and Information (MCI) now. I was interning at the Industry Development Policy division. My responsibilities ranged from writing research papers and giving presentations, to attending learning journeys. As part of the CSIP, I went to visit the Changi Prison and incinerator. I also had the chance to attend the Broadcast Communicasia event with my colleagues during my stint. They even showcased the latest technological products.

My time at MICA was great, the superiors were very willing to teach, and I was impressed by the intellectual capacity of the people at MICA. However, I realised that an office job was not for me as I was mostly restless on the job and just couldn’t sit still.

I did theatre after graduation, and taught drama to school children. However, after one and a half years into the job, I realised that teaching was not my cup of tea. I resented going to teach and I did not enjoy myself. I felt like I did not have the aptitude to command class control and lacked skills. Gradually, I started dreading to teach. This was when I realised that if you dread something, it’s best to just stop it, even if there is a clear tangible benefit.

From these experiences, what I took away was that you should always make the most of your time in whichever place you’re at. I wished I had more time in SMU to try out more stuff, but I am still thankful that I grabbed my opportunities. We should always do as many things as possible, try as much as we can and have an open-mind.

At the same time, I was also hosting and doing voice overs for TV shows. I also got myself connected with the online community for commercials and short films, and some theatre stuff as I wanted to get exposure to as many things as possible. I kept pushing myself to try as many things as I could because I wanted to get real world experience instead of doing nothing at all.

2) What sparked your interest in television, where did your passion stem from?

The interest in TV was always there. I see myself as someone who not only does theatre, but also film and TV, because acting on stage is different from acting in front of the camera, and I like both mediums and platforms. If you want to survive and increase your market value, the more well-known you are, the higher pay you can command. Or at least that was what I thought, so I needed to get exposure out there, and my mentor Sebastian Tan told me to audition for anything and everything possible as it was more important that people know you rather than the other way around.

You need to consistently build yourself and not just stick to one thing because there is a very different way of acting, for different mediums. I am a person who likes novelty, so I need things to spice up. I can’t do the same things repeatedly. Even if it is something I like, I would eventually get bored of it, so I have to mix in some TV with theatre.

I have had some TV stints over the years. My first TV appearance was in 2010, when I managed to clinch a role playing the son in a family in a Christmas special. It was a two-part series on channel five called ‘Happy Holidays’, and it was a very light-hearted comedy for two half an hour production. It was a very small production. I was also in the second season of ‘Code of Law’ in 2013, and in the show, I played a supporting character which was based on a real-life character who was an ex-convict who later became a lawyer. I was also one of the leads in the telemovie “Two Boys and A Mermaid” in 2014. My latest work is presenting the documentary “Why It Matters” on Channel NewsAsia.

3) Who is your role model? What quote do you live by?  

My role model would be Adrian Pang. I also like a Youtuber for the way he edits his videos and the way be blogs. Adrian Pang has his own theatre company and is an award-winning actor. I admire his accomplishments, being able to juggle family and kids and do what you love simultaneously.

I also admire Sebastian Tan who manages the industry and how he feels that he is known to be expensive in the industry, but refuses to back down or cut his rates as it doesn’t benefit the whole industry or him. I admire his firmness, for holding his ground, I admire that a lot about him.

A quote to live by, “it is better to make the mistake of commission, than make the mistake of omission”.

4) How do you see yourself in five to 10 years’ time? Any upcoming production or work in 2018 that we all can look out for?

For 2018, I am hoping to have ‘Why It Matters’ season 2, and “Framed, By Adolf” this June. I have already read the script of “Framed, By Adolf” and it sounds very interesting! There will be a twist to the story of the story. Moving on, I would see myself still doing the same thing in hosting and acting and presenting more TV shows under my belt. And I hope to have more commercial feature films to star in. I also wish to be a lead actor in the media industry that people will want to see and watch.

5) What advice would you give for young undergraduates who are still pursuing a career path for themselves?

Education is not about being exam smart. It is a skill that is beneficial, but I believe education is more than just taking exams, rather about growing as a person, not just intellectually, but socially and emotionally. Education should be able to develop your social skills and emotional skills. I think that education should be enjoyed: whether you are someone who likes learning, education should be enjoyed, and one shouldn’t be punished for being unable to perform on the academic front.

Education trains your brain muscles to allow you to do other things in life, it makes you stronger.

In work, don’t do what you dread. If you are dreading it, stop. Don’t be stuck in a job you hate going to. Do something you like and are passionate about. Even when the going gets tough, your passion will drive you forward.

It’s alright if you don’t know what you want to do in life – it’s normal, don’t panic. Life is a process throughout, it does not say ‘start’ when you graduate. It’s more prevalent in Singapore because there’s a mentality that you better start early, or you will lose out. Be comfortable to try new things. If you see something that interests you, keep that in mind, work at it and go for it. Don’t be locked in the mindset that you have to do something related to your degree. Be open to options, you never know where they might take you.

Mistakes are the greatest learning tools you can ever have in your life. So at the end of the day, you know you tried because if you didn’t try you would never do. It’s a learning process. Better to try than to not try. Don’t be afraid if you need to do a career switch five years down the road, that’s just life for you.

Chase your dreams!




More about Joshua Lim

He made his professional debut in Fried Rice Paradise (Singapore Repertory Theatre, SRT, 2010), and his first appearance on TV in Mediacorp Channel 5’s Christmas special Happy Holidays (2010).

His work involving diverse roles across various performing media is testament to his great versatility as an artiste. On stage, his performances have earned him nominations for Best Actor in Starring Hitler As Jekyll And Hyde (The Finger Players) and Best Ensemble in Cafe (by Joel Tan), October and Poor Thing (both by The Necessary Stage) at the Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards.

He made his feature film debut in the screen adaptation of Haresh Sharma’s Fundamentally Happy, which premiered at the Southeast Asian Film Festival 2015 and is touring festivals globally. His work in the film earned him a nomination for Best Actor at the 2016 Hanoi Film Festival.

As a presenter, he most recently hosted the 2017 Singapore Youth Award ceremony and is the face of the highly-rated documentary Why It Matters on Channel NewsAsia.

On the community and corporate front, Joshua has been actively involved in commissioned education programmes for schools and the community, as well as corporate training for companies such as Microsoft and Barclays.

An avid singer and musician, Joshua plays the piano, flute, and guitar (though not all at the same time). His musicality is allowed to shine on stage not only for musical productions, but also at events such as weddings and company D&Ds.

Find out more at

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Velda Wong
Deeply passionate in using media as a tool for positive social change, Velda aims to write stories that touch her readers’ hearts and minds – with a strong focus on content relating to social causes, humanitarian work and world affairs.