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News From:The New Paperposted on 19 April at 5:32 PM
19 April at 5:32 PM

Chua En Lai: More drama, please

BY MERVIN TAY

CHUA En Lai wants to be more dramatic. Despite having a body of work across theatre, television and cinema, the FLY Entertainment artiste is still best known for his comedic chops. And it frustrates him a little.

Speaking to The New Paper recently, Chua, 33, spoke about how comedy opened many doors for him, yet left him somewhat typecast.

Chua is currently seen in Channel 5’s parody news sketch show The Noose, which airs Tuesdays at 8.30pm. He is also acting in an all-male theatre version of The Importance Of Being Earnest, which runs till May 4. Chua can also be seen in local movie Judgment Day, which opens tomorrow.

All these roles have one common element: comedy.

“In some ways, I’m glad I had many opportunities, but you also get a bit stuck and typecast in comedy,” said Chua. But the funnyman said he is not going to give up on comedy or turn down any offers for comedic roles. “Doing The Noose, and the other comedic stuff, has opened many doors for me. And comedy is something I enjoy,” he said.

“But I guess a lot of performers do end up getting pigeonholed. “I accept that it happens, but I do hope there will be opportunities for me to do more dramatic roles.” And Chua is taking small steps to make that change.

Besides showing off a more serious side of himself in Judgment Day, where he plays a guy trying to salvage a relationship with his girlfriend, played by actress Rebecca Lim, Chua also recently finished filming his first Channel 8 drama, I’m In Charge. The drama also stars Elvin Ng and will air at the end of next month. “I’ve always wanted to do something new, and I guess that’s why I said yes to doing the Channel 8 drama.”

Language issues

Chua would only say his role was “more serious, with a little bit of comedy”, but spoke candidly about his language issues. “It was like scaling the Great Wall of China!” he said, laughing. Chua was born in Singapore but raised in New Zealand, and returned to Singapore only when he was 12.

“Memorising the lines took a lot longer. I had to write out the hanyu pinyin for every word. It was a bit scary,” he said. “I guess sometimes one has to remove himself from his comfort zone, and luckily everyone on set was very understanding.”

But it is all familiar territory for Chua on The Noose, which is now in its sixth season. “It doesn’t feel like six seasons, because the stories are always new and topical,” he said.

Chua also won Best Comedy Performance By An Actor/Actress at 2010’s Asian Television Awards for his performance on The Noose. Besides playing newscaster B B See and reporter Jacques Ooi, Chua scored a hit by playing Thai correspondent Pornsak Sukhumvit, who has a penchant for pole dancing and first appeared on The Noose in late 2011.

But with Michelle Chong not returning to the show this season to concentrate on her movie career, Chua said he does miss her. “I think I feel it mostly in the studio, where we used to read the news together as B B See and Adrianna Wow, respectively,” he said.

Chua also reminisced about spending two weeks in Australia last year with Chong on a working trip, playing Pornsak and Barbarella, respectively. “I’ll miss Barbarella too,” said Chua of Chong’s most iconic role on The Noose, who is a gold-digging lover of foreign men. But Chua said he does not see Chong’s departure affecting the show too much.

“The show is like a jigsaw puzzle that changes shape all the time, and we’re not linear, unlike a drama or a play,” he said. “All the while, we have had different pairings among the cast, and that’s one reason why the show is so fun to do.”

This story was first published in The New Paper on April 17, 2013.

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