Breakout star here to stay

SINGAPORE - His meteoric rise from computer screen to silver screen made Tosh Zhang this year's Breakout Star.

In our online poll, the 23-year-old star of local movie Ah Boys To Men received 1,078 votes, beating Hot 91.3FM DJ Boy Thunder's 798 votes, and K-pop girl group SKarf's 420 votes.

When The New Paper told Zhang, previously a YouTube artiste, of his win at a launch event for Ah Boys To Men 2 last Friday, he was slightly taken aback, but broke into a wide smile soon after.

"I am overwhelmed, but very, very happy. Coming up against Boy Thunder and SKarf, I did not expect to get so many votes," he said.

Zhang was cast in the role of Sergeant Ong in Ah Boys To Men after local director Jack Neo saw Zhang's vlogs (video logs) online.

And now he's an actor in a highly successful movie.

As of last Thursday, Ah Boys To Men earned $6.06 million, eclipsing the 14-year-old box-office record held by 1998's Money No Enough, which earned $6.02 million.

The sequel will open here on Feb 1 next year.

Looking ahead, Zhang said he is here to stay as an "entertainer" and has even cancelled plans to study film at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.

"I was supposed to start in June this year, but I deferred to shoot Ah Boys To Men, and when the movie came out last month, I decided to turn down the (university's) offer," he said.

He has also stopped taking on freelance filming and video editing assignments, passing them on to his friends instead.

Neo will be helping Zhang with his showbiz career, as Zhang and his Ah Boys To Men co-stars Joshua Tan, Maxi Lim, Noah Yap and Wang Wei Liang have signed to Neo's artiste management company J M Productions.

Neo, 56, was pleasantly surprised when The New Paper told him of Zhang's win as Breakout Star.

Said Neo, speaking in Mandarin: "He is eloquent, has musical talent and acts well, too. It is rare to have such a unique all-rounder."

Both Zhang and Neo say they will discuss future plans, but Neo revealed that Zhang, who wrote and performed Ah Boys To Men's theme song Recruit's Anthem, is also the singer and composer of the sequel's theme song, "a rap which talks about brotherhood".

Despite having a box-office hit and a showbiz career in the pipeline, Zhang wants to stay true to his roots and will continue posting videos on YouTube.

Said Zhang: "I started out talking about random stuff in my room and I am really thankful to have come this far because of that.

"But regardless what jobs I take on in the future, I will continue to post videos on YouTube, because it can reach my fans directly," he said.

"Moreover, I do not want people to think I am posting videos just as a stepping stone for other things. That was never my intention and it will never be."

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