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Yip Wai Yee
Saturday, Jun 28, 2014

Showbiz

Local TV stars find fame home and away

The Straits Times | Yip Wai Yee | Saturday, Jun 28, 2014

Local TV star Elvin Ng (in grey) at a fan meet in Cambodia, where members of his local fan club turned up.

Local TV star Elvin Ng was mobbed by eager fans recently - in Cambodia.

The 33-year-old actor was in the country for a fortnight earlier this month and he was treated like quite the superstar.

Upon arriving at the airports in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, hordes of Cambodian fans showed up waiting for him, hoping to snag a photo or an autograph. As he was leaving the country, they showered him with gifts and made him a cake.

Who knew he would have such a following there?

Ng admits to Life! he was just as surprised as anyone by the "overwhelmingly warm reception" he received there.

"It was quite an experience - everywhere I went, people recognised me and wanted to take pictures with me. They were also very open with their affection, hugging and kissing me - I was quite taken aback," he says with a laugh.

He was flown in for two things: to hold a fan meet, at which 70 members of his local fan club Elvinology Cambodia turned up, all dressed in identical T-shirts printed with his name on the back; and to film a miniseries, The Jade Elephant, a Cambodian-Singaporean TV co-production.

Ng is the leading man - and only Singaporean - in the Khmer-language programme, which is slated to air on Cambodian TV channel CTN later this year. He says: "I had two bodyguards and a personal assistant follow me everywhere to make sure I was okay.

Between takes during filming, I was also quickly shuttled to a car so I could rest in the air-conditioning. It was crazy."

Some may find it bizarre that a home-grown actor would be such a big deal overseas, particularly in a country such as Cambodia, where neither Mandarin nor English is the first language.

But Ng, whose dramas such as Breakout (2010) and Together (2009) have aired there in Khmer-dubbed versions, points out: "The Cambodian audiences really know Singaporean stars, they follow Singaporean TV dramas."

The head of Elvinology Cambodia, Ms Thina Rida, says she has been a fan of Ng's ever since she saw his drama Love At 0°C (2006) on Cambodian TV.

The 22-year-old says: "I like him because he gives great performances, is friendly, kind, handsome and shows good behaviour with fans. I really love him when he acts shy."

Cambodia is not the only surprising overseas location where Singaporean stars have amassed a fan following.

In recent years, other emerging non-Mandarin-speaking markets such as Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia have all been broadcasting Singaporean TV drama series and that has boosted interest in Singapore's home-grown celebrities.

At the Star Awards in April, a new award category was introduced to reflect the growing regional appeal of Singaporean stars - the Most Popular Regional Artiste Award, which celebrates the stars who are the most popular in several territories.

Actress Jeanette Aw nabbed the award for Cambodia, Rui En won for Indonesia and Malaysia, while Yvonne Lim took the award for being most popular in China.

Mr Paul Chan, vice-president of MediaCorp's branding & promotions, TV, says: "The awards are 100 per cent fan-voted and offer a way to interact with our regional audiences. They also serve to spotlight the artists who have made an impression with their works overseas."

For decades now, Channel 8 dramas have been distributed in Malaysia and China, both of which make sense, given that Malaysia shares a similar culture with Singapore, while China audiences share the Chinese language.

From the 1980s to the 1990s, Singaporean stars such as Li Nanxing and the late Huang Wenyong were all popular figures in Malaysia and China.

Now, Mr Tang Yun Leung, vice- president of content distribution (studios) at MediaCorp, says the company also sees good prospects in other South-east Asian countries, such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar, as these markets "are opening up fast and present potential growth opportunities".

He adds: "Our dramas are mostly set in a cosmopolitan city and yet still retain a strong Asian flavour and values. For countries specifically in South-east Asia, cultural similarities also play a part to connect well with our audiences."

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