Chen Hanwei plays ‘Agony Aunt’ to celeb pals
Text: Joanna Goh
Photos: Dang Hui Ling & Channel 8
Video: Ling Pak Wei & Fiona Lin
Picture this: In one corner of the studio, Rui En preens and poses for the cameras as the crew make mental notes of her characters' 101 outfit coordination to prevent slip-ups at filming. At the other end of the tiny room, Zoe Tay perches herself on the sofa, taking tiny sips from a flask of hot water to battle the strong blast of cold wind from the air-conditioning unit above. In the midst of the fuss and mess, a bespectacled and preppy-looking Chen Hanwei steps in the studio in a hot fiery red suit...
The photography studio teems with excitement and chatter at the imaging session for the newest Ch8 drama production on the hill, The Dream Makers, and the vibe is infectious and understandable. After all, how often does one get to catch or work on a drama headlined by a mix of the station's top veterans and actresses?
Playing a celebrity host with a caustic sense of humour, Hanwei made clear that his Dream Maker role is unlike his previous "aunty or uncle-type of characters" in his interview with xinmsn outside the studio.
"He's [Yufan] a sharp-tongued person, eloquent and witty... As a famed celebrity host, a lot of female actresses are afraid of going on his programme, but once they guest star on it they'll become overnight stars," he said excitedly.
The Dream Maker's cast at the drama's lensing ceremony
The method actor, who once lived with a chipped tooth for months and gained 8kg for his most recent incarnation as a rowdy potbellied hawker in It Takes Two, is known for his immense dedication to acting. Not going to extreme lengths this time round, Hanwei shared that his character will be imbued with Taiwanese personality Cao Qi Tai's hosting flair. "He's straightforward but witty, and carries himself well on stage. I'll try to be like him."
On his umpteenth onscreen pairing with Zoe (their last collaboration was in 2011 for Ch8's Devotion), Hanwei heaved a sigh of resignation and lamented, "I don't want to work with Zoe anymore!"
"It's too boring!" he laughed in mock exasperation.
The duo, who are best friends in real life, will play a pair of soulmates in Dream Makers - a relationship "very similiar to the kind we have off the cameras," Hanwei quipped and added, "In the show, I'll be the kind of friend who showers her with plenty of tender loving care. I'll be the one who covers a blanket for her when she sleeps and feelings will develop between our characters along the way."
When probed, the 43-year-old maintained that he is "completely different" from Yufan, sharing only "20 per cent of similarity". He mentioned that they both enjoy analysing people's characters and playing advisor to friends, especially when they encounter problems.
He let on, "Zoe, Ling Ling and Ann, they'd all buzz me when they have problems and I'll analyse it for them. I told them that they don't have to feel sad over anything when problems happen, you just have to solve it."
Working his savvy celeb 'Agony Aunt' side as if in character already, Hanwei dished, "I tell them: 'Face it, don't Facebook it' because there's no point taking it out on Facebook. You should just find the problem and resolve it." Spoken like a pro indeed.
The Dream Makers debuts June 24, on Ch8 at 9pm.
WATCH: Chen Hanwei's video interview here!