When she was still a teenager, Emily Chan never thought of becoming an actress.
“I had my first [taste of acting] at the age of 19 when I was cast as an extra, and at that time, I hadn’t the slightest clue of what acting really is about,” the 28-year-old lass recalls.
Shortly after that, when another opportunity presented itself, she grabbed it without hesitation and successfully scored her first role as a supporting actress.
Call it beginner’s luck, but her efforts struck a chord with TV directors, who recognised her talent and burning passion.
One of the projects that catapaulted her into the global spotlight was her collaboration with South Korean actor and singer Lee Min-Ho in the mini web series Love at First Sight in 2015.
Chan’s hard work paid off in January this year when she walked away with the Best Supporting Actress prize at the 4th Asia Rainbow TV Awards in China, for her role in the 8tv drama Growth Behind the Sun.
Chan can currently be seen in another 8tv drama, The Promise.
“My character (Shao Ting) accidentally transports her grand-uncle from the 1940s to the modern era through a time travel portal,” Chan explains.
“After going through a series of [trials], she falls in love with him.”
What does it mean to be an actress?
“I always hope that the characters in my story will in one way or another influence the viewers.
“As an actress, I have to be versatile in accepting challenges, and to completely lose myself so I can be a different character according to the script.”
What makes a great actor?
“Talent is important, it’s something that, no matter how hard you work, you still can’t acquire it. Either you have it, or you don’t.
“In this industry, your talent will decide your fate, then comes ‘how hard are you going to work for it’. However, it also comes with a little bit of a gamble with luck, which I think includes how lovable and how presentable you are to the audience.”
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your latest TV drama The Promise?
“I’ve never participated in a period drama prior to this. The Promise is set in the 1940s, so I had to learn how to talk using certain words that are from that time. To essentially put myself in that situation, and think how would a woman act.”
How practical or relatable do you think TV dramas are to real life?
“Over the years we’ve evolved and gotten more complicated [compared to the past]. Therefore, scriptwriters are pushed to explore more overarching stories, not necessarily the idealistic or archaic plotlines we’ve seen before.
“Audiences are becoming increasingly conscious [in seeking] more than just cliche stories, in favour of the philosophy and ideas behind the script. Which is the reason why I think there has been a surge in reality TV shows.”
You wrote “Loves acting, hates acting”, on your Instagram bio section. What did you mean?
“It’s a love-hate relationship that I have with the entertainment industry, which I think is really common. However, I’m beyond grateful that I can do what I’m passionate about as my career.
“There is a stark contrast [in how I am today] to how I was when I first started; the realisation that my dream of becoming an actress finally came true, in which I really enjoyed every single aspect of it. But somehow along the way, I realised my life revolves mostly around my occupation. I hardly have spare time for myself.
“And the moment you realise you can’t do it purely out of fun, you’ll find it stressful. Though, the more you love your job, the harder [it is to] accept your failures.”
How do you deal with failure?
“I remember in my third year of being in the industry, someone told me: ‘If you realise that you did badly in a TV drama, you actually have to feel sorry for the entire crew.’
“Because a TV drama is a piece of work where everyone – including the cast and crew members – has put in time and effort. Your job as an actress is to do your best in playing your role. If you’re not well-prepared or up to par, you’re disappointing the whole team.
“So the only thing I can do is to accept criticism, and learn from it.”
Can you share some common misconceptions about being an actress?
“Many think it’s all about living the glamourous life, about fame and fortune.
“I had a really interesting conversation with a friend of mine, who said that I have never really worked or had a proper job ever since I graduated from university.
“I was completely dumbfounded after hearing that, but it was understandable because what they see is only the surface.”