Four years ago, he packed his bags and left Singapore to expand his acting career in China.
But China-born actor Dai Xiangyu, previously known as Dai Yangtian, has revealed that life was not a bed of roses during his first two years there.
The 30-year-old told local media here in Mandarin yesterday: "I was jobless for two years, it wasn't easy. I felt a lot of pressure and I even ate four pints of Ben & Jerry's ice-cream at a go to reduce stress.
"But I've never regretted my decision to shift my focus to China. My goal has always been very clear - to make it big in the Asian market, either as an actor or someone behind the scenes within these few years."
The Shanghainese heart-throb said he was offered some bit roles and cameos during his first two years in Beijing, but rejected them.
Dai, who said he negotiated the initial financial difficulties with the help of his investments in property and stocks, maintained: "I refused to take on any role lesser than a second lead.
"If I took on a bit role, I would forever be typecast in those kind of roles and it would be more difficult to climb up the career ladder in China, where the market is saturated and competitive."
The tide turned in 2013 when he was introduced to his current Chinese manager, Mr Liu Tao, who helped him snag juicier parts in prominent Chinese dramas.
In the past year, Dai has filmed five TV series, but only one - Together Because We Are Single - has been aired in China so far.
He is currently busy shooting the China-Hollywood movie Lost In The Pacific in the Iskandar region in Johor.
The Vincent Zhou-directed thriller is about a group of passengers on an inaugural luxury flight which crashes. Dai plays a co-pilot alongside US actors Brandon Routh (of Superman Returns and Arrow fame) and Russell Wong, as well as Hong Kong actress Bernice Liu.
Dai was cast as he is friends with director Zhou, who felt Dai could play the character well.
Dai did not have any scenes opposite Routh, and described the atmosphere on set as relaxed and happy most of the time.
He said: "It's a male-dominated film set so we fool around when we have free time. Sometimes, we lift light weights and see who is the strongest. Sometimes, we swim at the (hotel) pool."
Dai's English-speaking role meant he had to put in many hours perfecting his diction before filming, and this was something that stressed him.
He said: "I hired an Australian teacher who taught me English in Beijing, and I memorised the lines from the script word for word for 15 days before filming began.
"It was quite daunting to go on set and have a completely English-speaking role so I told the director not to change my lines if possible."
Dai made his Singapore showbiz debut in 2008 and shot to fame with his role as a Japanese photographer in local Channel 8 blockbuster drama The Little Nyonya.
And he has not forgotten his roots here.
Dai, who received his Singapore permanent residency last year and pops by Singapore twice a year, will return to acting here in the near future.
He said: "I have jobs lined up for me in China now, so I'll still be based there for the time being. But it doesn't mean I won't be taking up acting gigs here. It's just that the timings don't match for now."
As we are in the midst of the annual Star Awards, Dai is feeling nostalgic.
Dai, who made it to the list of Top 10 Most Popular Male Artistes in 2010 and 2013, said: "Of course I miss it a lot. I met up with (fellow China-born MediaCorp actors) Zhang Zhen Huan, Ian Fang and Jeffrey Xu, and told them not to fret too much over winning. I know how it was like to be in the hot seat. If you are nominated, of course you hope to win an award."
Dai, who turns 31 in December, yearns to get married soon. Even though the eligible bachelor said he has not met his ideal woman yet, he revealed that he has his eyes on someone.
The secretive star refused to elaborate, only saying: "If I have good news, you all will be the first to know! I will definitely share!"
This article was first published on April 25, 2015.
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