For the longest time, veteran TVB actor Roger Kwok was labelled a "fool".
Thanks to his striking turn as the sweet but mentally disabled Ah Wong in the top-rated series Life Made Simple (2002) and Square Pegs (2003), people had the impression he was "forever silly", says the 49-year-old.
"People would call me 'fool Ah Wong' for years. I didn't mind because the role brought so much happiness to everyone, and it also means it was a successful one.
"But at the same time, I realised I was getting pigeonholed. It was hard to change that impression that people had of me," he tells Life! matter-of-factly in a mix of Mandarin and Cantonese.
So, how does a "fool" stop getting typecast? In Kwok's case, it was to go to the extreme and play a vicious villain.
"It worked out well, taking advantage of the trust that people had in me and using that as my weapon," says the actor gleefully.
He says he broke the mould in 2008 when he played a raging murderer in the drama Last One Standing.
"People would think, how can an innocent fool ever go out and murder someone? So when I played a horrible villain, people really remembered it."
Recently, he has been getting acclaim again, for another villanous role, that of the creepy, scheming lawyer Ko Chit Hang in the drama Black Heart White Soul.
Word has it that he is a frontrunner for the Best Actor award at the TVB Anniversary Awards this year, which will be held in Hong Kong in December.
The role has also earned him nominations for several popularity awards at Singapore's own edition of the awards show - the StarHub TVB Awards to be held on Saturday at Marina Bay Sands.
Kwok is no- minated in the categories My Favourite TVB Male TV Character, My Favourite TVB Actor and My Favourite TVB Onscreen Couple alongside co-star Kristal Tin.
The actor says diplomatically: "I'm just excited to be nominated because I've never been nominated for an award in Singapore.
If you want me to come down and pick up an award, please vote for me."
The categories are open for public voting online at starhubtvbawards 2014.com/en/voting.
Now that the actor has proven he can play a baddie, is he concerned about being hated by the public?
Kwok, who is married to former TVB actress Cindy Au and has two children aged three and six, says: "Actors are meant to play all sorts of roles, so we shouldn't worry about that. As long as we entertain them, that's all that matters."
8 questions with Roger Kwok
1. You have received much praise on social media for your villainous role in Black Heart White Soul. Have you been following the comments?
Sometimes I'll see nice comments on Weibo and the feeling is just wonderful. It's encouraging and I thank the viewers.
But this role is truly special. Even my colleagues at TVB have come up to me to tell me I did a good job.
For other people in the industry to come over and praise me is very moving because it's so rare.
2. Many younger TVB actors such as Raymond Lam have moved to China, so does that give you a higher chance of winning an award?
(Laughs) I'm grateful to them. If I win, I will go on stage and thank them for leaving.
3. You have acted in China productions before, but recently have been focusing your time in Hong Kong. Is this because of your family?
My son is going to Primary 1. I want to be in Hong Kong as much as possible to be part of all that. In a year, I take on two to three dramas and each takes about two months of filming. The rest of the year, I dedicate to my family.
4. Reportedly, Kristal Tin said that her husband Chapman To was jealous of your kissing scenes with her. Was your wife jealous as well?
I didn't really ask her about it, but I think she chooses not to watch such scenes (laughs). Sometimes, she'll stop watching something abruptly and I'll ask if it's because of the intimate scenes. She'll act coy and say, 'no lah, no lah'.
5. Your wife has not acted in any TVB dramas since La Femme Desperado (2006). Does she plan to act again?
She'll do cameo roles in movies every now and then, the type that allows her to be on set for one or two days. If a role requires her to sacrifice more time, she won't do it because she's busy taking care of the children.
She's a full-time mother and the kids are her priority.
6. You share pictures of your children on social media. Are your kids' friends aware of who you are?
Yes, they are. They always tell my kids, "Your dad is a baddie, he's a bad guy" (laughs). I think it's because Black Heart White Soul was playing during the summer holidays, so a lot of children caught the show as well.
Sometimes, my son will ask me, "Dad, are you a bad guy? You're just acting, right?" I have to tell him, "Yes, dad is acting as a bad guy to teach other people not to be bad."
7. Do you limit the kind of TV shows that your kids can watch?
I won't ban them outright, but they don't watch TV dramas anyway. These dramas talk about adult issues and they're too young to be interested. They watch only shows such as children's programmes.
8. How would you like to be remembered?
I don't need to be remembered. If I have influenced others in a positive way, that's enough.
This article was first published on Oct 6, 2014.
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