Huang Biren felt 'shameless' for arriving at grandmother's wake only on the third day because of work

PHOTO: Screengrab from meWATCH

We're all guilty of prioritising work over personal life to some extent, but when Huang Biren did so, she chastised herself for it even though it wasn't completely her fault.

Speaking to Quan Yi Fong on the latest episode of meWATCH talkshow Hear U Out, the local actress recounted how she was filming Legend of the White Hair Brides in China when she received news of her grandmother's death. She returned to Singapore on the third day of the wake.

It was the year 1995, and the drama was a turning point in Biren's acting career which, up to that point, hadn't really taken off. News of the death came as a big shock to her because out of 12 grandchildren, the elderly woman had doted on Biren the most. 

Biren had also lived with her grandmother when she was little.

The 51-year-old said to Yi Fong: "I received the news of her passing one week after we began filming in Xinjiang. She had liver cancer and was hospitalised when I flew over. But she had been in and out of the hospital, so we were used to it. I didn't expect her to pass away then. I called home often and asked about my grandmother, but my family lied and said she was doing fine.

"I was shocked by the news of her death in the morning before we started work. They called to say my grandmother had passed away. I couldn't believe it since they had been lying about her condition every day."

The veteran actress said she "dropped everything" to rush back home and the production team was "very understanding" as well. Biren also confessed that she was unable to believe and accept what had happened.

"What I couldn't accept was she was still alive when I left for work, but lying in a coffin when I came back," she added.

By the time Biren made it back, it was the third day of the wake and she was "absolutely heartbroken". When she paid her respects to her late grandmother, she apologised because she felt like an "unfilial granddaughter".

She shared: "I felt like an unfilial granddaughter for choosing work over family. Because I wanted to have a chance to prove myself, I neglected my grandmother — someone who raised me and watched me grow up. I even felt that I was shameless."

When Yi Fong gasped at her use of the word "shameless", Biren admitted she doesn't think that's harsh considering the circumstances.

"I felt that I was shameless. I left someone who loved me so dearly for one acting job. This is my lifelong regret and there's nothing I can ever do to make up for this regret. I told my grandmother that I would work very hard, that one day, I'll prove to her my dedication to acting," she said.

bryanlim@asiaone.com