'You have to post about it, if not it didn't happen': Tay Ying on how actors' job scope changed from parents' time

Tay Ying (right) is part of a new generation of actors that face different challenges compared to her mother Hong Huifang's time.
PHOTO: Instagram/Tay Ying

If a tree falls in a forest and no one posts about it on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, did it really fall?

In an interview with AsiaOne for the new Mediacorp drama Silent Walls, Tay Ying compared the challenges that actors face now and in her parents' era, and the role that the media plays in both generations.

The greatest obstacle to her now, the 26-year-old shared, is "the fact that everything we do is really 'blown up'."

"Every single thing we do, people are watching, be it a simple Instagram Story of us walking on the street or whatnot, we are always constantly being watched," Tay Ying said.

"When you have a milestone in your life, you have to post about it, if not it didn't happen."

So there is a pressure for celebrities to post pictures that are "on-point" and good enough for their followers, she explained, and they must spend a lot of time and even money on creating content.

She stated: "It's not just about acting anymore. Even though we are actors, there are still many other things that we have to do… everyone is trying to do everything — rather, everyone is required to do everything in order to stay relevant."

Drawing a comparison to her parents' era of Singapore's entertainment industry, she also told AsiaOne: "It's different back then, because they only had news articles and magazines and other traditional media to help them with exposure.

"It was difficult because they had to fight for their space and for the exposure, but their job at the end of the day was mainly just to act. They didn't have to think about content or doing anything else."

Tay Ying's mother is Hong Huifang, a local showbiz veteran who recently earned a Golden Horse award nomination for her lead role in the Singaporean-South Korean film Ajoomma (2022).

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Her father, Zheng Geping, is another industry veteran who has directed, produced and acted in many films over his 36-year-long career with Mediacorp. He recently parted ways with the local broadcasting company and set his sights on the global showbiz industry.

While Tay Ying said that the job scope as an actor in the past was less encompassing than it is today, she acknowledges that the challenges actors face now aren't necessarily more difficult, but instead, different.

"The challenge for us now is that we have a lot more things that we have to do and our brains are always working, always creating content," she said.

Tay Ying added: "But this is a blessing in disguise, if you think about it. Because we're able to create and curate content, we are able to brand ourselves outside of the characters we portray on TV, and people can get to know us on a deeper level."

And although Tay Ying will be spending her life under the watchful panopticon of social media, she's not hesitant about it.

"That's what showbiz is about; once you enter this industry, everyone's going to have to know what you're doing, and everyone's going to be interested in your life.

"So this is the repercussion [of fame], I would say, and you have to be able to accept it."

'They see me as someone who just came in through connections'

Although her door to stardom was unlocked by her parents, the path ahead of her is one that she must carve herself, Tay Ying also shared.

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"I think to a certain extent I need to work harder to gain the trust and attention of the audience, because right now they see me as someone who just came in through connections, which is true, I don't deny that," Tay Ying bluntly said.

"But whether or not I can go far in this industry is not up to them (her parents). It's up to me, and up to what the audience thinks of me."

She knows that she must make a name for herself in this industry — and her involvement in Silent Walls is one of the few important milestones on her road to success this year, she said.

She plays Wu Tianli, the daughter of a rich businessman in 1938. The family moves to Singapore and hires majie Gu Zhenzhu (Tasha Low), but Tianli isn't too happy about the intrusion of this young woman into their family space.

Tensions run high within the household as relationships are formed and tested and the family's secrets are brought to light.

PHOTO: Mediacorp

Tay Ying explained the significance of this drama to her: "I think this year is really a very important year for me because I have three dramas coming out this year. And hopefully, audiences will get to know me a bit better."

Aside from Silent Walls, Tay Ying will also appear in Shero, as well as one other drama that she was keeping under wraps at the time of the interview.

Not ready to take on the world just yet

Her parents, Huifang, 62, and Geping, 58, have expanded their repertoire beyond the shores of Singapore and are exploring showbiz industries outside of our little red dot.

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Tay Ying also got to experience what showbiz was like outside of Singapore when she studied acting in China for six months in 2019 and came to a realisation — she's not nearly good enough yet.

"That trip made me realise that I'm nowhere near that level. So I think I'm doing my best in Singapore and learning as much as I can from local productions.

"Maybe in the future when I'm ready — and good enough for it — I can go further. I feel that it's definitely a long journey to be had, and my parents took many, many years to finally decide that they were ready to step out."

In preparation for this eventual step that she hopes to take, she'll be practicing for at least five to 10 years, Tay Ying said, elaborating that she intends to build her portfolio, brand herself and understand her own capabilities.

She added: "I think that's one thing amazing about acting — you discover things about yourself that you never knew before… and I think that's a very beautiful thing.

"Even though you're working, you're also on the road of self-discovery, so maybe in 10 years' time when I'm ready to step out into the world to work or learn, I would have a completely different mindset."

Silent Walls also stars Darren Lim, Mindee Ong, Desmond Shen, Chen Shucheng, Andie Chen and Charlie Goh. It is available for free on meWATCH and also on weekdays, 9pm on Channel 8.

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