Every Chap Goh Mei, Hong Kong singer-actor William So makes it a point to travel to Singapore to do volunteer work.
For the past 11 years, the 47-year-old has spent the 15th and final day of every Chinese New Year helping out at the Tai Pei Yuen Temple off Balestier Road.
He usually takes on the duties of a "middleman", writing down the names of visitors on pieces of paper before passing the notes to the temple master to have their fortunes told.
The job is not as easy as it sounds, though.
"Singapore is such a multi-cultural country and everyone speaks so many different dialects. So sometimes, I feel very stressed that I don't get their names right," he tells Life! in Mandarin with a laugh.
"They'll say their name is Chan, but I'll be like, 'Did he really say Chan? Or is it another name in a different dialect?' It would be terrible if I got it wrong."
Visitors often recognise him and ask for photographs and he is happy to oblige.
"That's no problem at all. If you want to see me, just come and look for me," he says with a chuckle.
This year, Chap Goh Mei falls on March 5 and he gives his assurance that he will be in town that day.
"No matter how busy I am, this is the one day in the year when I reject all work and other commitments because I want to come to Singapore to do this."
He was in town fielding media questions to promote his latest TV series Once Upon A Song, which is airing on cHK On Demand (SingTel mioTV Channel 511).
Touted as Hong Kong's first musical TV drama, the series is about a group of young Hong Kong people with great aspirations in music. So plays a former singer who has found anew lease in life as a baker, but who still often reminisces about his singing days.
When the series premiered in Hong Kong last month, some viewers criticised younger leads Kelvin Kwan and Evelyn Choi for "poor acting".
So, however, says the audiences should not be watching the show for the acting.
"Actually, the show is about the music, about dreams, about aspirations. I don't think the acting should be the main focus here. People should watch the show and be swept awayby the idea that these young people are uninhibited by big dreams.
"If you want to watch a show for top-notch acting, watch The Election with Liu Kai Chi and Lee Sinje instead," he says, referring to the other drama series produced by new TVstation Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV), which also made Once Upon A Song.
He adds with a shrug: "At least I can say that everyone worked really hard on this show. Maybe the younger actors just need more time to hone their skills, but they certainlygave it their all."
Looking laidback in a black-and-white T-shirt and bermudas, he tells viewers to give the young actors a chance.
"Everyone has to start somewhere, right? I was a young actor once myself. There's a reason I was flown in to Singapore to promote the show, not them, because I've made aname over the years," he says with a chuckle.
This is the first interview he has done with local media since he tied the knot last December with his fashion executive girlfriend of eight years, Anita Fung.
This is his second marriage since he split with Singaporean Jane Foong in 2003.
"This is one of my first work commitments in two months and I'm not used to the idea of getting back to work," he says with a laugh. "I've been enjoying married life at homeand I even took leave during Christmas and New Year - probably the first time I've done that in years. I ate so much over the holiday season, I put on 5kg."
He adds: "But I guess I couldn't reject work any longer. I still need to earn a living, right?"He says there are plans to work on a new album with fellow singers Richie Ren, Wong Ka Keung and Edmond Leung later this year.
What about baby-making plans?
"Now that the holidays are over, I'll be flying around all the time for work and my wife travels for work even more than I do, so we barely have time to spend with each other.We'll just leave it to fate. If it happens, it happens," he says.
Once Upon A Song airs on cHK On Demand (SingTel mio TV 511) until Feb 28.
This article was first published on Feb 21, 2015.
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