Ann Kok Thinks It Is “Unfair” To Compare Older Actresses To Younger Ones, Says Aging Gracefully Is The Most Important
When Ann Kok, 49, turned up at the press conference for Healing Heroes, Mediacorp's new medical-themed drama, everyone's eyes were on her.
After all, it was her first acting gig in three years and there are sky-high expectations to how the star would fare, not to mention, look in her comeback drama.
Well, those expectations were met and then some. Ann looked like a million bucks — how is she pushing 50?! — even dressed in a nurse's uniform at the press meet which was held at the drama's hospital set in Pasir Panjang.
This unfair pressure on female stars to always look good is a topic close to Ann's heart — her soft, gentle tone of voice turns animated when we talk about it but more on this later.
In the show, Ann plays stern, no-nonsense head nurse, Sister Ang, who is a divorcee with a child. She also finds herself caught in a love triangle between two doctors, played by Chen Hanwei, 52, and Shaun Chen, 43.
Now if you’re thinking to yourself: “This line up looks familiar”, it’s because it is. The last time Ann appeared on our screens, it was in 2019's fantasy drama Hello From The Other Side, which also starred Hanwei and Shaun as well.
In fact, according to Ann, it was the two actors' involvement in Healing Heroes that played a big part in her accepting the role.
"But of course I must work with different people lah, cannot always work with Chen Hanwei and Shaun Chen (laughs)," she jokes.
Sister Ang is also a role she has never attempted before.
“I’ve played a divorcee with kids, but this time it is different. The last time, my character didn’t get into a new relationship and fall in love. So for [Healing Heroes], I have to make sure I portray accurately the emotions of a divorced woman who is caught in a love triangle. It’s complicated and it's new for me to act out these feelings,” said Ann.
Since filming for the drama is still going on and is slated to end near Chinese New Year next year only, Ann has no idea who Sister Ang will pick yet.
And just like the actress, you'll have to wait (and watch) to find out.
8DAYS.SG: There are two men vying for your love in Healing Heroes. Have you ever been in a situation like that in real life?
ANN KOK: No, not so lucky (laughs). Actually I’m not sure if that’s lucky or not. In this drama, Sister Ang doesn’t feel it's lucky, it’s very difficult for her 'cos she has a child and a mother-in-law whom she is very close to. It’s very difficult for her to decide whether she wants to be in love or not.
Last year, when you went on talk show Hear U Out, you mentioned that you no longer yearn for marriage, but you won’t say no if the right person comes along. So have you met anyone?
(Pouts) No… So sad right…
Are you actively trying to meet someone?
No I’m not actually.
So you’re happy being single?
Yah… I always believe in ‘letting love find you’. But of course I don’t always stay at home and wait for love to come and find me (chuckles). It would not possible to meet anyone!
With Healing Heroes, you'll be in contention for your final Most Popular Artiste award. Are you optimistic about that?
(Chuckles) Actually no. Because last year Felicia [Chin] was supposed to get her 10th trophy right? And she didn’t. I hope I can [get the award] but there’s only 10 places… So yah, it really depends on luck.
You also haven’t won Best Actress yet. Is that something that you still hope to achieve?
(Ponders) I think everyone would want to achieve that but I don't want to be in a drama just because I want to win Best Actress, you know. I want to play good roles, roles that will be memorable. And hopefully, if the judges think [I’m] eligible for Best Actress and my acting has improved, I would love to have that lah (laughs).
Do you feel like competition is fiercer in the industry now?
(Pauses) Not really, maybe because there’s not many [actors] my age. The younger ones might have more competition, though. But even when [I] was younger, we had a lot of competition as well, so competition is always ongoing.
Do you still think having that recognition in the form of awards is an important part of being an actress?
I think maybe… (ponders for a moment before decisively saying) I think so leh. I think any actor will [feel the same way].
How important is looks when it comes to being successful in showbiz?
I don't think it is. I mean if you’re pretty but you can’t act, you will still lose your chance [to be successful]. I believe audiences are smart, and they know whether someone can act or not. You will still need to have the skills lah.
There's a lot of pressure for actresses to always look young and beautiful. Is this something that makes you feel hesitant about being on screen?
No, I think… (pauses) I believe that as long as you have to be on screen right, you should take care of yourself, that’s very important. But I feel you need to age gracefully and not because… (pauses)
The reality is that even though a lot of people say “age doesn’t matter”, “age is just a number”, the fact is when it comes to acting, people will look at your age, and the roles you receive will be around your age. You can’t possibly change your face or do plastic surgery just to play someone younger.
You just won’t get a younger role. Like for me, I won’t get to play a 30-year-old, or a 25-year-old anymore, so just…
Look good for your age?
Yes! Look good for your age, look good for the role that you’re playing and age gracefully. Everyone will age, it’s just unfair to compare them to the younger ones. Of course I’ve been been there done that. I was younger, I looked better then.
But as long as we still look good at our age and we live life to the fullest, that's enough lah. Don’t have to go and worry about whether you should look younger. Because you will never get a younger role.
That’s a nice take on it especially because there is a lot news about celebs getting age shamed.
Yah, and let’s say I’m 50 and you want to compare me to a 30-year-old actress, then you should wait until this person is 50. Like when I am 50 and she becomes 50, that’s more fair.
But never compare lah because everyone will grow old.
So don’t talk about others 'cos one day it will be you?
(Enthusiastically) Yes! It’s not nice to say “Omg she looks so old”. Everyone will be old what! (Laughs) Also, you must look at yourself first before you say that about someone else.
Photos: Mediacorp/ Photo Unit, Ann Kok/ Instagram
Healing Heroes is available on demand for free on meWATCH. It airs on weekdays, 7.30pm on Ch 8.
You can also catch Ann in the second episode of the show below.