Zhang Yaodong On His New Side Hustle As A Marketing Consultant & Why He Wants To Take His Time To Settle Down
The 44-year-old actor, who plays a doctor in Mediacorp drama Healing Heroes, talks to 8days.sg about his new side hustle, love, and what he thinks about newbie actors.
Some actors land lead roles shortly after starting their showbiz journey. For others, it takes a lot of hard work and years of waiting for the right opportunity.
Zhang Yaodong, 44, falls firmly in the second category. In 2007, he finally got cast as the lead of a Mediacorp drama, Happily Ever After, six years after placing as a finalist in Star Search.
Fast forward 15 years, Yaodong is now one of Mediacorp's most prolific actors.
In 2021 alone, he starred in five dramas, including Soul Old Yet So Young and Mind Jumper. He can now be seen in longform drama Healing Heroes, where he plays, in his own words, the "cheeky and tricky" Dr Wan Bok On.
The character is eccentric and unorthodox, and uses a walking stick, and can be best described as an homage to Hugh Laurie's House.
Filming for Healing Heroes will last next January, and Yaodong will also be seen in an upcoming Hong Kong movie and another project which he is "not able to talk about yet".
Basically, Yaodong has his hands full with work.
The actor shows no signs of slowing down and it appears to be all part of his plans.
In 2012, Yaodong left Mediacorp, returning only three years later.
When 8days.sg meets him after the press conference for Healing Heroes, he tells us that his hiatus "helped [him] a lot]" as it served as a pit stop to step out of his comfort zone and refuel for his future.
According to Yaodong, his departure from Mediacorp contributed a lot to his growth as an actor. He was able to gain different life perspectives and have the time to reflect on the things that were happening around him.
Leaning back in his chair, Yaodong describes being an actor as "learning about life experiences", adding that he believes one has to go through "ups and downs" to gain these experiences, which he then uses to better portray the characters that he plays.
"A lot of times, the problem I see is that many actors have a ‘closed look’. [But you need to have] an ‘open look’. If you have a ‘closed look’ — which means you’re living in your own world — you won’t understand when you get a new role," he says.
"You will feel like “Oh, I’ve never seen or experienced this before”. You’re really only in your comfort zone so I think one of the best ways [to grow] is to continuously explore new things."
8DAYS.SG: You work closely with a lot of younger actors in Healing Heroes, who do you think has the most potential?
ZHANG YAODONG: Actually everyone is different. But usually I (pauses)… statistically, the female artistes are more mature, so it’s easier for them to develop [as stars]. They are also usually the ones who “rise up” first. I mean, you look at Fann Wong and Zoe Tay, even though they debuted at the same time as some [male artistes], they [got famous] first. Guys will develop later.
Maybe it’s true when people say that girls are more drama? [Chuckles] Maybe that’s why they realise things faster and guys usually take a little bit longer. So now it’s still too early to judge but they’re all very hard working.
I can say that youngsters nowadays, those that are able to enter Mediacorp, are quite humble. I think [humility] is the most basic thing that they should have because that's the way to carry themselves well. It will help make their future career path smoother.
What do you think of their command of Mandarin?
(Laughs) Let’s not talk about young actors lah. Some older actors can’t even speak Mandarin properly.
So I feel it is important to keep learning, myself included. Sometimes when I see words that I don't know how to pronounce, I will go find out. From what I’ve seen [of the newbies] they’re okay. They probably came to work after doing their homework. Of course, they need to keep polishing their language skills.
So do you give them any advice?
Huh, no not really (laughs) [I] just let them be. I think they will do fine.
What do you do when you’re not acting? Are you still dabbling in F&B?
No, I’m not doing that anymore. Now, I’m a marketing consultant for a tech company. I just joined not long ago but I'm still busy with my work here. I'm waiting for things to settle down before going over.
So it's side hustle kind of thing?
Yes, you can say that.
What kind of marketing will you be involved in?
Hmm, okay let’s not call it marketing. It’s more or less like, (pauses) they have a lot of SME [clients] that feel like social media is very new to them, so they want to find a way to break into the media market. Since the pandemic, everyone has moved to social media, and I can give them some advice regarding that.
Are you on social media very often then?
(Chuckles) Actually I don't use it much myself. But that’s because I don't like to share too much of what I'm doing. I don’t know why people like to show... Let’s say I’m having dinner at this place, I will usually show it on social media maybe a few days later. I won’t show it on the spot and tell people where I am. I want to maintain some privacy for myself.
So speaking of private things, are you seeing anyone now?
(Laughs) No, I'm not.
Do you plan to get married?
Yes, why not. I do think about it.
You want to take your time?
Yah, I believe, um… I don't want to get married for the sake of getting married. A lot of people don’t understand, because I've seen too many of these cases. Like people get married for the sake of getting married but at the end of the day, (sighs) the relationship turns sour and they divorce and all that.
I feel it’s a little meaningless lah. It defeats the purpose of getting married. I mean the definition of marriage is two people being together. They love each other and they compromise on things.
Do you think you will know when the right person comes along?
(Nods) Yes I will.
So what’s next for you?
I just finished filming a Hong Kong movie in KL. It’s a real case about Hong Kong tourists who got kidnapped in the Philippines. Hong Kong-ers will be familiar with the incident, but for us, it’s the first time I heard of the case.
So a group of tourists were held hostage in Hong Kong and most of them got killed with only a few survivors. I play one of the survivors. Fish Liew, the actress who won the Best Supporting Actress at the Hong Kong Film Awards plays a reporter in it.
It’s my first movie where I'm the main male lead. We just finished filming it and I don't know if it will air in cinemas here.
Photos: Mediacorp/ Photo Unit, Zhang Yaodong/ Instagram
Healing Heroes is available on demand for free on meWATCH. It airs on weekdays, 7.30pm on Ch 8.
You can also catch Yaodong in an episode of Healing Heroes below.