Zoe Tay Will Never Let You Go Hungry
And other reasons the Ah Jie is loved by all.
For this week’s cover story on Zoe Tay, we wanted to dig a little deeper. So we spoke to a number of celebs, you know, people who’ve actually worked with her, to get more insight into TV’s reigning Ah Jie. And of course all of them had nothing but nice things to say about her.
“I couldn’t tell you all the things she’s done for me, ’cos there are too many! Recently, I had some family issues and she saw that I wasn’t eating well, so she cooked a huge portion of mee sua soup for me and my mum. She knows I love to eat (laughs). When I was just starting out, I didn’t interact much with her. But I remember one Star Awards, I didn’t have a hair sponsor and so my hair was messy. But she got one of her hairstylists to touch up my hair! I was really touched ’cos I was a nobody! And she’s the queen — she didn’t have to bother about me (laughs)!”
“To many people she’s the glamour queen, but I’ve seen her other side. When we were filming You Can Be An Angel 2, I arrived early at the hospital where we were filming. This car suddenly stopped beside me and in it was Zoe and Xiang Yun. They said to me, “Get in the car! Let’s go eat lunch!” So we went to a hawker centre, in our nurse outfits (laughs). We only had an hour but we wanted to try different dishes, so we all split up to queue at the stalls. This is what friends do for one another, you know? Some people are nice only at certain times, but she’s nice all the time.”
“I first worked with Zoe for documentary 48 on Aids in 2002. She was always punctual but would apologise and say ‘I’m so sorry if I’m late’, even though she wasn’t. 14 years later, I worked with her for Eat Already?, and I was reminded of how professional she is. She had to speak Teochew, and she stayed up all night practicing the dialogue. Every time she made a mistake, she would ask to shoot from the start again, and she would apologise to everyone on set even though she didn’t have to.”
“I was hosting a private event for this product that Zoe was the brand ambassador for. We were done with the interview and it was time for the photo call. I was asked to join her on stage for pics but before we got started, she turned me around to face her ’cos she wanted to adjust my hair and she so sweetly slicked it back with both hands. I turned to the press and mouthed to them "Ah Jie is fixing my hair!" She really cares for the people around her. I feel like we could totally be BFFs!”
“Whenever we film together, she takes care of me by feeding me a lot of food. She also always puts in a good word for me to the media during interviews. And her words are like gold — a lot of people listen to what she says. She always helps promote newbies this way. Most importantly, she took time out to grace the gala premiere of my movie Goodbye Mr. Loser even though she doesn’t usually go for such events. At the recent Star Awards, we were all waiting backstage for the show to start. Ah Jie has a room there and she shouted very loudly, ‘Ian, come over!’ So I went into her room and she treated me to agar agar (laughs).”
“I first met her when I was shooting the 2012 Ch 8 drama Double Bonus. It was my first time acting entirely in Mandarin. So I was very nervous, especially when I was had scenes with her ’cos she is Ah Jie and I didn’t want to mess up. I ended up flubbing my lines. But she was so sweet and patient. She would correct me by saying, ‘Why don’t you say it like this or that?’ And, between takes, we’ll chill out. She put me at ease, especially as a foreigner in a Chinese drama and speaking s*** Mandarin (laughs).
“I’ve known Zoe for over 20 years — even before I gave birth to my daughter. Whenever we’re on set, Zoe would set aside some food for me even though I would only be reporting for work later. And when she sees me standing, she’d find a chair for me to sit on. And she does all this even though I’m not that much more senior than she is (laughs).”
“During my very first Star Awards, we had to ride limos to the start of the red carpet, and Zoe and I were put in the same car. She asked me how I was coping with the job and told me not to be nervous and to remember to smile. She also made sure I was ready before asking for the doors to be open. It stands out because I was nervous and very grateful to be put at ease by Ah Jie. Also not everyone is as kind or as down-to-earth. If you're a star, you don't need the pomp and ceremony for people to know it. ”
“Early in my career, I worked with her on Ch 8 drama Le Femme in 2008. My Chinese was quite s***** then and I was having difficulty reading a very long piece of dialogue. It was a very hot day but she was just really patient and gracious. She never once complained. Some actors may get a bit impatient but she was like, ‘Don’t be nervous, take it slow.’ I was very touched. Though it’s been many years since we last worked together, whenever I bump into her, she would give me a hug and ask, ‘How are you? How have you been doing?’”
“I worked with Zoe in You Can Be An Angel, and I had a crying scene. It was my first day of filming and for some reason, I couldn’t cry. Zoe noticed that so she acted opposite me, putting in her 100% even when the camera wasn’t on her. Usually, actors aren’t obliged to do that when the camera isn’t on them but she did that for me so that I could get into character better. I cried eventually thanks to her help. I felt very touched as she really went out of her way to look after me. She’s really a good role model, and a colleague whom I look up to.”