Zheng Geping, actor, author, fitness fanatic, and now, Executive Producer. Yes, you read that right. After 31 years as an actor, Singapore’s favourite hunkle will be taking on producer duties in upcoming Toggle drama Close Your Eyes, which revolves around four JC students from the ‘strawberry generation’ (aka Millennials) who learn how to confront their demons instead of, well, closing an eye to them. (P/S: Don’t worry, Geping is still first and foremost an actor so he’s not going to be behind-the-scenes full-time.)
What many people would be surprised to know is that the veteran actor has a background in TV production. Besides a brief stint working in the production unit back in the ’90s, he also wrote, directed and acted in Mediacorp’s 2011 test-tube project Unconditional Love. It remains to be seen how the 53-year-old would fare as an EP as production for the drama, slated for a September release, will only begin in May. But can we just go out on a limb to say that he’s going to be (Fifty and) Fabulous?
8 DAYS: How did the opportunity to take on the role of an Executive Producer in Toggle drama Close Your Eyes come about?
ZHENG GEPING: I was approached by [Mediacorp’s] Head of Chinese Drama Productions [Chong Liung Man]. And I asked him, “Why me?” He said he had been monitoring me for many years, and he asked colleagues in his department [what they thought of me as a producer] and many of them gave positive feedback. In 1998, I was an understudy in the Production Unit, and I picked up skills in directing, cinematography and video editing. I wanted to cross over to the production side and work behind-the-scenes then. But my then-boss said, “No, I want you to remain as an actor for the time being.” It wasn’t until 2011 that I got the chance to write, direct and act in Mediacorp’s test-tube project Unconditional Love. It was a great experience. So I’ve always wanted to be involved in behind-the-scenes work.
Does the production crew feel weird working alongside you, not as an actor, but as part of their own team?
I think it’s a matter of time before they get used to it. They were waiting to see who the EP would be. I think they were shocked when they saw my name. (Laughs) This will be the first time in [Mediacorp] history that a contracted artiste crossed over to be an EP. The good thing is that we’ve know each other for so many years. It’s just that now, when I come to work, my status is not that of an actor. (Laughs) So when we talk, it will be from a different perspective. I’d be handling more of the management side of things. But I think there wouldn’t be a problem when it comes to communicating with them.
What’s the greatest challenge you have faced as an EP so far?
Granting the wishes of others. (Laughs) An EP controls the budget. I think some of the director’s ideas are good, but sometimes, ’cos of budget constraints, we may not be able to provide the best support. But if it’s a good idea, I’d try my best to see how we can work around our budget to support his request. I believe that’s part of the job of an EP — it’s not to say that you cannot spend in this or that area. If we can cut back on unnecessary spending, like not shifting location too many times, we can have fewer filming days. Every filming day is a cost. So if I cut down on one day of filming, that money can go into funding other things.
Will you be taking on the EP role for Ch 8 dramas?
Yes, this isn’t a one-off thing. I have other projects lined up after this. I’m already on stand-by mode. (Guffaws)