When we sat down for our chat with local actors Andie Chen and Vanessa Vanderstraaten about their Channel 5 drama Lion Mums 3 last week, we were not expecting to witness half an hour of affectionate teasing between the pair.
It all began when Andie, 33, was telling us how he prepared for his role as Chang Zhong Ming, the abrasive boss-slash-potential love interest of Vanessa’s character Ho Min Yi. “I just had to be myself,” he chuckled. “And with her” - he gestured towards Vanessa - “it’s easy [to be an a**hole]!”
Cue an indignant glare from his 30-year-old co-star. But don’t worry, we did not unintentionally and indirectly create another showbiz rift - that’s apparently how they talk all the time, a rather unconventional dynamic that came in handy for their many onscreen arguments in Lion Mums 3.
“Doing the fighting scenes was easier than we thought,” Andie grinned. Vanessa quipped, “Our love language is insulting each other.”
Of course, the good-natured taunting never grew into personal attacks (if it did, we don’t think they would have willingly agreed to do the interview together). When asked to recall the worst jab they suffered from each other, Andie mentioned the day he showed up on set all tired out from the other projects on his plate.
“I didn’t study the script enough and I wasn’t on top of my game, so my performance was very meh,” he shared. “Once I said a line and the director was like, ‘What are you trying to do?’ and Vanessa came up to me and whispered in my ear, ‘Unclear decisions.’ She basically told me that my motive [as an actor] was not clear.”
While it almost sounds like Vanessa was mocking his work, Andie clarified that he actually appreciated her comment because “it put me in my place”. “And she wasn’t being malicious; it wasn’t like she was deliberately being b****y and putting me down,” he said.
Vanessa, on the other hand, brought up the time Andie made a gibe about the size of her Instagram fanbase. “I think he said something along the lines of, ‘Faster go post a picture for your five followers!’” she laughed.
FYI, @vanessavands has a five-figure following in reality, but we know @andiechen was just purposely being a nuisance.
(Continued on next page: Does Andie see himself becoming a “lion dad”?)
Does Andie see himself becoming a “lion dad”?
While Zhong Ming is not a father in the show, Andie himself is a famously devoted dad to kids Aden, who turns 5 this year, and Avery, who is turning 3.
With his son set to enter primary school in just a couple years’ time, Andie and his wife, actress Kate Pang, have already started exploring their options, with Andie’s own alma mater at the top of the list. In fact, they plan to move closer to the school if Aden gets in.
That’s about the most lion dad-like behaviour Andie sees himself displaying, though (and the relocation would be done entirely for convenience sake). “My wife and I were never fantastic in academics ourselves,” he explained. “Of course, we still want our kids to score decent marks, but it’s not a big deal if they don’t get all A’s.”
“However,” he continued. “A lot of parents have told me that once primary school starts, reality will set in, and sometimes the kids themselves are the ones who feel the pressure and ask for tuition. I don’t know how I’ll deal with that situation yet, but at the very least, I’ll try to ground my kids in what they love to do.”
(Continued on next page: Joshua Tan admits he’s not ready for kids)
Joshua Tan admits he’s not ready for kids
Another familiar face in the new season of Lion Mums is Ah Boys to Men star Joshua Tan, who returns as Marcus, the father of Vanessa’s onscreen son Kai (played by Keller Teh).
“In season 3, Marcus and Min Yi are working together to spend more time with Kai,” he shared with us during a phone interview from overseas. “We’re parents to him, but we’re not romantically involved, and I think that’s quite reflective of society: there are some couples who are purely functional parents.”
Joshua’s paternal role even continued when the cameras stopped rolling. “[Keller] is really fun and he has improved a lot, but he can be a bit playful, so we sometimes had to take on the role as pseudo-parents and tell him to focus and stop running around,” he chuckled. “He even called me ‘dad’!”
Despite this small dose of parenting “practice”, the 28-year-old, who is dating a medical student, admitted that he’s not ready to have little ones of his own. “I see how some parents have to look after their kids and it’s so much work! I’m not there yet,” he said.
For now, he’s content with being part of a programme that unabashedly deals with real and sometimes painful issues in society. “There’s child suicide, bullying, and in season 3 we even have sexual grooming,” he revealed. “Nobody really talks about it because of how conservative we are, but because I’m part of a show that talks about things that not many others will, it makes my job feel a bit more meaningful. If it can help some people, then it makes me feel good about myself.”
Lion Mums S3 airs every Monday, 9.30pm on Channel 5.
Watch episodes in advance on Toggle-It-First.