It's not often that we hear a 22-year-old come clean about how her favourite bedfellow is her mum. But here we are with Chantalle Ng, who is unabashedly pouring out details of what she tells her mum, veteran Ch 8 actress Lin Meijiao, in the queen-sized bed they share in their semi-d house every night. “I'd tell her which guy I like, which eye candy I'm checking out,” giggles Chantalle, who’s starring in new Ch 8 coming-of-age drama While We Are Young alongside other second-gen actors like Calvert Tay (son of Hong Huifang and Zheng Geping) and Chen Yi Xin (daughter of Xiang Yun and Edmund Chen). “We have had heart-to-heart chats daily since I was very young. It’s very precious to me and I don't see why I should sleep in another room now that I'm older.” It’s easy to understand why the mother and daughter share such a strong Gilmore Girls-ish bond. After all, Meijiao filed for divorce from former Ch 8 actor Huang Yiliang when Chantalle was just a few months old and single-handedly raised her over the past two decades. The pair officially divorced in 1997 after six years of marriage. But yes, back to the bed.
“I've been telling her to go sleep in her own room as she sleeps much later than I do these days but she refuses!” says Meijiao, 53. “We can’t possibly cling on to each other for so long right? It's not like I won’t get to see her anymore if we don't sleep in the same bed.” (Laughs) “But I'm scared of ghosts!” protests Chantalle. “I want to share the same bed with you for as long as I can, until you die.” Um, sweet, but also very morbid. Turning to us, Chantalle, who is also a third-year Information Systems student at SMU, says: “Anyway, my mum doesn't mean what she says. I know deep inside, she wants to keep me by her side for as long as she can.” Meijiao’s reaction? “Wow, I’m so touched, I feel like crying already!” she beams.
8 DAYS: Despite the 30-year age gap, both of you behave like BFFs who hang out together.
LIN MEIJIAO: I love nature. Since she was young, I’d take her cycling at parks or at the beach. She isn’t very into computers and we only got wifi at home three years ago when she needed it for schoolwork. Personally, I’d rather not have Internet at home ’cos I seldom use it.
CHANTALLE NG: Yeah, I grew up having not heard of the Nintendo Game Boy or Wii. I didn’t even know how to use PowerPoint until I was in university. The way I was brought up didn’t revolve around technology or the Internet. Usually, I’d be chatting with my mum, or playing with my dog. My growing up years were some of the happiest days of my life.
MJ: We travel a lot too. I’ve taken her on road trips to Malaysia, Australia, Taiwan, just to name a few countries. I feel that taking a break from work from time to time is very important. Travelling is great because you need to see some things in real life to really experience it.
C: We love Australia so much that we go back every year. We’ve been to Canberra, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney and Melbourne. My mum makes it a point for us to travel together once or twice a year. For me, the most memorable trip was going to South Africa. We visited [former Ch 8 actress] Zheng Wanling who lives there with her [diplomat] husband. It was very surreal going to the safaris and seeing the wild animals up close. It was really an eye-opener for me.
We know you guys are very tight but surely there are things that you disagree on?
C: I’m extremely logical, but my mum is more emotional and she empathises with people easily. Sometimes, it can be quite obvious that someone is trying to scam her but she’d choose to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe him. It really frustrates me when that happens and we’d get into disagreements over such things.
Meijiao, let’s talk about what it was like bringing up Chantalle on your own.
MJ: I guess I’m someone who overestimates my own abilities sometimes, but I’ve never felt that being a single mum was difficult. Instead, I really enjoyed the time I got to spend with my only daughter over the years. I’ve loved kids since I was young. I used to play with my older sister’s children when I was in my 20s, so I was very happy when my daughter was born. I treated her like my precious doll (smiles).
You filed for divorce when Chantalle was just a baby.
C: Yeah, I think my mum’s a baller. It requires a lot of courage to get a divorce so quickly after giving birth.
MJ: What does baller mean? (laughs) Sometimes, when you no longer have feelings for someone and you can no longer live with the person anymore, it’s very tough to continue the relationship. To me, it’s better to just sever all ties and have a clean break. I think my courage came from my baby. I wanted to protect her and give her a better and healthier environment to grow up in, and that was why I could do it. Of course, it’s unfair to him [Huang Yiliang] if I put it this way, so I don’t really want to talk about the past anymore. It’s something I want to forget and I see it as clearing out rubbish from my life.
How did you explain to Chantalle the situation between you and her dad when she was older?
MJ: We chat in bed every night. After chatting, she would sing for me and tell me stories. She tells me all about her friends and what she learns in school every day. So, it was very natural for me to tell her all the things she needed to know when she became more sensible.
C: I tell my mum everything. I told her about my boyfriend when I was in poly too. I’m always super excited to come home and tell her about my dates.
MJ: Sometimes I look at the photos of the guys she shows me and I’m like: “Um…” (Laughs)
C: Hey, but my taste has improved over the years right? My mum’s opinion really means a lot to me!
MJ: You know what, I think you should get married soon! (Guffaws)
Chantalle, how do you feel when your mum nags at you to settle down?
C: (Chuckles) Sometimes, when I keep asking her for advice on work, she’d nag and say: “Don’t think so much. Go get married.” But for now, my plan is to settle down when I turn 40. I really don’t want to be in a rush to look for somebody. I want to take my time, slowly date for a few years, and be very sure before I settle down.
MJ: It doesn’t bother me when she says she’s going to get married at a later age ’cos human beings are fickle-minded! You never know if she will meet her Prince Charming one day and suddenly get hitched. (Laughs)
C: Yeah, maybe one day I’ll do a Xu Bin and announce my marriage at 28 (laughs).
How about Meijiao? Have you thought of remarrying now that your daughter is all grown up?
MJ: (Gasp) I don’t think about such things. To me, that’s one more thing to worry and think about and I don’t need that right now. When you accumulate too many things and thoughts, your heart feels heavy. At this stage of my life, I just want to declutter. I don’t need unnecessary burden.
C: I definitely approve of her dating someone else if she meets a good guy. However, judging from her personality, I think it’s totally out of the picture. It’s not something she’s looking for at all. I feel that the chance of her having another partner is close to zero (smiles).
While We Are Young premieres on Mon, Nov 6, 9pm on Ch 8.