Remember Zhou Ying?
The Star Search 2007 (the competition that produced stars like Andie Chen, Ya Hui and Desmond Tan) alumnus might have only been in Singapore for a few short years, but the Shanghai-born actress certainly made a splash with her acting chops. Among her most memorable roles is as Tang Ying in Breakout, which also earned her a Best Actress nom during the 2011 Star Awards.
When she decided to pack her bags and return to Shanghai at the peak of her career in 2013, some wondered if she was going home to get married, or if she was retiring from showbiz. At the time, she shared that she wanted to spend more time with her family.
Fast forward six years later, and Zhou Ying chuckled that there was more to it than she realised at the time. When we caught up with the 34-year-old over coffee at Wild Honey during her vacation in Singapore last week, she shared: “I was just so burned out that I felt like I had nothing more to give.
“I filmed three dramas a year – maybe even more – and I was exhausted. I didn’t have time to recuperate, and I felt like there wasn’t anything new I could show through my acting. That’s when I knew I needed a change.”
This change includes a conscious effort to pick up a maximum of one drama and one movie, or their equivalent in terms of commitment, a year. She is still very much into acting, and has continued challenging herself by taking on projects that push her limits. She took on her first theatre play last year as she felt that she needed to force herself to be better at memorising her script, and proudly declared that she pulled off a two-and-a-half hour production with aplomb.
She mused, “I need breaks in between my projects. I can’t just rest for a day. I need weeks, or even better, a month to rest, recharge and recuperate. I also have my family and friends to think of. I need time to paktor (date) as well.”
As for who she’s paktor-ing with, Zhou Ying shared that she has been dating her non-celebrity boyfriend for about eight years.
“I got to know him even before I came to Singapore. We started dating before I came here, and we were in a long distance relationship when I was working here,” she said. “Now that I look back, I don’t know how we managed to maintain our relationship, but we did. I guess it’s also because the both of us are very similar in the sense that we work out our problems rather than to avoid talking about it, only for all of it to pile up and come back to haunt us later on.”
At this point, she had to clarify that she is still very much unmarried. “Both of us are very lucky that we have very understanding parents,” she explained. “As our elders, they are understandably concerned about our future, but they’re also very respectful of our wishes, which we’re grateful for. We’ll be getting married soon, though!”
Although she declined to shed more light on her definition of ‘soon’, the huge smile on her face when talking about her other half tells us that she’s very much, and very adorably, in love.
While we were on the topic of her family, Zhou Ying revealed something about her mother that surprised us – she likes to tag along when the actress returns to Singapore to stock up on her favourite coffee.
“She likes Old Town White Coffee and Owl Brand Coffee,” she laughed. “That’s the only thing that she drinks. She has been drinking ‘Singapore coffee’ every morning for the past eight or nine years. If she runs out, she gets our friends who are visiting Singapore to buy some for her. She doesn’t like the coffee we have at home – it has to be from Singapore.”
Since her mama wasn’t able to accommodate the long trip this time around, Zhou Ying was tasked to bring close to 20 packets of her prized coffee back home. “I don’t have the same habit as her, so I don’t really get it. Perhaps it reminds her of her time here in Singapore. Both of us still love coming back every time.”
Another thing that Zhou Ying has on her to-do list before she goes home is to meet up with Zoe Tay – but there was one big problem.
“She’s the Ah Jie! I can’t just ask her out like that, right?” Zhou Ying asked in mock horror when we suggested that she slide into her Instagram DMs. “I really want to meet her since she’s someone I look up to very much. I was her reel-life daughter in Devotion and I remember a scene where I was getting arrested and she looked at me with tears brimming in her eyes.”
“At the time, I didn’t quite know what I should be doing in the scene, but with her being so into her character, she really brought my acting to the next level. I still remember the exact look that she had on her face during that scene – that’s how impactful it was,” she gushed.
In case she didn’t manage to muster up the courage to ask Ah Jie out this time around, here’s a public shoutout to Zoe that there’s someone that really wants to meet you.