Photos: Mediacorp, Instagram/Uriah See
For someone who readily admitted that he is as “cocky and confident” as his character Hennessy Goh in Fried Rice Paradise, Malaysian singer-actor Uriah See actually comes off as a pretty down-to-earth guy - or at least, that’s the impression we got during our recent 20-minute conversation via a Telegram voice call.
In fact, he instantly started contradicting himself when we asked him what he feels most confident about. “Actually, I often feel like I’m inferior,” he sighed. “But to answer your question, I would say… my music and my talents, I guess? [Pauses] And my looks. Sometimes.”
We’ve heard haughtier remarks from people who were actually trying to be humble.
This attitude of his is not a bad thing, of course. We wholeheartedly embrace modesty, especially in an up-and-coming young star like the 23-year-old Johor Bahru native, whom Singapore audiences will be introduced to when the Dick Lee stage-to-screen adaptation premieres on Channel 5 tonight (Jul 2).
While this will be his first time appearing in a local production, Uriah has already racked up quite an impressive list of achievements elsewhere: in 2014, he won the Astro Star Quest Chinese singing competition in his home country, before being crowned world champ at the TVB International Chinese New Talent Singing Championship in Hong Kong.
He has even spent a month training like a K-pop star in South Korea, released his own mini-album, and dabbled in acting with two Malaysian movies, including badminton icon Lee Chong Wei’s 2018 biopic. To top it all off, Uriah is a classically trained vocalist and violinist, and is currently participating in a televised competition for opera singers in China (more on that in a bit).
That’s a lot for a “cocky and confident” person to boast about, if you ask us.
Perhaps it’s because it’s a side that only comes out when he’s with his closest pals (and not a reporter he was speaking to on the phone for the first time in his life). Even then, he claimed he’s only pompous in a playful way.
“Sometimes I’ll get cocky and confident when I’m with my friends, but only jokingly,” he clarified. “The difference between Hennessy and I is that he’s cocky and confident in a serious way, while I had to make that playful side of me become serious.”
Uriah also admitted that he struggled with displaying his character’s weaker, more emotional aspects. “I hardly cry, and I had to cry for a lot of scenes,” he said. “I think I’m too used to suppressing my emotions, so the most eye-opening experience for me on set was learning to open up and feel what my character was feeling.”
Continued on next page: Uriah tells us more about his opera singing competition in China
Now that Fried Rice Paradise is done and dusted (with some valuable acting lessons learnt along the way), multi-talented Uriah has gone on to set his sights on another market: China.
The televised competition we mentioned earlier is called Super Vocal, a singing programme that is sort of like Produce 101 (the idol survival franchise that gave us I.O.I and Wanna One), but strictly for those with a background in opera and classical music. The first season wrapped up in January this year and was reportedly a hit with mainland audiences.
“There are no eliminations, but there are rankings every episode,” he explained. “Then, at the end of the competition, six to eight winners will be chosen based on their results from each episode’s rankings, and they’ll all get to go on tour around China.”
According to Uriah, he may be the only non-Chinese national among the 36 contestants. “I discovered the show through one of my friends and I really wanted to join because I’ve been doing classical music my whole life,” he shared. “So I told my company about it, and they made the arrangements.” After an interview and three rounds of auditions, he was in.
Among the things he had to get used to over there were the language and the working pace. “When you’re here you have to pretty much be on standby for 24 hours because they might just call you to do something out of the blue,” he said. “It was a bit shocking in the beginning!”
Well, at least the people are nice. “To my surprise, everyone is very kind, which is not what I expected at all - I thought it would be like those reality shows where everyone is very competitive!” Looks like we’re out of luck for juicy, dramatic tales. Then again, this is a respectable classical music competition, not some catty Top Model-like thing.
If things go according to plan, Uriah’s showbiz journey in the Middle Kingdom won’t end there, as his management company (which is based there) intends to focus on finding more opportunities for him to expand his career there. Super Vocal, of course, would be a great start.
A good-looking Johor Bahru-born lad who’s working to get his foot into the notoriously competitive Chinese entertainment market… could he have what it takes to become the next Lawrence Wong (who, for the handful of you reading this who might not know, made it big following his breakthrough role in Story of Yanxi Palace)?
Uriah responded to our question with a hearty laugh. “I’ve never thought of that before, but I do hope to achieve what he’s been able to,” he said. The pair, he revealed, has “met a couple of times”, but don’t know each other on a personal level.
“He’s been working very, very, very hard for many years and I’m happy that he finally made it,” he continued. “It’s not easy and I admire his determination in trying to stick through all the way, and I hope that someday I can be in his shoes.”
Fried Rice Paradise - The Drama Series premieres tonight (Jul 2) and airs Tuesdays, 9.30pm on Channel 5.
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