Photos: Mediacorp Channel 5, Instagram/Thomas Ong
After almost 100 episodes, viewers of Channel 5 long-form drama KIN have finally been introduced to the mysterious Steven Loh, the estranged husband of May Wan (Margaret Lim) who has suddenly returned into her life after his disappearance 15 years ago.
The role of suave and smooth-talking but shady Steven is played by none other than veteran Channel 8 actor Thomas Ong in what marks his very first English-speaking project in over two decades. While he found the new experience “refreshing”, it’s also been giving him no small amount of stress.
One of the biggest challenges stems from having to speak “proper” English instead of Singlish, which the 50-year-old is more used to. For instance, as he shared with us during our interview on Wednesday (Feb 27), he has to remember to place more emphasis on the letter “D” in “good”, and pronounce the word “this” more clearly (instead of saying “dis”).
Language issues aside, Thomas also has to get used to not being as in control as he would be on the set of a Chinese drama. “I usually give suggestions or make small changes to the script, but for KIN, I have to adapt to everything completely,” he explained.
WATCH: Thomas’s character’s real identity was revealed at the end of KIN episode 92
Then there is his need to perfect the performance itself. Instead of making Steven a superficial, one-dimensional not-so-good guy (it’s probably a little too early to use the word “villain”), Thomas is constantly ensuring that he adds depth to his character, while taking care not to go overboard (“I don’t want to over-act, but I don’t want to under-act either”).
He also hinted at some dark developments in the near future for Steven. “He appears to be a loving father, but there are moments when you can sense that something is wrong,” he said. This means that as an actor, Thomas has to strike the right balance between portraying a seemingly wholesome family man and a dubious figure with secrets to be uncovered.
On the bright side, Thomas happily reported that he gets along very well with his co-stars, especially Margaret, Jasmine Sim (who plays Ella), Maxi Lim (Ah Hock), and Timothy Lee (Handsome), whom he has the most scenes with. “I’m not on set very often but I’m glad that we’ve started to build up our chemistry as filming goes along,” he smiled.
Continued on next page: Why has Thomas Ong stopped working on his own scripts?
Why has Thomas Ong stopped working on his own scripts?
The reason Thomas even accepted the part in the first place is very simple: it fits into his schedule. As he only needs to be on set for about four to five days a month, he has plenty of time for his other endeavours, such as taking care of the two Cambodian schools he is funding (he makes monthly trips to the country) and learning more about behind-the-scenes magic, such as videography and editing (so he can film whatever he wants in the future that “sparks joy”, as he said with a chortle).
One creative undertaking that has been put on hold is script-writing - and for a heart-breaking reason. According to Thomas, he had been developing stories alongside his 29th February co-star Aloysius Pang, and they were planning to meet up and show each other their work. Sadly, they never managed to find time to do so before Aloysius passed away in January.
“Not being able to finish working [on our scripts] with him is one of my biggest regrets,” he sighed. “I was quite upset for a while, and I still haven’t been able to bring myself to touch my scripts again.”
Let’s hope Thomas manages to find the strength to pick up from where he left off. In the meantime, he’ll be busy with KIN and working towards garnering enough support for his Cambodian schools for the next two to three years. “After that, then I can do my own thing.”
KIN airs weeknights, 8.30pm on Channel 5.
Watch episodes of KIN on Toggle.