In upcoming Ch 8 dialect drama How Are You?, veteran actor Richard Low plays a senior citizen who scrimps and saves to send his only son overseas to study. Upon graduation, his son found a good job in foreign land and sets up home there. As a result, Richard’s lonesome character living on his own sinks into depression.
That sobering picture couldn’t be further from the septuagenarian’s real-life situation. Richard, who lives with his wife and three kids, keeps himself occupied with work by being a regular fixture in Ch 8 dramas. And in How Are You?, he pulls double duty as a dialect coach to his fellow actors, thanks to actor-turned-Executive Producer Zheng Geping who roped him in for the crucial task. These days, when he’s not busy acting or coaching, Richard fills his time with recreational activities such as scuba diving, showing that one can have a splashing good time even at 66.
8 DAYS: In Ch 8 dialect drama How Are You?, which aims to keeps seniors updated on new government policies, the actors speak in Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese. And you’re the appointed Hokkien coach for your fellow actors.
RICHARD LOW: The drama’s EP Zheng Geping knows that I’m a 100 per cent Hokkien man. So he asked me to help the actors with their Hokkien lines. This is my first time being a dialect coach, so I feel a bit uneasy. Actually, when I acted in Eat Already?, I also helped Rebecca Lim and Elvin Ng with their Hokkien lines. This time, in How Are You?, I’m mainly helping Romeo Tan. Sometimes, Desmond Ng and Sheila Sim will also ask me for help.
Which actor is the most hardworking?
I think all of them are very hardworking when it comes to learning Hokkien. You can see how serious they are about learning Hokkien from how densely covered their scripts are with phonetic symbols. (Laughs)
The drama also highlights issues affecting the elderly like cost of living, vigilance against scams and loneliness. What’s the greatest issue you currently face as a senior citizen?
At the moment, I don’t have any big issues. But 32 years ago, I was diagnosed with kidney stones. The doctor told me to drink more water and watch my diet. I avoid certain kinds of food ’cos those could cause a recurrence of kidney stones. Since then, I also started drinking a lot of water. The moment I wake up, I’d drink 600ml of water. And I’d also eat more fruits and vegetables. Of course, I also love eating fried food, but not too often. I think if one were to keep eating healthy food, then life would be too meaningless. (Laughs)
In the drama, you play a lonely senior citizen who sinks into depression. Is that something you can relate to?
Yes. It’s not just the elderly who may feel lonely. Even for young people, if you don’t make more friends, or have any social activities, and keep cooping yourself up at home alone after work, you’ll also feel lonely. (Laughs)
What do you do to keep yourself occupied?
Since young, I’ve been an avid swimmer. But after a while, I found swimming not that exciting. So I learnt scuba diving at the age of 63. In 2016, I received the Open Water Diver certificate. And this year, at the age of 66, I was awarded the Advanced Open Water (AOW) Diver certificate.
When did you pick up scuba diving?
In 2011, I travelled to Maldives with my family ’cos my wife said that the scenery there is very beautiful. Over there, if you don’t take part in activities, it can be boring. And the most interesting thing to do there is scuba diving. My wife doesn’t know how to swim. So I learnt diving with my three kids. According to the instructor, you can still dive even if you don’t know how to swim. But I think it’s quite dangerous so I didn’t want my wife to take the risk. On the first day of the class, I learnt some theories and practical stuff. On the second day, we went diving. When I came back to Singapore, I didn’t touch the activity again for a very long time. Until I shot  Ch 8 drama Super Senior, where I had a few diving scenes.
Do you still scuba dive?
Yes, I often go diving with my friends who are also in their 60s. One of my friends owns a yacht and he takes us diving off Tioman Island [in Malaysia]. My test for the AOW Diver course was also in Tioman. During the course, I learnt how to do underwater navigation. We were also required to dive at night. We go in a group and each person holds a torchlight. So, you see, if a senior citizen like myself can do this kind of activity, how could I still be lonely? (Laughs) Plus, diving is really fun. You’d think that only young people do such activities, but I started diving only when I was in my 60s. One of my diving companions owns a restaurant, and he has his chef follow us on our diving expeditions. So for every meal, we get to eat a feast! (Laughs)
Where do you go diving?
The most convenient place is Tioman Island. I’ve dived there many times. It has nice underwater scenery. I’ve also been to diving sites in Indonesia and Thailand. The place that I really want to go diving is Maldives ’cos it’s very beautiful. The last time I was there, my diving skills weren’t up to standard. Now, I can dive through even small crevices. I can say that I dive very well now. (Laughs)
Given that you’re 66 this year, have you ever thought about retiring?
If I’m in the pink of health, I wish to continue acting until I’m 70. When I’m 70, then I’ll decide again. As long as you’re up for it, acting is a job that you can do no matter what age you are! (Smiles)
How Are You? airs Jan 4, 2019, 11.30am, on Ch 8.