All publicity is good publicity, you say? Well, not for Elvin Ng. The Ch 8 actor recently made headlines for not-so-uplifting reasons. It all started with a news report in a local paper that claimed the actor’s year-long absence on Ch 8 primetime after winning the All-Time Favourite Artiste award last year was ’cos he was kept in “cold storage”. The report, which was based on a tip-off from a netizen known only by a mysterious IG handle, had cited anonymous industry sources who claimed the reasons for that were that the 37-year-old actor was “difficult to work with” and “there was no improvement in his acting”. Thereafter, Elvin went on to refute the “cold storage” rumour on various platforms, including our cover story last week, where he had questioned “the credibility of the story”.

While the dust is settling from that recent hoo-ha, Elvin’s mood seems far from settled. That much we glimpse during our chat with the actor at the press con of his upcoming Ch 8 drama Gifted (which will air on primetime, no less!), in which he plays a former child prodigy who gets recruited by a mysterious tycoon to locate his missing son. Our question posed to Elvin seemed innocuous enough: What is one gift or talent that the actor would like to have? His reply: “I’d want to be able to spread positive energy so that it can cover anything that is negative. Life is hard enough as it is — we don’t need people who try and step on others or say bad things about others.” Sounds like just another one of Elvin’s philosophical musings, except that in light of that recent saga, that comment has more shade-throwing meaning than a T-Swift diss track

But we get why Elvin is feeling less-than-perky today. The buzz has died down considerably, but the drama isn’t quite over. A day prior to this press con, a follow-up report by the same paper called Elvin out for only addressing the claim that he was “difficult to work with” but avoided talking about his “bad acting”. We ask Elvin what he has to say about that report. “I’ve had roles along the way in dramas like I’m in Charge, Unriddle and Eat Already? that were very well-received by the audience. And this affinity that I have with viewers is invaluable,” he tells us. “You could talk about the technicalities [of acting], but that’s subjective. For example, there was once when [Zhang] Yaodong sent me a message that said, ‘Hey, I saw your show. There was this scene I liked a lot and I think you acted really well in that scene.’ It’s not common that we get [such messages] from our colleagues and peers, so I think it was very nice of him.”

He added: “[One’s acting skills] is not all just measured by nominations or awards. I want to be the best actor that I can be, and I’ll continue to work on [my acting] to gain more respect. But at the end of the day, my productions and roles speak for themselves.” 

Acting aside, when we ask Elvin to tell us a secret gift he has, the actor cheekily confesses about his natural flair for haggling like a pro. “I’m very good at negotiating and bargaining. Call me a cheapo,” jokes Elvin. “If I have to joke around with the seller, act cute or be thick-skinned just to get the price I want, then I would. I bargain even when I’m in Singapore. Do the storeowners recognise me? They do! That’s the problem! (Laughs) Of course, I’d feel paiseh. You would think that as an artiste, I should be considering my image, right? But when I’m buying something, I don’t see myself as an artiste, but a consumer. Most recently, I was keen to buy an antique horse that cost $1,800. I really love it but I wasn’t willing to pay that price. I was hoping they could sell it to me for $1,000. But I felt very paiseh so I told the staff to help me tell her lady boss. She eventually agreed to sell it to me for $1,200. After that, I said, ‘No need delivery, I’ll carry it back myself!’ (Laughs)

Gifted debuts July 9, on Ch 8, 9pm.