In his new Ch 8 drama My Teacher is a Thug, Terence Cao plays a gambling addict who just happens to be dad to a pre-school kid. And the actor who has a six-year-old kid with former flame, 31-year-old Shi Si Mei from Shanghai, says that being a parent has helped him with his role.
“The trick to working with kids is to be patient with them," he tells us at the press con for the drama, which also stars also starring Li Nanxing, Bonnie Loo and Phyllis Quek. "They can be very lively and they tend not to stick to the script. We have to be receptive to them doing random things while on set. We need to know their soft spots and find ways to understand and coax them.”
But when it comes to his own daughter, Shi En, the 49-year-old says that he’s very strict and doesn’t go out of his way to spoil her.
“I spanked her when she was younger but now that she’s six, I don’t do that anymore,” Terence says. “Instead, I’d keep nagging at her non-stop. She’s very stubborn and would argue back, so I’d keep nagging until she cries.”
He adds: “It’s not easy, you know. Most of the time, parents would become soft-hearted and give up. I don’t give in to her as I need her to know that she’s in the wrong. I’d say that I’m a pretty stern dad (smiles).”
8 DAYS: Your daughter lives in Shanghai with her mother. How often do you get to meet her?
TERENCE CAO: Actually I just saw her last week! (Laughs) She came to Singapore with her mum for a holiday for eight days. She loves to do outdoor activities, so I brought her to Sentosa, to the swimming pool, and also to the hawker centre. I wanted to feed her local food but she told me she still prefers Shanghainese food (laughs). I am on cordial terms with her mum now, and I see them once every six months. Most of the time, they come to Singapore as it’s easier for us to coordinate our timings. If I fly there, I need to adhere to my daughter’s schedule as she needs to go to school etc. My mum’s the happiest whenever my daughter comes here, as she dotes on her a lot. When we don’t meet, we’d speak to each other via FaceTime and WeChat.
You only see your daughter once every six months. Does she whine or complain about not having enough time with you?
She used to miss me a lot more when she was younger (chuckles). She used to hug me and kiss me and was more affectionate towards me. Nowadays, she’d do her own things but from time to time, she’d surprise me with small acts like offering me a piece of the cake that she’s eating. When such things happen, I feel really touched.
You mentioned that you re a strict dad. What else do you do besides nagging at your daughter?
I know what her weaknesses are. For example, if she misbehaves and she badly wants to go somewhere, I’d tell her: “Nope, I’m not going to take you there.” If she’s very naughty, I won’t let her have her dinner until she admits she’s in the wrong. However, if my mum is there, she’d scold me and shield my daughter. So I can only discipline her when my mum isn’t around (laughs).
Are there any plans for your daughter to study in Singapore?
Not at all. The future is in China. Look around you, how many of us can speak proper Mandarin? I think it’s good to let my daughter live in Shanghai as the city is progressing so fast. At the same time, I don’t want her to be separated from her mum, they are very close. I don’t have to worry about her not speaking English too as she learns that in school! She even has English tuition a few times a week (laughs). It’s very competitive in Shanghai, and we have to keep up with the competition too (smiles).
My Teacher is a Thug premieres on Aug 28, 9pm on Ch 8.
PHOTO BY CHEE YAN