Your all-time favourite MediaCorp actors, ranked in legendary order
Remember the days when MediaCorp dramas were good? Well, me neither.
But as critical as we are of local offerings, you can’t deny the impact they made on us all, especially back in the days before international TV serials became easy to download and stream.
So, we present 23 MediaCorp actors (sorry, Guo Liang, Quan Yifeng, and Kym Ng — maybe next list) who are absolutely legendary in the local television scene.
23. Moses Lim
Who: Moses Lim is Tan Ah Teck, Koh Cheng Mun is Dor-lee… I can’t remember the rest.
Notable Roles: Co-host of long running Channel 8 variety show Comedy Nite, Tan Ah Teck in Under One Roof (1995 – 2001, 2003)
What he’s up to now: Has successfully morphed himself into a foodie icon, now appearing as a judge for various competitions. Fronted a restaurant opened by his daughter and son-in-law in 2012, but the porridge and zi char eatery closed in 2014, citing rising rentals and manpower woes.
22. Tay Ping Hui
Who: The former General Manager of the Singapore franchise of sandwich chain Subway, who was scouted after a modelling stint. Served as a member of PAP’s youth wing and allegedly almost became a PAP candidate after being invited for “tea sessions”.
Notable Roles: Various tough-guy roles where he plays either a policeman or C.I.D. agent. Had a bit role in Infernal Affairs II. Occasionally sings (badly) on MediaCorp’s countdown shows. Check out 3:56 onwards.
Let’s just say he’s no Sam Smith.
What he’s up to now: Actually hasn’t appeared in too many dramas since getting hitched with an NUS lecturer in 2010. Occasionally tweets about current affairs.
21. Adrian Pang
Who: A Law Graduate who opted for a career in theatre instead. One of the few artistes to flip from MediaCorp to MediaWorks and flop back again. Not that we’re saying he’s a flop. Far from it. Later branched into Mandarin dramas despite being a self-confessed ‘kentang’.
Notable Roles: Zhou Dadi in Portrait of Home (2005), Johnny Tan in Maggie & Me (2006-2008)
What he’s up to now: Left MediaCorp in 2010 to set up a stage productions company named “PANGDEMONiUM!”. Now appears in various theatre productions, including his own. Most recently turned up in Blackhat, alongside Chris Hemsworth and Wang Leehom.
20. Zhu Houren
Who: That uncle who always plays somebody’s dad and typically suffers a heart attack/stroke halfway through the series.
Notable Roles: Long Tingguang in The Unbeatables I, II, Zeng Nanhua in Wok of Life (1999)
What he’s up to now: Still acting, but no roles as iconic as the bad guy in The Unbeatables. Nominated for this year’s Star Award for Best Supporting Actor for In The Name of Love.
19. Fiona Xie
Who: A sultry vixen who was neither the best actress nor host, but managed to capture hearts and left all of us with a still-unfilled void. Might have something to do with her big…eyes.
Notable Roles: Genie 0385985 in My Genie (2001 – 2002). Maggie in Maggie & Me (2006-2008).
What she’s up to now: Spent some time in Hong Kong with boyfriend after leaving MediaCorp in 2009. Seems to be jet-setting these days. Posts super hipster arty stuff on her Instagram profile.
Stalk her on Instagram here (@xplacidacidx). Be prepared for disappointment if you’re expecting a ton of selfies though.
18. Ann Kok
Who: A finalist of the 1993 Star Search. Had fairly successful acting career without actually winning any awards before leaving in 2000 to pursue overseas opportunities. Returned to MediaCorp in 2005 to resume acting, this time portraying more ‘auntie’ characters.
Notable Roles: Saiman in Wok of Life (1999), Zeng Huixian in Housewife’s Holiday (2009)
What she’s up to now: Confirmed to have left MediaCorp for a second time in March 2014. Is said to be working on a “top secret” project.
17. Mark Lee
Who: Host/comedian known for his bad skin.
Notable Roles: Performer on Comedy Nite, host of 90% of Channel 8 variety shows in the 2000s, Lee Tok Kong in Police and Thief.
What he’s up to now: Made several investments including the Singapore branches of Old Town White Coffee. Still starring in movies, with his latest, King of Mahjong, opening on the first day of CNY this year.
16. Ivy Lee
Who: Winner of 1993 Star Search. Known for playing strong-willed career women, who happen to be Edmund Chen’s partner .
Notable Roles: Situ Yaxi in Double Happiness (2004), Zhao Shuyang in Family Matters (2006)
What she’s up to now: Left MediaCorp in 2009 to spend time with her family. Now resides in Hong Kong with her 4 children.
15. Chen Shucheng
Who: One of the first actors in Singapore ever. Started his career in 1971 way back when TVs were still in black and white. Still looks really good for a 66-year-old. Evolved from playing a young playboy to a strict father, and more recently, a cranky grandfather.
Notable Roles: Tan Kah Kee in The Price of Peace (1997), Zhou Dong/Zhang Guangyang in Portrait of Home (2004), host of Econ Nite
What he’s up to now: Still acting at MediaCorp. Won the first award of his career in 2012, earning a standing ovation. Will appear in Super Seniors with other MediaCorp veterans, set to air on Channel 8 later this year.
14. Qi Yiwu
Who: Studied at the Guangzhou Sport University before moving to Singapore for Star Search 1999. Has since appeared in various Channel 8 serials and a good number of Hong Kong/Chinese films. Amazingly starred in a sitcom in his early career, despite looking (and behaving) like that sullen weird kid from primary school. Sometimes called 715 because that’s what his Chinese name also kinda sounds like.
Notable Roles: Zhang Taiping in My Genie (2001-2002), Chen Xi in The Little Nonya (2008), Tang Yew Jia in C.L.I.F (2011-2014)
What he’s up to now: Surprised half of Singapore by getting hitched to Joanne Peh in a hush-hush ceremony in front of the Sentosa Merlion. Further surprised the other half of Singapore by announcing Joanne’s pregnancy just 5 months later.
13. Chen Hanwei
Who: Sang his way into our hearts with his role as floppy-haired guitar player in 1995 telemovie Cupid Love (七月俏佳人). Never mind if you don’t remember that movie — you surely remember the theme song. Get ready for the feels~~
He later took a break from showbiz to concentrate on his image and fashion stylist interests. Returned to silver screens after a two-year absence with a Best Actor award for Love Me, Love Me Not in 2001.
Notable Roles: Fang Ansheng in The Morning Express (1995), Lin Yiqin in Love Me, Love Me Not (2011), Chen Bufan in By My Side (2008)
What he’s up to now: Monopolized dowdy ‘uncle’ characters in the last couple of years, often involving ridiculous physical transformations.
12. Gurmit Singh
Who: All-round entertainer who started off as a comedian who later branched into hosting and acting, even crossing over to Channel 8 for several projects despite not really being able to speak Mandarin. Also portrayed a certain well-loved, curly-haired contractor while getting stick for talking weird on Singapore Idol.
Check out his intro for Stacie Orrico (remember her?) and equally weird post-performance interview here.
Notable Roles: Phua Chu Kang in Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd (1997 – 2007), hosting what seems to be every NDP in recent history.
What he’s up to now: Left MediaCorp after 20 years in November 2014, preferring to devote more time to his family. His daughter also made headlines after she wrote a passionate letter expressing her disgruntlement at fashion chain Forever 21 for playing inappropriate in-store music. Allegedly owned a Lamboghini supercar.
11. Chen Liping
Who: Burst into public consciousness as roly-poly Teacher “Miss Ai-Yo-Yo” in Good Morning, Sir! before continuing to play a teacher in ABC English for Children, apparently because why not. Was caught in a little snafu when the Slim 10 slimming pills she fronted ended up causing one death and made Andrea De Cruz undergo a liver transplant.
Notable Roles: “Miss Ai-Yo-Yo” in Good Morning Sir! (1989), Mo Wanwan in Holland V (2003), Lin Zhengyi in Unriddle (2010-2012)
What she’s up to now: Recently played the on-screen wife of her real-life husband Rayson Tan in a Channel 8 drama for the first time in 20 years.
10. Huang Biren
Who: Gave up a place in Hawaii Pacific University to pursue an acting career in 1988. Became the first Singaporean to be nominated for the Asian Television Awards with her role in Stand By Me in 1998. Would later be nominated for two more times in 2003 and 2007. Known for her height (1.75m) and on-screen versatility.
Notable roles: Lin Wenyu in Stand By Me (1998), Fan Ke Lian in Beautiful Connection (2002),
What she’s up to now: Left MediaCorp in 2008, preferring to spend more time with her family instead. Appeared in 2014’s Three Wishes after a six-year hiatus to largely favourable reviews. She has not signed a new contract with MediaCorp, but is instead working on ad-hoc projects.
9. Chew Chor Meng
Who: Won Star Search 1990, and eventually became one of MediaCorp’s most well-known faces. Was cast as Ah Bee, the original Lobang King, in Don’t Worry, Be Happy in 1996. That role eventually got it’s own spin-off (Lobang King) and paved the way for Chew to play Mr Kiasu in his first Channel 5 appearance. Relive your childhood with this episode:
Notable roles: Ah Bee in Don’t Worry, Be Happy (1996 – 2003), You Ri’an/You Yongfu in Wok of Life (1999), Ng Kaida in The Golden Path (2007)
What he’s up to now: Diagnosed with Kennedy’s disease, a debilitating muscular dystrophy disease, in 2008, affecting his ability to walk. Doctors gave him 18 months to live, but Chew stayed in the industry, bouncing back with dramedy 118, which has been picked up for a further 80 episodes after its initial run in late 2014.
8. Christopher Lee
Who: A Malacca native who emerged runner-up in the 1995 Star Search. Still remembered for wearing an apron at the Star Awards.
Went to jail for a month in 2006 in a hit-and-run accident. Apparently he was out drinking and really wanted that Jalan Besar curry rice. It’s okay Chris, we know the feel.
Notable Roles: Xie Guomin in The Price of Peace (1997), Yang Guo in The Return of The Condor Heroes (1998), various period dramas in the 90’s
What he’s up to now: Got married to The Return of The Condor Heroes co-star Fann Wong in 2009, and welcomed their ridiculously cute first born, Zed, on National Day 2014.
7. Fann Wong
Who: Her real full name is Fann Woon Fong, a lesser-known fact that tripped up Singaporean Who Wants To Be A Millionaire contestants. One of the few Singaporean actors to appear in a Hollywood production (Shanghai Knights). Btw she’s married to the actor placed #8.
Notable Roles: Li Mingzhu in The Golden Pillow (1995), Jane in The Truth About Jane and Sam (1999), Chon Lin in Shanghai Knights (2003)
What she’s up to now: Oh you mean apart from looking absolutely killer after giving birth?
Nothing much else, it seems.
6. Zoe Tay
Who: Known as the Queen of Caldecott Hill after her numerous roles on Channel 8. Started her showbiz career after winning the first-ever Star Search in 1988. Attracted some controversy in 2008 with the highly suggestive ad featured above.
Well. Let’s just say husband Philip Chionh is a very pleased man.
Also, she doesn’t appear to have a wiki page.
Notable Roles: Bobo in Pretty Faces (1991), Luo Qifang in The Unbeatables I, II, and III (1993 -2002), Fang Bao Yu in La Femme (2008)
What she’s up to now: Is now a mother of 3. Recently turned up on an 8 Days cover, where BFF hairstylist David Gan claimed she wasn’t scheming enough.
5. Huang Wenyong
Who: Graduated from the same batch of actors as Xiang Yun, and appeared with her in 1984 drama series The Awakening. Was a teacher in Kuala Lumpur before moving to Singapore.
Notable Roles: He Ah Shui in The Awakening (1984), Ong Kim Lye in Don’t Worry Be Happy (1996 – 2002)
What he’s up to now: Huang passed away in 2013 due to lymphoma cancer. His condition was kept private until his death, because it was something he wanted to go through himself. Fans and colleagues turned out in droves for his funeral.
In October 2014, a wax figure of the veteran was revealed at Madame Tussauds Museum Singapore.
4. Xiang Yun
Who: The ultimate Ah Jie in the TV scene. Among the first locally-trained actors when she made her debut in 1980. Half of one of the most popular on-screen partners with Huang Wenyong in The Awakening. Married fellow actor Edmund Chen in 1989. Her real name is Chen Cui Chang (陈翠嫦).
Notable Roles: Ah Mei in The Awakening (1984), Luo Jiaxi in Double Happiness (2004), Tian Lan in The Little Nonya (2008).
What she’s up to now: Currently filming Super Senior, a Channel 8 drama about seniors living their life to the fullest. The drama will air in June.
3. Li Nanxing
Who: Single-handedly made gambling cool in a time when Integrated Resorts weren’t even a thing. And rocking this old school hairstyle and suit better than you:
Also, his English name is Jonathan Lee Nam Chey.
Notable Roles: Yan Fei in The Unbeatables I, II, and III (1993 -2002), On The Fringe (1987, and another serial with the same name in 2011).
What he’s up to now: Currently still starring in Channel 8 dramas. Has recently expressed an interest for lighter roles. Yan Fei acting in a comedy? What will they come up with next?
2. Lim Kay Tong
Who: Probably one of the few Singaporean actors to appear on TV and speak only English throughout his career. Also one of the few local actors to be trained in the UK.
Notable Roles: Mr Tay on Growing Up (1996-2001), host and narrator of True Files (2002-2007)
What he’s up to now: Recently starred in futuristic drama 2025, and will continue his streak of starring in number-titled projects with the film 1965, set to be released later this year. Lim will be playing the role of Lee Kuan Yew in the Singapore jubilee project, and it won’t be his first time playing a character of that name.
His character in 2004 film, Perth, was also named Harry Lee.
1. Xie Shaoguang
Who: Once said to be the best actor in MediaCorp, but gave it all up when he left showbiz with the expiration of his contract in 2005.
Notable Roles: Ji Gong in The Legend of Jigong (1997), Zhang Jia Fu in Stepping Out (1999), Yang Xiong in Holland V (2003).
What he’s up to now: He later set up vegetarian eatery Three O Cafe in in Johor, and dedicated his time to studying Buddhism. In 2013, Xie was ordained as a monk and shunned all media attention. Director Anthony Chen wanted to cast him in Ilo Ilo, but Xie wanted no part in showbiz, leaving the award-winning director to wait for three hours in Malaysia.
Legends, each and every one of them
There we have it. A (largely) exhaustive list of legendary MediaCorp actors all the way from when the first television appeared on our shores. Did we miss out our favourite actor? Should somebody be higher up on the list? Is someone undeservedly overrated? Let us know in the comments below!
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