By Gwendolyn Ng,
The Straits Times,
Tuesday, Oct 14
After going missing from TV dramas for seven years after her contract with MediaCorp ended in 2008, acclaimed Singapore actress Huang Biren snapped back into action after hearing a producer pay a moving tribute to mothers everywhere.
Mr Molby Low, executive producer of her new drama 3 Wishes, told Huang: "Women are the pillars of families. Women are usually the ones who hold the families together."
That statement struck a resonant chord with Huang, a mother of three who has put her career on the backburner for her family.
"After having stayed at home for six years, I could relate to what Molby said. I could feel what he wanted from the character," she says at a press conference on Tuesday for the new drama.
She adds: "He unabashedly recognises the role of women in the family. He was very sincere. Since I knew he would be involved in the writing of the character, I had full confidence to take on the role."
She plays Shanmei, the dedicated wife of an assistant horse trainer (played by Thomas Ong), who makes three supernaturally granted wishes that change the lives of his family.
Her character's dedication to the family is not the only element of the role that she identifies with. During a preview of the drama at the press event, it is revealed that Shanmei contracts a serious disease. Huang herself experienced a major health scare last year.
The three-time Best Actress winner at the Star Awards was initially due to return to Channel 8 in the blockbuster production, The Journey: A Voyage. But she had to pull out from the series to undergo surgery to remove a 10cm cyst on one of her kidneys last April.
She says: "I can definitely relate to what Shanmei goes through, I can truly feel her fear. Although I was told the surgery was not a complicated one, it was still an operation and it involved the kidney, a vital organ.
"If I were to say that I didn't fret or worry, it's really bulls**t. In every operation, there is a risk of complications. I was worried, my children are so young." She has a son, Justin, 14, and two daughters, six-year-old Janessa and four-year-old Janelle.
After she left MediaCorp over disagreements in the contract terms in 2008, she was approached several times with acting offers. But she did not take them up because either the timing or the role was not right.
She was also busy helping Justin prepare for his Primary School Leaving Examination a few years ago. Now a freelance actress, she will start filming another Channel 8 drama called Tiger Mum next month - as the titular character.
She confesses: "I can be a tiger mum when needed. Discipline is necessary. When you have three kids, things may get out of control. "There's no tiger dad at home. Daddy dotes on them, and he doesn't really scold them."
Ironically, her 47-year-old husband Adrian Quek is in the police force. But even tiger mothers need a break. The eloquent Huang says that she relishes her time on the filming set.
"I'm busier when I'm a stay-at-home mother - I'm on standby 24 hours at home. But when I'm filming, there are breaks in between shooting to chat with friends over a cup of coffee," she adds.
"I'm a multi-tasking mum. When I stay at home, there's plenty for me to do. I tutor my kids, I chauffeur them to school and enrichment classes, and I'm also their nutritionist and dietician."
3 Wishes premieres on Channel 8 on Oct 27 at 9pm.