Tan Kee Yun
The New Paper
Monday, Jun 22, 2015
At the lensing ceremony of Channel 8’s year-end blockbuster drama The Dream Makers 2 last Friday, local actress Zoe Tay referred to co-star Huang Biren’s face as “qian bian”, a Mandarin phrase meaning “annoying to the point that it deserves a beating”.
Then, when asked why it took 27 years for them to finally star in the same show, the 47-year-old Caldecott queen replied with a glint in her eye: “One mountain cannot accommodate two tigers, right?”
Hold on, is there bad blood between these two leading ladies? Was Tay feeling the heat from award-winning Huang, 46, who is widely recognised as one of local television’s finest actresses?
As it turns out, Tay was merely channelling the on-screen animosity and hostility between their characters in The Dream Makers 2, the sequel to 2013’s hit series The Dream Makers.
Continuing the drama’s focus on catfights and shenanigans in showbiz, Tay and Huang play opposing high-powered vice-presidents of a TV drama unit.
Their characters’ personalities clash instantly — while Tay emphasises the artistic value and meaning of her projects, Huang is emotionally detached, results-oriented and all about the numbers.
The Dream Makers 2, with a star-studded ensemble cast that includes Qi Yuwu, Rui En, Jeanette Aw, Li Nanxing, Romeo Tan and Julie Tan, premieres on Dec 3 at 9pm.
Not only does this show mark Tay’s and Huang’s first collaboration, it will also go down as one of the rare occasions — on TV, that is — that has Huang in a smart power suit.
“In the past, I used to play a lot of housewives, demure good wives and doting mums, whereas in The Dream Makers 2, my image is totally different. My character’s a very fashionable person, she’s almost like a style icon. It’s definitely very refreshing for me.”
While audiences can gleefully indulge in the actresses’ endless bickering on screen, they reassure everyone that there is no rivalry or competition between them off-screen.
Indeed, the two are great friends in real life and invite each other’s family to their kids’ birthday bashes, said Huang.
“We’re similar in many ways. Aside from being mums, we’re both straightforward. She doesn’t like to gossip and neither do I.”
Both Tay and Huang have three children each. So do they foresee immersing themselves in their roles when they start filming The Dream Makers 2, to the extent that they start fighting off-camera? Very unlikely, said Tay.
“Our long-time friendship is built on trust and understanding. If it really happens, it’d just show that we are extremely immature,” she said.
Huang echoed similar sentiments. “We are no longer young, you know,” she said with a laugh. “We’re not those newbies who are super competitive. Maybe if we were younger, it could happen. But well, we never got to encounter that.”
Huang made her showbiz comeback last October, after a seven-year absence, in top-rated dramas Three Wishes and Tiger Mum.
For those wondering if Tay can’t help but feel a tiny bit threatened by her counterpart, the answer is no. On the contrary, Tay said she knew Huang was an acting powerhouse early on in her careerin the late 1980s.
“We debuted around the same time, Biren was from Singapore Broadcasting Corporation’s (formerly MediaCorp) drama performers’ training course, while I was from (acting competition) Star Search,” Tay said.
“After Star Search, I attended SBC’s acting classes and I remembered my instructor telling us that he had a trainee who was especially talented and had lots of potential. It was none other than Biren.”
For now, the duo are simply relishing the chance to act opposite each other. “We specially took a photo this morning and posted it on Instagram,” said Huang with a laugh.
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