The New Paper
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
When Joel Lok was 13, he became the youngest person to win Australia's Inside Film Award for Best Actor.
The accolade was for his debut performance in the 2007 Australian-Singapore film The Home Song Stories.
Chinese-American actress Joan Chen and Singapore-based Chinese actor Qi Yuwu co-starred in the film.
Lok got a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Golden Horse Awards for his role.
"I was quite young at the time. The awards were all just a lot of fun," Lok, now 22, told The New Paper over the phone from Melbourne.
"For the Golden Horse Award, I wasn't aware of how big it was." The Australian actor has roots in Singapore - like a growing crop of stars on the small screen.
Lok was born here in 1994 and moved to Melbourne with his family when he was two years old.
Almost a decade after The Home Song Stories, he is back on our radar with his lead role as geeky student Andy Lau in the first two seasons of Australian TV series Nowhere Boys.
Currently airing on Channel 5 at 11.59pm on Saturday, the fantasy adventure follows Andy Lau, goth Felix Ferne (Dougie Baldwin), all-rounder Sam Conte (Rahart Adams) and jock Jake Riles (Matt Testro) as they get lost on a school trip and find themselves transported to an alternate reality in which they were never born.
Lok reprised his role in the film adaptation Nowhere Boys: The Book Of Shadows, released earlier this year.
But he admitted it's still a challenge to break into the Australian entertainment industry as an Asian actor.
"Others (actors on Nowhere Boys) seem to be getting a lot more auditions (than me)," he said.
The roles he gets are problematic as well.
Lok said: "To be honest, every single role I've done has been that of a stereotypical Asian or started off as such."
In Nowhere Boys, his character is a nerd who grows "out of his shell" as the series progresses.
In the upcoming Australian TV series Barracuda, he has a small role as a bullied student.
Lok is currently focusing on his studies at RMIT University in Melbourne and will give more thought to his acting career after graduation.
He said: "I have considered acting in Singapore and China. I'm open to anything."
Lok used to visit Singapore every year until 2010 to keep in touch with his extended family.
He said of his trips back: "Food was definitely the highlight. I enjoyed going to hawker centres as a kid."
Lok caught the acting bug in primary school, where he performed in yearly plays at Camberwell Grammar School, and made his film debut when he was 11 for The Home Song Stories.
"Yuwu's great. He was almost like an older brother to me at that time. We played a lot of games on set," he said.
He added that it was nice to be around someone connected to Singapore and to hear the familiar accent during filming.
Lok said he does not follow the local entertainment scene or keep in touch with Qi. It was through his parents that he learnt that Qi married local actress Joanne Peh two years ago.
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