In 'Kiasu', Shiou JIe Kai (second from left) stars as De Ming, a disillusioned dentist who finds his true calling after attending a motivational workshop.
Taiwan star Shiou Jie Kai flexes his acting muscles on the made-in-Malaysia film, Kiasu.
Taiwanese actor Shiou Jie Kai was never exposed to acting as a child. In fact, it never occurred to him to be an actor until he heard about an ongoing bet between director Tsai Yueh Hsun and his crew members.
Tsai was looking for someone to play the role of a fresh graduate in the drama Friends. After a year of searching and not being able to find a suitable person to play the role, Tsai offered his crew members a TWD3,000 (RM322) reward to find the right actor.
After he was encouraged by a friend to go for an audition, Shiou went for it. “I just read a few bits of dialogue and somehow got the part,” Shiou said at an interview in Kuala Lumpur, recently.
At that time, the 179cm-tall actor was just 18 years old. Friends was released in 2003, and it marked the beginning of Shiou’s accidental acting career.
Shiou was in the city recently to talk about his latest film Kiasu, which marks his first collaboration with Malaysian director Law Gwo Yunn.
In Kiasu, Shiou plays jaded dentist De Ming who lives with his overbearing mother Margaret (Hong Kong veteran Zhu Mimi). After attending a motivational speech workshop, De Ming gets an epiphany of sorts and decides to pursue his (long-forgotten) dream of becoming an actor.
As our hero goes for auditions and tries to keep up with the hardship of being a struggling actor, he also has to maintain his dentist job.
The word kiasu originates from the Hokkien slang which translates to “afraid to lose out”. It’s a trait that Margaret seems to possess as she has the urge to compare and compete against her peers in almost every aspect of life.
Despite De Ming’s successful dental career, his mom always feels that he can still do better. What’s worse is that Margaret was the one who once shot down De Ming’s childhood acting dreams.
“I think of De Ming as a very brave guy who dares to go after his dreams. I don’t know a lot of people who would be willing to give up stability in pursuit of something like acting. He’s definitely a character that I can learn a lot from,” said Shiou.
Kiasu was shot in Malaysia, featuring a wide range of regional talents. Besides Shiou, the movie also features Taiwanese actors Soya Tsai and Bright Pu. The comedy drama also stars Singaporean actor Henry Thia. Malaysian Taiwan-based singer Issac Dang makes his acting debut as De Ming’s colleague. Audiences can also look out for cameos by radio personalities Ezra Zaid, Umapagan Ampikaipakan and YouTube sensation Joseph Germani.
Looking back, Shiou said he enjoyed his first acting experience in Malaysia.
“I loved how the director let us improvise on our characters. Even though there was a script, she was willing to let us try new things. We often had discussions on how to develop our characters on set.”
Shiou also experienced Malaysian hospitality at its best.
“The local crew made us (Shiou, Tsai and Pu) feel very welcome. They often asked if we were used to the local food. We were touched by their efforts to bring in food that would suit our needs. Through this process, we got along really well with the crew.”
The soft-spoken actor said he accepted the role because he views the film as very inspiring.
“This is something I feel strongly about, even before the release of this film. If there is anything I can do to motivate my fans in terms of going after their dreams or doing well in their studies, I will not hesitate to do so.”
He added: “It doesn’t matter if it’s a small or big gesture, I just want to be able to send a message out.”
> Kiasu is currently showing in cinemas natiowide.