Acting Out: The Road to Kung Fu

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Anthony Jun Hung Ng W’99 is just four years out of Wharton, has an impressive-sounding list of acting credits to his name, and recently landed himself a meaty role in a star-studded new Chinese TV series, Gung Fu Zhook Kao, which translates as Kung Fu Football. But don’t get the idea that it’s been easy.

Since earning his undergraduate degree at Penn, Ng has:

  • Started a company in Hong Kong that sold movie posters and memorabilia. It soon failed.
  • Enrolled at the University of Hong Kong Law School, with the assurance that he would have a job in his uncle’s law firm. Eight months before he was to graduate, he dropped out. (“The best and most intelligent decision I have ever made,” he says. “I loathed the very idea of having my path being chosen for me.”)
  • Landed a number of parts in various movies, television shows, music videos, and commercials, ranging from Time and Tide, a Tsui Hark-directed action movie; to Miles Apart, a cops-and-robbers film; to Gen Y Cops, a futuristic police thriller. (“Some may think that this is an impressive filmography,” he says, “but other than in the movie Stolen Love, the parts were relatively small for my liking.”)
  • Earned a certification to practice as a personal trainer. (This may not have been so difficult, since he had already been a competitive bodybuilder.)
  • Suffered the disapproval of his family, while still living at home. “My relationship with all of my family members deteriorated into a very bad state,” he says. Only his grandmother supported his dream of acting.

“She went asking around her friends and relatives whether anyone could give me acting jobs,” Ng recalls. One friend was in television, and his son was planning the production of a series titled 20:30 Dictionary, which Ng describes as a “series about sexual behavior and orientation of modern people.”

The role the show’s producers had in mind for Ng was a “very good one,” he says—but not without certain risks. 

“They said that they may be able to cast me for a part as a homosexual character,” he says. “My grandmother, being quite conservative, did not like the idea. She then told my mother of the incident, and told her not to tell me about it. Ironically, my mother, who had previously been against the idea of acting, had seen how determined I was, and what I was willing to give up, and decided to secretly tell me about the job.”

He got the part—as well as another break when he was introduced to Sandra Ng (no relation), a top Hong Kong actress who was preparing for the shooting of Kung Fu Football. She asked the casting people to consider Ng, who ended up landing the part of Zhun Yu, a soccer player. He calls the role “the most significant part that I have ever played.”

Kung Fu Football (now in its post-production stage) revolves around the “trials and tribulations of a football [soccer] team,” explains Ng. “It is categorized as a comedy and rightly so, as it has plenty of good laughs, but also has plenty of serious and emotional moments, scenes of friendship and betrayal, et cetera, that would make you shed tears. It has a huge cast of famous actors and will be aired in what we refer to as the ‘Golden Hour’ [prime time] in Hong Kong. All in all, it’s a great television series that I’m sure many will enjoy.” 

Asked about his acting talents, he replies: “I do not dare say that I am very ‘talented’ yet, although I have been told by actors and directors that I am improving very fast. I guess my main talent is that I really do love acting, and am willing to give up almost anything to do it. I already have.”

But he had overlooked one of his less obvious talents—until an actor named Dicky Cheung told him that his image of physical power could become a weakness if he didn’t harness it. 

“He said that my physique made me look very powerful and unapproachable, which was bad,” Ng recalls. “But I had a pleasant smile, and when both were combined they created a ‘chemical reaction’ that left a very good impression. I am going to learn to smile more often from now on.” 

That shouldn’t be hard. “I now have many more opportunities than I did before and I am confident that my acting career will start to prosper,” says Ng. “My mother and father now see that I can succeed in this field and are happy and proud of me, and our relationships have recovered. For all this I am thankful.”


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