Tay Ping Hui on turning 50 and current goals: ‘More ripped, less char kway teow’
In the second season of our podcast series House Party For 2, actor Tay Ping Hui talks about midlife crises and how getting older won’t be a big deal if you’ve always felt old.
It’s a very significant year for Tay Ping Hui as he’s celebrating what he calls his “silver jubilee”: In about a month and a half, he hits the big 5-0.
And I, of course, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tease him about how people on set already call him “Uncle Tay” anyway.
LISTEN: House Party For 2: Tay Ping Hui on turning 50 and why he won’t be having a midlife crisis
Tay Ping Hui on turning 50 and why he won’t be having a midlife crisis
“I silently weep within my heart,” he quipped, about the moniker. “But it's okay. It's really okay. You know, I've gotten used to it.”
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He explained why as we were recording for the second season of CNA Lifestyle’s podcast series House Party For 2.
“Every year I'm getting older, but the personal assistants and assistant directors who come in are pretty much the same age – in their early 20s, sometimes late teens. So, I think, out of respect – I hope it's out of respect, lor – they call me ‘Uncle Tay’.”
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But sometimes, uncles are born, not made – after all, “uncle” can be a state of mind, right?
"I've always felt old, even when I was in my 20s,” Ping Hui said. “I've always felt older than my actual age. So right now, if you ask me what my mindset is – I'm feeling like a 60-year-old man. Maybe that's how the ‘Uncle Tay’ thing came about.”
At the same time, quite remarkably, Ping Hui says that today, he feels like “pretty much the same person” he was when he first stepped into showbiz about 20 years ago.
In any case, “I was 29 when I entered the industry. Some of the guys who come in are 18 or 19. So, I was carrying the burden of life, you know, and had all the youth sucked out of me by life, when I entered the industry. So perhaps (my image is of) this more mature guy.”
READ: Tay Ping Hui has found his new calling in China: As a middle-aged alpha male TV star
Fun fact: Young Ping Hui actually wanted to be an economist – and didn’t enjoy watching his first foray into acting on TV one bit.
“Oh, it was bad. It was so bad. I literally couldn't watch myself. To me, it really sucked. It was horrible,” he recalled.
Just one year after his official debut in 1998 though, he snagged a Best Supporting Actor Star Award for his iconic role in the period drama Stepping Out, and now, he’s on a the cusp of a successful acting career in China with roles in highly-viewed dramas, so even if the world lost an economist, it gained a leading man.
READ: Tay Ping Hui’s new Chinese wuxia drama out on Netflix on Jan 16
But, back to how he’s always felt older than his age – this is why he won’t be going through a mid-life crisis when he hits 50, thank you.
“I think I went through my midlife crisis when I was like 35, or maybe at the big 4-0,” he chuckled. “I'm not going to, I don't know, buy a red sports car.”
He then commenced a short ramble: “Some sports cars have to be in red, not any other colour, right? You know, for example, if you have a 1968 Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider, it has to be in red. You cannot have it in green. If you have it in black, it’s weird. It has to be in red. Right? And all chrome.”
I pointed out that he’d obviously put much more thought into this than he was admitting to – at which point he confessed that he had actually considered buying said car during his premature midlife crisis.
But these days, “I think as I'm getting older, I'm increasingly simplifying my life – getting rid of things you thought were important in the past but are not really essential. I'm becoming more and more agreeable to the idea of ‘less is more’.
"Like I've always said, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. I ultimately, hopefully, will become a sophisticated person, not just in my outlook, not just in the things I have and the things I use, but also intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.”
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There is one thing he’s a little conflicted about, though: He thinks the way he looks “can be improved”. “Bit chubby – can be a bit healthier. You know, more ripped, less char kway teow.”
This could be a problem as you’d think he would want to celebrate his birthday with his favourite food and “lots of hum” or cockles. But, oh, well – you only turn 50 once.
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Listen to the full House Party For 2 podcast to find about about how Ping Hui lives in a house full of bats, the worst on-set “diva” behaviour that he’s witnessed and casually having lunch in a noodle shop dressed in full period robes while filming in China.
New episodes of House Party For 2 are published every Sunday at cna.asia/podcasts.