Interview: Pakho Chau
He’s edgy, he’s stylish and he’s worked his way up from the bottom. Pakho Chau is fast becoming one of the biggest and coolest Cantopop stars in Hong Kong and now he’s making waves on the big screen too. Lisa Cam discusses the model, singer and actor’s drive for success as well as his intriguing views on dating. Photography by Calvin Sit. Art direction by Jeroen Brulez
raey @ matchesfashion.com
From basketball player to model to singer-songwriter and now to actor, Pakho Chau is perfectly poised to be the next big Hong Kong superstar. Having just released his 10th Cantopop album in seven years, Keep Going, and wrapped up a series of packed-out concerts at the Hong Kong Coliseum, the 30-year-old is now making a big splash on the silver screen in the city, appearing in key roles in four films over the coming months. In cinemas now is I Sell Love, a romantic drama about a compensated dater. And soon-to-be-released is the salaciously named S for Sex, S for Secret, due out early next year. This flick explores how technological advances have changed modern relationship dynamics in pretty hilarious ways. Having been through a raft of transitions already in his career, Chau, often labelled as edgy in both appearance and attitude, sits down with us to talk about the lessons he’s learned so far and what the future holds for the multi-talented star of stage, studio and screen...
Thanks for taking the time to talk to Time Out, Pakho. Okay, you’re a model, a singer-songwriter and an actor. Start from the beginning: why did you start your career as a model?
I’ve always wanted to do something related to music. At the time, I knew you could get into music through modelling, so my friend set me up with a modelling gig and I thought it might be a great way to make some cash. I was 17 then. To be honest, it was just a way to make a fast buck, so I kept doing it. Eventually, I went to a studio to learn music, even though I didn’t have any money back then. They had a super junior position where you’re just considered a student the whole time, so I didn’t get any pay from the studio. But I was desperate to learn. I’m very grateful to that experience now. Everything I do, from writing to producing music, has improved because of it.
So you have experience working in a range of different industries. What impact has the music had on your acting career?
Well, I think being an actor and being a singer are quite similar. Even though the nature of the work is different, both require the element of performance. The main difference is that they give me a different kind of feeling. Acting gives me a great sense of accomplishment. There’s a script when you’re acting and the challenge is to become someone else. Whereas, as a singer, I’m selling my personal beliefs.
But being an actor is quite gruelling. Is being a singer different?
I think the degree of excitement I get with singing happens mostly when I get up on the stage. But once I step down, within a few minutes, I’ve cooled down. On the other hand, a movie takes months and you work with a large team, who you gradually make friends with. Once you’re done, there’s that finished product you can be proud of. And when the movie goes up, you do the promotions, so it’s a long process. But both types of feelings have their own merit.
So, as an actor in movies, is the production process as important to you as being in front of the camera?
Well, yeah. I love the production process. When I’m filming, I’m always interested in why they shoot the scene a certain way or why they use certain lighting. I’m very curious about these things. I want to ask questions about why certain things are done a certain way, such as why lights are placed in certain positions. I want to learn so I can use that for when I might some day be a director or a producer. So I always ask.
Wardrobe: Raey @ matchesfashion.com.
You have a raft of upcoming movies. I Sell Love, out now, and S for Sex, S for Secret, out early next year, which both have sex themes. Hong Kong is known as a conservative society but do you think that people are now starting to talk more openly about sex?
Yes. Hong Kong appears to be quite a modern place. We’ve definitely been more reserved about adult topics, so we have avoided them but this is slowly changing and both of these movies mention it. Of course, the main issues aren’t sex. With S for Sex, S for Secret, they just happened to use sex to package the story. This movie is really about a married couple and their relationship. How the wife and husband have different values and opinions. One of the angles they use to explore that is through sex.
It’s your first role playing a husband. Do you feel the range of roles you can do is expanding?
Yes. In the past few years, as I’m getting older, my image has changed and my range has gotten bigger. Directors feel I can take on more roles and do different things. I used to be just someone’s boyfriend or someone’s son. Now I can play someone’s husband. I think I’ve really grown as an actor.
Annie Liu stars alongside you in the film. How do you get on with your co-star?
This is our first time sharing the screen. But now that we’ve worked together, we’ve become closer, even though our personalities are opposites.
Basically everything I think is right, she thinks is wrong. And everything she likes, I dislike. Our opinions are the exact opposite.
S for Sex, S for Secret discusses how sex affects a relationship. So, for you, in this modern age, with iPhones and other technology, do you think relationships between men and women have changed?
I’ve always felt that in a marriage or a relationship, an iPhone can ruin everything. Our phones are full of personal information, like pictures and messages. When I’m dating, I would never look at the girl’s phone. If I was at her house, I wouldn’t even peek at her Facebook. But Annie is the opposite. She always wants to see her partner’s phone and she wants her partner to see her phone.
You wouldn’t want your partner’s Facebook password?
Definitely not. I think it’s about mutual respect. Since I don’t want anyone to look at my Facebook, I also refrain from looking at other people’s. Because there will always be something there that I don’t like. Like, why did you take a picture with him? Or who is that? There will always be something I can criticise, so I think it’s more respectful just to not do that. Even if she offered me a look, I wouldn’t take her up on it.
So do you think your character is quite close to your real personality, then?
To me? Well, to be honest, I will admit to being a typical metropolitan kind of guy. Even though my character and I have different careers, I think, personality-wise, we’re not that different. In the movie, my character might avoid problems a bit more, though. For example, if they run into a problem, his wife would suggest ‘let’s go see a counsellor’ but he would refuse and say ‘it’s not my problem. Why do I need to go?’
Would you go, though, if it were you?
Well, yeah. The counsellor might determine that it’s my wife’s problem after all [smiles cheekily].
Your character in I Sell Love is a student activist. In light of the recent protests in Hong Kong, do you think this is a very timely movie?
Yes, but it’s a total coincidence. We filmed that movie two years ago, before any of this happened. It just so happens that my character has that background. I think everyone has their own way of voicing their opinions. The main goal is that everyone just wants peace and improvement. They don’t want to see violence happen.
Wardrobe: Ludlow Suit from J Crew
Now that I Sell Love is generating so much indie buzz, will we be seeing you more on the international screens?
I hope so. I hope I won’t just be a singer. I hope I get more opportunities as an actor. I love acting and the world of cinema, and I think it can take me to new places and let me do new things.
Like taking a turn behind the camera in the future?
Yes. I try to get involved with as much behind-the-scenes work as I can and also help out with other singers’ music videos. I’m really very curious and I have a lot of interests, so I’m always happy to work in the creative sphere.
So you’ve got movies coming up, you’ve had great concerts and great CDs! You really do keep busy...
Coming up in March, I’ll have my 11th CD. And this month, January, February and March, I’ll have four different movies screening, one after another. I’ve realised I’ve done a lot in 2014. From the end of 2013, I’ve done four films, put out three CDs and done a concert.
We think you’re very multitalented...
Not really. It’s just that I’ve had many opportunities. Many directors and producers have given me the chance to learn more. And I’ll keep on learning as I go, so that I don’t disappoint the people who give me these chances.
I Sell Love is in cinemas now. S for Sex, S for Secret opens on January 15.
Makeup: Kris Wong
Hair: Cliff Chan @ Hair Corner K11
Special thanks to Premium Sofa Club