Some of Bobby’s same year Acting Class classmates include Tony Leung, Stephen Chow, Francis Ng, Eddie Cheung, Eddie Kwan, etc. Upon graduating, each of them rose to ‘leading actor’ status one by one, however at the time, Bobby was still doing mostly small roles [‘ke le fe’] in series. 5 years after graduating from the Acting Class, Bobby had participated in 30 series – unfortunately though, his role in most of those series were so insignificant, most people probably don’t even remember the names of the characters he played.
TVB didn’t promote, but luckily the audiences did
“Back then, it was very rare for someone who came out of TVB not to succeed. I was never promoted, but was able to make it up the ladder on my own. I’m not good-looking, so it’s understandable why they wouldn’t want to promote me, but luckily, the audiences had good taste and knew how to appreciate me – I guess you can say that it’s the audiences who promoted me. Actually, I’m very lucky that the audiences were willing to accept my different types of acting – I’m not the comedian-type, but I’m able to do comedy; in "Forensic Heroes", I wasn’t funny at all, yet the audiences still enjoyed it.”
Bobby started capturing audience’s attention back in 1986, when he participated in grand production series "The Turbulent Decade". To this day, he still has fond memories of the ‘all-star’ cast from that series.
“There were Carina Lau, Margie Tsang, Jamie Chik, Eddie Cheung, Dicky Cheung, Eddie Kwan, etc…just to name a few – in the past, there were plenty of artists. Nowadays, it’s virtually impossible to gather so many first line siu sangs and fa dans all in one series – the norm now is basically one siu sang and one fa dan. This time, in "Men with No Shadows", there is Raymond Lam and myself, which is already a ‘double siu sang’ team.”
Better pay outside of TVB, ‘lucky’ that TVB gave up on him
The breakthrough in Bobby’s career came with the multi-installment series "Files of Justice", which successfully secured his position as ‘first-line male lead’ -- however, it also caused him to leave a company that he had serviced for over a decade.
“Back then, after filming the first and second installments of "Files of Justice", people started to know me and that’s when the invitations for outside jobs started coming in. Prior to my management contract expiring, I had discussed with the Artists Department about changing to a per-series contract, but they pretty much ignored me. All they said was that both parties should think about it more and left it at that – there were no further discussions about the contract. I remember when I was filming "Files of Justice III", the last day of filming was coincidentally also the day my contract was set to expire. At the time, no one sought me out to discuss contract renewal, so having self-knowledge, I took that to mean that they gave up on me! Around the same time, I received an invitation from a Malaysian company that specially liked to ‘pick up’ artists abandoned by TVB, so I accepted. I went over there and filmed a sitcom for them – I was only there for a month but unbelievably received more than 100,000 HKD salary! At the time, my salary at TVB was only about 10,000 HKD a month.”
“I sincerely thank the particular exec at TVB who decided not to renew my contract – if it weren’t for him/her, I wouldn’t know how the outside world is like. That year, the amount of money I made shooting movies and ‘direct to video tape’ series was more than what I had made the previous 10 years combined. Later on, TVB was planning on filming "Files of Justice IV", so the producer requested that I return. In the new contract talks, of course I was no longer going to accept the stipulation of filming 100 shows in 1 year! We ended up re-negotiating the contract terms to a ‘per-series’ contract and that’s the way our collaboration has been up to present day.”
Loves "Armed Reaction" and "Dicey Business" the most
After Bobby returned to TVB, he was tasked as the lead in many series, sometimes filming up to 3 to 4 series a year. At the time, the Mainland China market was not as ‘established’ as it is today.
“There’s a reason why TVB has been at the forefront of the TV industry for so many years. After filming series outside and seeing how sometimes even lighting is lacking, it made me understand that TVB truly has plentiful resources. At TVB, I’ve filmed quite a few series that I personally enjoyed a lot, especially the "Armed Reaction" franchise – now every time I see [the series] producer Kwong Yip Sun (鄺業生), I call him ‘benefactor’ (恩公)! The character ‘Chan Siu Sang’『陳小生』helped me break into the Mainland market and helped me establish the image of ‘good son, good husband, good father’ with audiences. The character was essentially a 100% great character to begin with – having me play the character made it 101% great!”
"Dicey Business" is another one of Bobby’s great works, one that he is extremely proud of. In fact, he highly recommends it as a ‘must-see’ series.
“Earlier, a fan gave me the DVD boxed set of "Dicey Business" as a gift – I spent 2 nights in a row re-watching it. There were a few parts of the series that were especially emotional, to the point that I was moved to tears while watching. It’s not often that I encounter such an excellent script! For most series, the ‘storyline’ comes first and drives the rest of the script – for "Dicey Business" however, the characters came first and drove the storyline. During filming, I didn’t have to change the script at all – I just followed the development of the character and threw myself into the role.”
Specifically praises Myolie Wu and Sire Ma
“In "Dicey Business", Bosco Wong did a very good job. Recently, I watched his performance in "Lives of Omission" and see that he is getting better and better. Earlier in the year, I also noticed Myolie Wu’s performance in "The Rippling Blossom", she has changed as well – in the past, people made fun of her for having a ‘gwing’ look, but now, she really has gotten prettier. I’m not referring to the ‘plastic surgery’ –type pretty, but rather, her looks have ‘opened’ more. I also see the potential for Sire Ma, my sister in "Men With No Shadows" , to be a ‘hot contender’ for the “Most Improved” Award this year – she’s a good girl, very hardworking and doesn’t like to generate rumors.”
Coincidentally, both Sire Ma and Myolie Wu get the chance to collaborate in Bobby’s upcoming series "Yue Fu Hidden Dragon" [temporary name]. Filming an ancient series during the sweltering summer months, Bobby expressed that his ‘record’ was having to change 5 undershirts and 2 pairs of underwear in 1 day due to all the sweat. Laughing, Bobby admitted what attracted him to the series was the group of young actresses that he gets to collaborate with – he says that the fa dans being paired with him are getting younger and younger, invoking the ‘envy’ of his colleagues. One time, he bumped into long time partner Yoyo Mung in the makeup room and jokingly told her that the next time they collaborate in a series, she should portray his ‘stepmother’!
Collaborating with Mainland artists, he feels like a ‘toad at the bottom of the well’
Last year, after wrapping filming for "Men with No Shadows", Bobby accepted 3 Mainland series in a row, including "Ghostcatcher – Legend of Beauty 2" [天師鍾馗] and collaboration with Charmaine Sheh in "Sword-Bearing Female Constable" [帶刀女捕快] . Filming ancient series in the Mainland can be very difficult as well [due to the weather] – luckily, the production team took care of him and always made sure he had a ‘cow horn fan’ (牛角扇) by his side.
“If I don’t film ancient series, I reduce my workload by 50%. You can say that I’m a ‘money hound’ or that I’m just hardworking – either way, if there’s good opportunity, I don’t mind the toil. As long as I get a 1-2 week rest in between each series for me to re-energize, I can accept filming for 8 to 9 months out of the year. After collaborating with Mainland artists, I realize that I’m a ‘toad at the bottom of the well’. This time around, for "Ghostcatcher", I got the chance to collaborate with Mainland actor Pan Chang Jiang, who has a cameo in the series – he is one of Mainland China’s first class actors and producers, the equivalent to the Mainland version of Eric Tsang – everyone knows him. All of us learned a lot from Teacher Pan.”
‘Experienced’ senior actors, not elder ‘green leaf’ actor
On the subject of ‘experienced’ senior actors (資深演員 ), Bobby’s tone became serious.
“I feel that in HK, there is a general lack of respect for experienced senior actors – the thinking is too utilitarian. Why are these actors called ‘gam cho’ (甘草), ‘green leaf’ (綠葉)? [TN: gam cho’ (甘草) is a term used in the industry to describe experienced, senior ‘green leaf’ actors/actresses over 50 years old]. They are a group of actors with plentiful acting experience, yet they are looked down upon as a ‘side dish’ or ‘flavoring’ for the main dishes? Do you think it would be ‘acceptable’ to write a series about ‘old’ people and have Brother Sau (senior actor Wu Fung) be the male lead? After all, Deanie Ip won Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival for her portrayal of an ‘old’ housekeeper and brought glory for HK!”
Awhile back ago, someone had suggested that Bobby become a producer so he could produce his own series. Actually, in this circumstance, it wouldn’t be difficult for him to find a sponsor willing to invest money, but he enjoys working in front of the camera rather than behind the scenes, so he did not consider it. In the future, would he accept becoming a ‘gam cho’ actor himself?
“When that time comes, I may decide to become a producer and film my own series then! If you ask me to stand next to the main lead and play an ‘Uncle’ character, I definitely won’t do it. If they ever arrange for me to play the part of Raymond Lam’s father, I would suggest to them to go have Ron Ng play Raymond’s father instead! Hahahaha!”
Happy to be his wife’s ‘money-tree’
This year marks the 15th wedding anniversary of Bobby and his wife Fu Kit Han. Back then, the couple had a low-key wedding in Canada.
“The exact date is November 25th. I will be working in the Mainland during that time, so there won’t be special celebration. I’m my wife’s ‘money-tree’, so of course, work is more important! Hey, maybe I’ll give her a ‘house’ (樓) as a gift! Haha!”
Playful Bobby pointed to the ‘button’ on his shirt and laughed heartily– apparently, when he said ‘house’ [prounounced ‘lou’ (樓)], he actually meant ‘button’ [also pronounced ‘lou’but different character (鈕)]. However, when it comes to the date of his wedding anniversary, Bobby is very clear with thedate 11/25, even mentioning it twice!
Diligently remembers date of wedding anniversary
“We’re an ‘old couple’ now, so not into the formalties anymore. When we have free time, we like to go around and seek out interesting places to eat or to see things – on anniversaries and such, if there’s time, we we usually just go out to dinner with a few close friends. We definitely won’t do any of the ‘formal’ stuff such as putting on a tuxedo and cutting a cake in front of everyone…plus, my wife is not the socializing type and doesn’t like to go to balls or those types of social gatherings.”
When the Media mentions Mrs. AuYeung, they usually attach her ‘title’: Macau Gambling King Fu Lao Yong’s Granddaughter. From the time his marriage was made public to now, it’s been 15 years, yet occasionally, Bobby’s status as ‘rich tycoon’s grandson-in-law’ is still brought up, even making front page news on magazine covers – luckily though, for Bobby, it no longer bothers him. Bobby reveals that all his earnings go to his wife, so she is truly the ‘keeper’ of the house. Because he knows that he is not good at managing finances, Bobby is perfectly happy with being his wife’s ‘money-tree’: “Yes, I’ve ‘shaken’ so much money out that I’m skinnier now! Haha!”
Bobby and Raymond Lam: no generation gap
In "Men With No Shadows", Bobby collaborates with Raymond Lam for the first time, though on a personal level, they’ve known each other for a long time and are good ‘brothers’. It’s no surprise then that they are able to get along so well on the set and develop good chemistry.
“Raymond is the type of person who is always very calm no matter what type of situation occurs – he’s very persistent with his pace and doesn’t let anyone affect his rhythm. For instance, when we’re filming together, if I happen to be a few minutes late, I’ll start running when I’m within 20 steps of the filming location to show people that I’m trying to hurry over. Raymond however, refuses to run and instead makes his entrance calmly, like a model. I bet you didn’t think that Raymond’s EQ is actually very high, huh? Even when Tavia [Yeung] is yelling at him and saying ‘Raymond Lam, how long are you going to make me wait for you to get here? Feel like it’s been 10 years already!’ In response, all Raymond does is smile.”
“When filming series, if there is a little bit of delay, it’s understandable – after all, we oftentimes film through the night, but at least after work, we can go home and rest. Except Raymond – he often tells me: ‘Good for you! I still have to go shoot a movie!’ At the same time that he was filming "Men with no Shadows", he was also shooting 2 movies simultaneously, plus he had to set aside time to rehearse for his concert – seeing that, I felt exhausted for him!”
Bobby expressed that he does not have any ‘generation gap’ working with younger siu sangs. Back when he was filming with Raymond, he had already been introduced to Mavis Pan – plus he is able to get along well with other younger artists such as Ron Ng, Joel Chan, etc. Asked whether the 2 of them introduced Viann Zhang or Florinda Ho to him, Bobby laughed and said: “No!”