TV

Zoe Tay & Huang Biren star in same show for the first time in 27 years

Veteran actresses Zoe Tay and Huang Biren, sharing screen for first time in 27 years, unsheathe their claws

Then, when asked why it took 27 years for them to finally star in the same show, the 47-year-old Caldecott queen replied with a glint in her eye: "One mountain cannot accommodate two tigers, right?"

Hold on, is there bad blood between these two leading ladies?

Was Tay feeling the heat from award-winning Huang, 46, who is widely recognised as one of local television's finest actresses?

As it turns out, Tay was merely channelling the on-screen animosity and hostility between their characters in The Dream Makers 2, the sequel to 2013's hit series The Dream Makers.

Continuing the drama's focus on catfights and shenanigans in showbiz, Tay and Huang play opposing high-powered vice-presidents of a TV drama unit.

Their characters' personalities clash instantly - while Tay emphasises the artistic value and meaning of her projects, Huang is emotionally detached, results-oriented and all about the numbers.

The Dream Makers 2, with a star-studded ensemble cast that includes Qi Yuwu, Rui En, Jeanette Aw, Li Nanxing, Romeo Tan and Julie Tan, premieres on Dec 3 at 9pm.

Not only does this show mark Tay's and Huang's first collaboration, it will also go down as one of the rare occasions - on TV, that is - that has Huang in a smart power suit.

"In the past, I used to play a lot of housewives, demure good wives and doting mums, whereas in The Dream Makers 2, my image is totally different," said Huang.

"My character's a very fashionable person, she's almost like a style icon. It's definitely very refreshing for me."

While audiences can gleefully indulge in the actresses' endless bickering on screen, they reassure everyone that there is no rivalry or competition between them off-screen.

Indeed, the two are great friends in real life and invite each other's family to their kids' birthday bashes, said Huang.

"We're similar in many ways. Aside from being mums, we're both straightforward. She doesn't like to gossip and neither do I."

Both Tay and Huang have three children each.

So do they foresee immersing themselves in their roles when they start filming The Dream Makers 2, to the extent that they start fighting off-camera?

Very unlikely, said Tay.

LONG-TIME FRIENDS

"Our long-time friendship is built on trust and understanding. If it really happens, it'd just show that we are extremely immature," she said.

Huang echoed similar sentiments.

"We are no longer young, you know," she said with a laugh.

"We're not those newbies who are super competitive. Maybe if we were younger, it could happen. But well, we never got to encounter that."

Huang made her showbiz comeback last October, after a seven-year absence, in top-rated dramas Three Wishes and Tiger Mum.

For those wondering if Tay can't help but feel a tiny bit threatened by her counterpart, the answer is no. On the contrary, Tay said she knew Huang was an acting powerhouse early on in her careerin the late 1980s.

"We debuted around the same time, Biren was from Singapore Broadcasting Corporation's (formerly MediaCorp) drama performers' training course, while I was from (acting competition) Star Search," Tay said.

"After Star Search, I attended SBC's acting classes and I remembered my instructor telling us that he had a trainee who was especially talented and had lots of potential. It was none other than Biren."

For now, the duo are simply relishing the chance to act opposite each other.

"We specially took a photo this morning and posted it on Instagram," said Huang with a laugh.

We've lots of catching up to do

In 2011, a gritty Channel 8 drama about wayward youths, On The Fringe, turned good friends Edwin Goh and Ian Fang into local TV's hottest rising stars.

Now, the pair's career paths have diverged somewhat.

While Fang's fame continued to grow and he is recognised as one of MediaCorp's 8 Dukes, Goh has all but fallen off the radar.

What happened to the fresh-faced teen actor who broke onto the scene in 2009 in Channel 5's Fighting Spiders?

The 20-year-old, who recently graduated with a diploma in performance from Lasalle College of the Arts, told The New Paper that "it's a pity I missed some acting opportunities" due to his studies.

He added: "Overall, it wasn't a pity because I learnt a lot in school."

In The Dream Makers 2, his first show with Fang since the 2012 local movie Imperfect, their characters "share a little rivalry".

While the two actors don't have many scenes together, Goh, who plays Huang Biren's eldest son, argues a lot with Fang, who plays a TV star.

"I'm very excited to act with Ian, as we haven't seen each other for some time and we have a lot of catching up to do," he said.

HEALTHY COMPETITION

"Both of us are on the same page. Last time, when we were younger, we used to have a lot of fun. But now, while we still have fun, we (maintain) a certain discipline at work. Whatever competition we have, it's healthy."

Is he peeved that he didn't make the cut for the 8 Dukes, along with MediaCorp heart-throbs Xu Bin, Aloysius Pang, Shane Pow, Desmond Tan, Romeo Tan, Jeffrey Xu and Zhang Zhenhuan?

"It's understandable that I'm not part of the 8 Dukes, as I'm much younger than all of them," said Goh.

"It's also about timing. After The Dream Makers 2, I have to serve my national service. I'm enlisting in August. The Dream Makers 2 is kind of like my farewell project, I'll be back after two years."

Fang, 25, said Goh has "matured a lot" since On The Fringe.

As for their friendship, it's definitely intact.

"I have a lot of friends in showbiz, but nothing beats the feeling I get when I see Edwin again," said Fang.

"Although we don't hang out as often or text each other as frequently, whenever I see him in person, there is a very strong sense of familiarity. Nothing beats that.

"After his NS, I'm sure Edwin will do well in showbiz. He is very good-looking, he can act, plus he has a diploma from Lasalle. He will nail it."

What rivalry? We're just different

Local TV audiences like to pit Rui En against Jeanette Aw.

Both are top actresses on Channel 8, both are immensely popular and have rabid fan bases, both are signed to artist management company Hype Records, and let's face it, the contrast between the two is stark.

At the Star Awards Show 1 in April, Aw, 35, was all smiles after bagging six awards. Rui En, 34, on the other hand, made headlines with a glum look.

In The Dream Makers 2, the pair reprise their roles as love rivals - their characters were both romantically linked to Qi Yuwu in The Dream Makers and in The Dream Makers 2, Rui En and Qi are a couple.

So we simply had to ask them about their never-ending perceived rivalry.

Their replies? There is nothing to be rivalrous about.

"Off-screen, (the dynamic between us) is definitely not dramatic at all," said Aw.

"We're just very professional actors who play our parts in our dramas to the best we can.

"Like right now, for The Dream Makers 2, I've been doing (a lot of) research to prepare for my character (and how she deals with) sinking into heavy depression. The process is overwhelming and it has been affecting my emotions. But I really want to portray my character as true to life as possible."

DON'T THINK 
TOO MUCH

Rui En said with a sigh: "We're from the same company, that's probably how this all started. Don't need to think so much, it's not as exciting as what you see in a drama.

"I know (the perceived rivalry) would make a good narrative for the media, but the fact of the matter is, we're both very different and I believe we are just doing our work."

On the topic of her role, she said: "Our characters start off in The Dream Makers 2 as best friends... despite the fact that her character betrayed me in the first season. That is the most endearing part of my character, she's so forgiving."

Off-screen, (the dynamic between us) is definitely not dramatic at all. We're just very professional actors who play our parts in our dramas to the best we can.

- Jeanette Aw (left) on the perceived rivalry between her and fellow actress Rui En (right).

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