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By Stefan Shih and John Li

We'd probably be most familiar with actor Ekin Cheng and his shoulder length hair, the image with which he's featured in mass appeal movies like the Young and Dangerous series (1996-2000), and the hugely popular The Storm Riders (1998).

But what if he had to chop those locks off one day?

The 40-year-old actor did just that, for the very first time, in his latest television production, Huo Yuan Jia, a Chinese folk hero whom modern audiences will best remember as being depicted by action superstar Jet Li in Fearless (2006). While there have been both television and movie versions on the story of Huo, Cheng thinks that while comparisons would be inevitable, he relished the challenge and the opportunity in playing the historical character.

“The easiest part about filming this was actually my bald head,” Cheng tells MovieXclusive.com during an interview when he dropped by Singapore recently to promote the television series.

In his Hong Kong-accented Mandarin, the good-looking actor recalls: “Everything was cooling and simple. There was no need for a stylist!”

As such, Cheng also learnt quite a bit about the Huo style of boxing, and paid visits to surviving descendants of Huo Yuan Jia. As part of his research for the 42-parter, he researched Huo's character in depth, as well as went through many images and photographs depicting his life to understand the psyche of Huo.

Unlike the much publicized disagreements that Huo's descendants had with the recent movie version (which depicted the annihilation of the Huo Family), there was no such dispute as they were consulted on this television series, thus lending some authenticity.

Media trouble is the last thing Cheng wants. In 2000, the actor was in the limelight for his troubled love life. “I was very affected back then, but now, I just worry about what our next generation would be like if the situation carries on like this.

“It’s all about communication and respect between celebrities and the media,” adds Cheng somberly.

Fans of Jordan Chan will be glad to know that he too has a role opposite his good friend, though Chan will be playing Chen Zhen, Huo's famed disciple. Cheng mentions that it was indeed nice to have collaborated with Chan on the television series. It was also the first time he spent more than three months filming in China under extremely cold weather conditions.

Without hesitation, Cheng states: “Weather was the most difficult thing about filming this project.”

Given plenty of firsts that Cheng sacrificed for this series, and from what we've seen from the publicity clips, Huo Yuan Jia the series looks set to thrill audiences again with Huo's brand of martial arts and philosophy.

“I wish that after watching this series, we Chinese can learn to learn to open up.”

Talking about his upcoming new movie, "Rule #1" (directed by our very own Kelvin Tong):

On his bald image in "The Legend of Huo Yuan Jia":

On donning a wig and the extreme coldness while shooting in Beijing:

His take between shooting movies and drama serials:

On the intrusive media and more:

How about his singing career?

"The Legend of Huo Yuan Jia" the 42-episode television drama series is sold at all good video stores.


Press Conference Report & Video Clips: Stefan Shih | Interview: John Li | Photos & Layout: Linus Tee
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