10 July 2003
Byline: Eri Akbar
IN reel life, they are inseparable.
But off screen, Lu Rui En and Howard Cheung, the main actors in Channel 5’s current English drama, Chemistry, lead separate lives in different countries.
Rui En, 22, a Singaporean, is busy with her final year studies in banking and finance at Nanyang Technological University.
Howard, 26, an Eurasian, is occupied with modelling jobs back in his native Hong Kong.
After being out of touch for the past seven months since filming for the series ended last November, the two co-stars were reunited in Singapore last week.
It was to promote the show.
Whether or not they sizzle together on screen, Howard and Rui En showed plenty of chemistry during their photo shoot with The New Paper.
The screen couple did not hesitate to strike lovey-dovey poses, albeit playful ones, such as locking each other in a bear hug and going on a piggyback.
The two, who look more like brother and sister than the romantically-involved characters they play on the show, did start on the wrong foot at first.
Rui En admitted: ‘Initially, we were not comfortable with each other because we were newcomers and we didn’t know each other.’
However, they have grown more at ease in each other’s company after filming closely for three months last year, Howard said in a separate interview.
In the local fantasy-romance drama, the pair starts off as rivals who magically switch souls and become trapped in each other’s body.
As the plot thickens, their characters end up falling for each other.
To make them more convincing in their roles, they had to go for a ‘psychotherapy’ session arranged by the director.
Rui En and Howard had to, for instance, write their thoughts on love down on paper and exchange their notes.
Both confessed to being physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted playing, well, each other on the small screen.
Rui En said: ‘Howard is more mellow than me.’
I felt conscious of my every move and every thought.
‘Everything I do, I’d think, Is this how Howard would react?’ ‘
As for Howard, he was expected to act as chirpy as Rui En usually is, even when shooting began as early as 6am.
Because of that, he said that he did not get to explore much of this island and would head straight to bed in his Meyer Road rented apartment.
So don’t expect romance to spill over from reel to real life.
You can forget about regular buddy outings or phone calls because their relationship is strictly professional.
Although the two swinging single actors, in a past interview, did not rule out the possibility of romance between them, they have now changed course.
Howard summed it up:
Chemistry is shown over Channel 5 at 8.30pm on Thursdays.
Initially, we were not comfortable with each other because we were newcomers and we didn’t know each other.
– Rui En
If we don’t hit it off right from the start, chances are, we’re never going to.
Source: The New Paper
By Karen Yip
Local R&B honey, RUI EN, may have ruffled some feathers among Jay Chou devotees. But between celebrating her English drama debut in Ch 5’s Chemistry and preparing her second Mandarin album, who has time to worry about other people’s jealous fans?
LIME: How did your friends react the first time they saw you on TV?
RUI EN: I was the girl running to the ATM machine in SingTel’s pod hi!Card commercial. Nobody thought much of it ‘cos I was already modelling then and appearing in ads. It was the Chinese drama, No Problem, that was a big deal to my friends. They know my Mandarin sucks. They watched it just to laugh at me.
You were Chen Hanwei’s love interest in No Problem. Now you play the main character in new Ch 5 drama, Chemistry. Is it easier working on a Chinese or English production?
English, because of my comfort level with the language. In Chemistry, I play Rachel, the type of girl your parents warn you about! She’s a lot like me, so there’s no acting involved. (Laughs)
For English productions, everything has to be shot very precisely before we move on. The filming process is kinda faster for Chinese productions.
What’s Chemistry about?
Basically, it’s about love and relationships and revolves around four young working adults. Rachel is a radio DJ and her love interest, CK [played by Howard Cheung] is a fitness instructor. Both put up brave fronts and pretend they aren’t looking for love, when they really are. Rachel’s best friend, Stephanie [Mavis Cheong] is dating CK’s friend James [Christian Koh]. Things become complicated when James starts getting slimy with Rachel and Stephanie gets angry.
We hear that in an interesting twist, Rachel and CK wake up one morning in each other’s bodies.
Hey, that’s supposed to be a surprise! Essentially, Howard and I had to act like the opposite sex. I practiced sitting and standing like a guy, even going to the toilet and scratching my crotch! The weirdest scene is the one where we first realise our bodies have been switched. I had to act like a guy who suddenly discovers he has breasts! It was very funny! Filming Chemistry helped me remember that everyone’s got a soft and fragile side – even guys.
Do you have a boyfriend?
No, I have absolutely no time.
You graduated from Raffles Junior College and are now in your final year studying finance at NTU. From experience, are guys afraid of intelligent girls?
No, guys like intelligent girls. They are intimidated by the fact that I’m a celebrity more than anything else.
Do you have any siblings?
No, I’m an only child, a spoilt brat. If I want something, my Dad gets it for me. And he always sides with me against my Mum! When I’m tired from filming and school and I wake up the next morning looking like s***, my dad feels bad. He told me to take a longer time to finish my degree if I can’t cope. My parents are really cool about my showbiz career. They just want me to be happy.
Having entered the working world earlier than your peers, have you become more cynical?
Definitely, especially since many things are fake in the entertainment industry and you do things just for the camera. There are also added responsibilities, like making sure I do my job well. It has made me grow up faster.
Hype Records talent scouts spotted you filming the SingTel ad and auditioned you without knowing if you could sing. How did it feel knowing looks were their first priority when it came to making you a pop star?
I’ve tried modelling and that’s even more based on looks, so I wasn’t surprised at all. The voice and looks matter nowadays for pop stars. That’s just the way it is. I realised that early in my career and it’s just one of the things you learn to accept. I don’t feel comfortable ‘cos I’m a very practical person. If this is what it takes to get things done and to succeed, then okay.
Does it freak you out to hear your songs as ringtone tunes?
You know what? I saw my song ‘Who’ advertised as a ringtone and I paid to get it! I was like, ‘Oh so exciting! Let’s just hear what it’s like!’ You wanna hear? It’s actually very gross!
Jay Chou composed the song ‘White Feathers’ on your self-titled debut Mandarin album and appeared in your album commercial. You’ve played his love interest in his ‘Secret Signal’ music video and was a special guest at his concert this year. Are you riding on his popularity to get noticed?
If you’re familiar with the Asian music industry, you’ll know it’s very common to have an artist take on a ‘junior’ from the same record company. It’s just that I’m a girl and Jay Chou is Jay Chou. He’s so famous, that’s why people tend to notice and wonder about us.
Does that bug you?
(Sighs) People are saying a million and one things about me. I really can’t be bothered. But to these people, I say, “If you wanna judge me, listen to my album first.” At least be fair, don’t get personal without giving me a chance. Generally, Jay’s fans haven’t been nasty. Only once, when some of them went on our company website and warned me to stay away from him. The Taiwanese press blow that up really big, like oh…his fans were gonna murder me or something. It wasnt such a big deal but when I came back home, everyone kept asking me about it.
So what’s the relationship really like between you and Jay?
We are friends but I barely see him ‘cos I stay here in Singapore. We get along when we’re together and he treats me like a boy. I’m very, very sarcastic to him and he always says if I was a guy, he would have beaten me up long time ago! (Chuckles)
Is your image as Rui En, the singer, far off from the real you?
In Taiwan, people think I’m sweet. The marketing campaign for my first album was a bit un-me. My clothes were too sweetie-pie – all dresses and short skirts. I’m looking forward to my second album where I get to be more myself. Style-wise, I’d say I’m a cross between Avril Lavigne and Gwen Stefani. I hate clothes that are tight, short or low-cut!
What will you be doing next?
I’m almost done with the lyrics for the second album. I’m writing them in English and then we’re gonna translate it to Chinese. It should be out end of this year.
You wear glasses in public so people won’t recognise you. Does it actually work?
Yes, especially if I don’t wear makeup, too. Once, I said hi to an acquaintance in school and she just went blank. When she realised who I was, she went, “You look very different.” I don’t know if she was being nice. Anyway it’s okay if I look gross, that’s the point! I just don’t want people recognising me.
29 May 2003
WATCHING the new local romantic comedy, Chemistry, is akin to sitting in front of a school lab experiment, praying that the results will turn out accurate.
You see, creating a successful TV show is a science in itself.
Complementary elements (script, direction, cast) are blended, but just the exact amount of heat and timing are of utmost importance.
On-screen couples like Tony Leung-Maggie Cheung and Zoe Tay-Li Nanxing have mastered the art of having chemistry ooze from their pores.
Not so with acting newbies Lu Rui En and Howard Cheung.
The abrupt and dull debut episode could have benefited from a full one-hour opener to properly introduce the couple.
Rachel (Rui En) is a cynical radio deejay who rolls her eyes at the concept of love, until she meets CK (Howard), an uptight expat fitness consultant.
By a cliched twist of fate, they switch bodies ala The Hot Chick.
They become joined at the hip, and soon, animosity melts into affection.
Judging from the trailer, the show actually gets a shot of adrenaline when CK (in Rachel’s body) struggles to wear a bra and accidentally walks into a ladies’ loo.
Unfortunately, I don’t see such gender-centric fish-out-of-water gags lasting another 12 episodes.
And I hope Howard won’t overdo his one-note brow-furrowing expression.
On the other hand, Rui En is a natural in front of the camera. She shines while delivering ego-deflating lines like: ‘At least I eat my food! You, on the other hand, can’t even handle a carrot. Call yourself a man.’
Rui En definitely makes the grade, but Chemistry scores a C.
Chemistry is shown over Channel 5 on Thursdays at 9pm.
Source: The New Paper
26 May 2003
The results are in: Channel 5’s new series – Chemistry – doesn’t so much sizzle as fizzle. Will someone light a bunsen burner under it, please?
Thursdays, 8.30 pm
IF THERE is one thing more exciting than watching the debut episode of Channel 5’s new series, Chemistry, it is memorising the Periodic Table.
Judging by the episode last Thursday, the 13-parter is the television equivalent of helium, the most inert element in the table. Half an hour of it is enough to leave viewers bereft of life.
Chemistry is produced by Rushes Network, the production house of Hype Records to which the series’ leads, Lu Rui En and Howard Cheung, are signed on to.
The storyline revolves around a girl and a guy with clashing personalities who finally overcome their animosity and fall in love. Only the words in a Hallmark card can beat this for originality.
In the first episode, the male and female leads, played by newcomers Cheung and Rui En respectively, swopped souls and took over each others’ bodies.
It was very much like Prelude To A Kiss. But, presumably, the scriptwriter has not watched that film before. Or All Of Me. Or Freaky Friday. Or The Hot Chick.
Maybe because the debut episode was expository, setting the scene for what is to unfold in future episodes, there wasn’t much excitement going on.
Thursday’s show moved like a one-legged man with gout, though only to explode in its own face like a bad experiment that went horribly wrong.
The casting of singer and part-time model Rui En as Rachel, a headstrong radio DJ, is a huge mistake.
She is pretty, but no actress. Her acting lacks subtlety and has as much depth as a petri dish in a laboratory.
She carries a wide range of expressions. All, unfortunately, involve her playing cute and putting on a series of exasperated looks. We could be looking at the next Fiona Xie here.
Rui En is actually fine in small doses. In fact, her ‘acting’ is passable in Jay Chou’s Secret Signal MTV clip and in the SingTel HiCard advertisement in which she appears.
And, she’s a much better singer than actress, as those who have heard her self-titled debut Mandarin album would attest to.
Who knows, Chemistry, the musical might have worked better for her?
Thankfully, there are redeeming factors to the show. Each episode is only 30 minutes long. And the colours look rich and deep, like Money, one of MediaCorp’s better series, a few years back.
In fact, the colours are so brilliant that in the first episode, Rui En’s multi-coloured eye-shadow – though no fault of hers, poor girl – made her look like a talking parrot.
The best thing about the show is Hong Kong-based model Cheung. He doesn’t over act, and in an industry known for over-the-top acting, he bucks the trend.
He is also eye candy, which is a requirement in a series that is – like others before and many to follow – essentially a case of style over substance.
And if Cheung goes topless ever so often as Vincent Ng does in Heartlanders, he might well be guaranteed longevity in Singapore’s TV scene.
Chemistry is a wake up call that there should be a Geneva Convention for television, that gratuitous showing of pretty faces without acting talent should be banned.
Admittedly, Chemistry could do a U-turn and show an impressive next 12 episodes. Right now, it positively makes Light Years, the teen series on Channel 5, watchable.
But only after one has exhausted memorising the Periodic Table.
Source: The Straits Times
22 May 2003
Showtime & Lifestyle
COULD life imitate art?
Two people – as different as day and night – meet and fall in love.
But that’s the TV plot.
In the case of actors Lu Rui En and Howard Cheung, the falling in love bit is still a question mark.
Both are lead actors in the new local English series, Chemistry, about free-spirited radio deejay Rachel, who falls for strait-laced fitness consultant CK after overcoming a string of misunderstandings and differences.
And since the two characters were actually modelled on the leads’ real-life personalities, things might just get interesting.
In fact, just as in the plot of the romantic comedy, it took quite a while for Rui En and Hong Kong-born Howard to warm up to each other during the rehearsals.
Rui En, 22, who launched her debut album in January, told The New Paper frankly over lunch on Tuesday: ‘I thought that him being a model, he would be the vain sort.’
And according to her, Howard didn’t help matters by hanging out with the guys and not really bothering with her.
But after a ‘psychotherapy’ session ordered by the producer so that both can exude more chemistry on the show, the pair started to get along a lot better.
The final-year NTU business undergrad added: ‘I totally got it (my first impression) wrong.
‘Howard’s actually got another side to him. He’s very patient and gentle, and when he gets to know you better, he will actually start telling you jokes.’
Soon after the ice was broken, the couple even started teasing each other.
‘I would tease him about his love for health food, and he would bully me back by making me feel guilty about what I was eating.
He would go, Do you know how much oil that contains?’. He’s just like HNN – Health News Network – I can ask him all sorts of questions about health.’
When The New Paper called Howard in Hong Kong, where he’s based, the first-time actor would only describe his co-star as ‘very pretty’.
The difference between them was painfully obvious.
While Rui En was gregarious and lively, 26-year-old Howard was shy and subdued.
He then claimed that he didn’t spend much time with Rui En off the set because she was ‘always so busy’.
But unlike the Chemistry script, the ‘love’ story of Rui En and Howard may not progress beyond friendship.
When asked whether sparks will spill over from reel to real life, both didn’t sound too keen.
Howard would commit only to a polite ‘anything’s possible’, while Rui En was a bit more adamant.
She said: ‘I don’t believe in opposites attract.’
He’s not really my type, and I’m quite fussy about type.’
Then she added: ‘But I guess you can say that he’s a potential can lor.’
So how well do Rui En and Howard know each other? How much chemistry do they have after working on Chemistry? We put them through the test …
What is his favourite phrase?
Rui En: Dude.
Howard: Isn’t life exhilarating?
What is his pet peeve?
R: This one I know! Confirmed! Forgetting to bring his health food and having to eat ‘unhealthy’ food like the rest of us!
Do you know that he comes to the shoot carrying two huge backpacks full of health food?
He eats his cereal in the morning, has fish soup for lunch and he prepares his own afternoon snack of an apple and tuna mixed with olive oil … every day!
H: Smoking I guess, I don’t like smoking. But she’s right about the two backpacks, only thing is I’ve never forgotten (my health food)!
What is his worst habit?
R: Farting. He doesn’t do it all the time, but he’s been known to do it, even in the air-con room! And apparently, it smells very bad, which is very shocking, since he doesn’t really eat red meat. He has never done it in front of me, but he has threatened to.
H: Sleeping in. I’ve been late for filming before, but so have the rest.
(We then told him what Rui En said.) Oh no! But it’s a guy thing, farting in front of one another! I hate the smell of smoking. I have to fart to neutralise the smoke.
What is his secret fantasy?
R: To open a martial arts school and a health food cafe.
H: To become a professional tennis player.
* ON RUI EN
What is her favourite phrase?
Howard: (pauses for a very long while) I can’t recall her having one.
Rui En: Wah lao eh! (As in her favourite phrase, not Howard’s inability to answer the question.)
What is her pet peeve?
H: I don’t know. It’s been a while since we last met, and we spent only three months together … Why don’t you tell me her answer, and I’ll go, ‘oh yah, that’s right’?
R: Having to wait for something.
What is her worst habit?
R: Biting my nails and picking at my toe-nails. Especially during exam time when I have to study. I can’t sit still, I have to find something to do. And because of that, I’m very ashamed of my toe-nails, I don’t like people to see them.
What’s her secret fantasy?
H: To meet Takeshi Kaneshiro. She really likes him. When we talk about it, she will go ‘Oh, so gorgeous!’
R: My secret fantasy will be to go sky-diving.
X-Men or The Matrix?
Rui En: X-Men
Dogs or cats?
H: Dogs. I like cats too, but I’m allergic to them.
Suntan lotion or sunblock?
Which came first – the chicken or the egg?
Is the glass half empty or half full?
R: Half full
H: Half full
Wow, 4 out of 5 – sizzling hot chemistry!
Source: The New Paper
22 May 2003
Will Chemistry, a new Channel 5 romantic comedy premiering tonight, fare better than recent teen drama Light Years and comeback sitcom Under One Roof? The 13-episode series starts off on a Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus footing before twisting into a happy ending.
SAMUEL LEE talks to lead actors Howard Cheung and Lu Rui En.
WHO: Lu Rui En, 22
RUI EN WHO?: I was the ‘running girl’ in the SingTel HiCard ad. I’ve also appeared on Channel 8 drama No Problem and in Jay Chou’s music video for Secret Signal last year. I released my first Mandarin R&B album earlier this year.
WHAT’S UP: I’m now one semester away from a degree in banking and finance at Nanyang Technological University.
WHY SHOULD WE WATCH CHEMISTRY: It’s not the usual boy-meets-girl, enemies-become-lovers storyline. There are lots of supernatural and fantasy elements, and some sleaze and suspense. In Episode 1, Howard and I swop souls and go into each other’s bodies – which means I have to act like him and he, me.
WHAT DO YOU PLAY: Rachel, a stubborn radio DJ quite like me – clumsy, un-girl and jaded about love and men because of my single-parent upbringing. The only difference is that I don’t suan people (make sarcastic jibes) at every turn.
CHEMISTRY MEANS: No bedroom scene and not much kissing – both on- and off-screen – because I have no time to create any chemistry with anyone.
Chemistry debuts tonight on Channel 5 at 9pm, but will air at 8.30pm on Thursdays starting next week.
Source: The Straits Times