From child actress to full-time Mediacorp artiste, Fang Rong shares her experience growing up in the local media industry.
She may only be 22, yet Foo Fang Rong boasts career experience beyond most of her peers.
Known for her roles in Mediacorp productions like Parental Guidance (2006) and Wonder Boy (2017), Foo Fang Rong has starred in over 30 dramas and movies since she entered the industry at 4 years old.
Just over a month ago, Youth.SG met the bubbly actress at the new Mediacorp Campus as she shared about what it’s like growing up in the media industry
Standing at 168cm, the doe-eyed actress showed up in a simple checker-print summer dress which showed off what her former junior college classmates (myself included) used to call her trademark “legs for days”.
This was the first time I was seeing Fang Rong since she dropped out of St Andrew’s Junior College in 2015. Her departure was so silent and abrupt that it took most of us by surprise. Three years later, I had so many questions to ask her.
“That was a really, really tough year,” said Fang Rong matter-of-factly, “I was dance captain and we were preparing for the Singapore Youth Festival (SYF). On top of that, I was also filming 小子当家 (I’m In Charge) on Channel 5.”
The talented actress, who can also sing and dance, continued: “I messed the whole year up because I didn’t have time to focus on my work and it all snowballed till I got to my breaking point. That’s when I decided to leave JC.”
Her decision to drop out of JC took everyone by surprise because it seemed like a risky move to make in a country so fixated on academics. Yet, the cheery actress still managed to graduate faster than most of us who continued on in JC.
“I entered the University of Buffalo under Singapore Institute of Management with my ‘O’ level scores,” said the psychology graduate, who sheepishly continued, “that’s also where I met my boyfriend.”
Although the budding star struggled for her first year in JC, juggling academics with irregular on-set hours was never an issue in her earlier schooling years.
Her journey in the industry started at the tender age of 4 when her cousin needed a young girl to appear in a Japanese commercial. She started acting freelance, accepting projects from Mediacorp at the age of 6, and starred in her first movie, Coming Home, in 2003.
Over the next 15 years, she continued to act in movies and television dramas like School House Rockz (2008), The Hush (2016) and Wonder Boy (2017), to name a few.
Today, Fang Rong is a full-time actress who just finished filming her most recent long-form Channel 8 drama, 不平凡的平凡 (Reach for the Skies).
Despite being in the industry for most of her life, Fang Rong only signed a full-time contract with Mediacorp two years ago after her graduation.
“I feel like after all these years I can finally call myself an actress,” she said, laughing about how it still feels awkward to be called a celebrity.
When asked if anything changed from when she was still a part-time actress, she said: “The biggest difference in this transition is realising that I am now a public figure. I have to get into the mind-set of carrying myself as a role model.”
Acting has always been a passion for the effectively bilingual actress. In fact, Fang Rong even feels it helped her become a more empathetic person.
She said: “What I really enjoy about acting is being able to take on so many different personas like a pregnant teen, a child with low IQ, a rebellious child and so forth.
“In order to act well, you have to be in the character’s shoes and become that person. When you do, you’re able to understand their pains and realise that their problems are not as easy as it seems.”
Unlike many Hollywood child stars who faltered while growing up with fame and achievements, Fang Rong somehow managed to remain down-to-earth after all these years under the spotlight.
Laughing at my confusion, Fang Rong shared: “Thankfully, the scene in Singapore is a lot calmer. I could’ve turned out to be another Miley Cyrus if it had not been.”
The vivacious actress also cited how constant interaction with older actors allowed her to mature faster than her peers. In turn, this maturity taught her how to handle the attention she was getting with grace.
“I think being in the industry from a young age definitely taught me how to enjoy acting purely as an art form. I learnt to focus solely on my passion instead of the fame and attention that comes with it,” she said.
Passions aside, the local actress admits that local productions do face stiff competition in vying for the attention of young local audiences.
“Youths often have the mind-set that local productions are ‘lame’ or ‘uncool’. I think this stems from the fact that they can be very critical, especially since they’re exposed to an extensive range of overseas productions,” she said.
In spite of that, the enthusiastic star firmly believes there is still value in being an actress in Singapore.
“Local productions are set in a local context, and their relatability is something overseas productions can’t offer,” said the young star who hopes to continue acting in Singapore for a long time.
When asked about her future plans, the amicable actress says she aims to become a better actress.
The ambitious star said: “I think the hallmark of a good actress is when the audience sees the character rather than the actress herself.
“If others see and hear a character I’ve played instead of ‘Fang Rong’, then I’ll feel like I’ve succeeded as an actress.”
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