NEW AH BOY IN TOWNPrivate (PTE) (NS) Ryan Lian, a new face in the Ah Boys To Men (ABTM) franchise, shares his journey in becoming an actor.
Report // Thrina Tham
Photos // Kenneth Lin & courtesy of Ryan Lian, J Team Productions & MM2 Entertainment
He's become so well-known as "Ah Long", he sometimes forgets that it is just his on-screen name. After all, it was his role as Ah Long that shot local actor PTE (NS) Lian to fame in director Jack Neo's two-part period movie Long Long Time Ago, released last year.
"On the streets, and even when I do getai (live stage performances), people call me 'Ah Long'. It feels warm and affectionate," said PTE (NS) Lian.
Riding on this wave, Mr Neo added a character of the same name to the ABTM squad, with PTE (NS) Lian playing the part of Corporal Tan Kin Long (a.k.a. Ah Long).
The fourth movie of the ABTM franchise features favourite military boys Sergeant Ong (Tosh Zhang), Lobang (Wang Weiliang), Ken Chow (Joshua Tan) and Wayang King (Maxi Lim) returning as Operationally Ready National Servicemen. The movie premieres in cinemas on 9 Nov.
SAME NAME, DIFFERENT 'BENG'
"Ah Long" may be a familiar face to audiences but don't be confused: his role in ABTM is very different.While the Ah Long from Long Long Time Ago is steady and cool, the Ah Long in ABTM offends others easily, described PTE (NS) Lian.
"Ah Long is a troublemaking Ah Beng who wants to turn over a new leaf," he said, using the term for Chinese males who are typically unsophisticated. "But he is not good with words and ends up offending everyone."
It is also a role that has presented PTE (NS) Lian with a new challenge: portraying an Ah Beng who "doesn't act like an Ah Beng".
To give an example, the 32-year-old actor had his chest up, arms raised and put on a cocky and hostile look - the typical Ah Beng.
"But Ah Long is quiet and his 'beng' side is very subtle; you see it in his facial expressions," he continued. "Since Lobang is a very loud and outspoken character, I had to make sure there wasn't another Lobang in the movie… For this character, I had to portray a lot of inner emotions."
MY BUDDIES AND ME
Initially, PTE (NS) Lian was worried that he would not gel with the close-knit cast of ABTM. But they became good friends in no time.
"The guns are heavy, the weather is hot, you just feel so shack (tired). But because they were there with me, to joke around with during breaks, the time passed very quickly. I learnt these six words: 认真做，大声笑 (Chinese for work hard, play hard)."
The same could be said about the actor's own National Service (NS) as a Rifleman in 3rd Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (3 SIR).
Back then, he was always up to mischief and would, together with two camp buddies, sabo (Malay for playing pranks) others by putting toothpaste on their faces while they were sleeping. But the trio got caught and were made to wash the toilets while their platoon mates napped, recalled PTE (NS) Lian in good humour.
"That was an unforgettable experience," he said with a laugh. PTE (NS) Lian is now an Admin Support Assistant with 788 SIR because of a back injury.
AH MA'S BOY
"Despite the bad-boy persona that he often channels on screen, PTE (NS) Lian is a self-proclaimed stay-at-home person. "I'm actually quite shy. The fun of being an actor is that I can become someone different from who I normally am."
"Raised solely by his Ah Ma (grandmother), PTE (NS) Lian is very close to her. The family-of-two were poor, so times were tough when the then-teenager went into show business - earning just $21.60 a day acting as an extra (background actor)."
"I faced a lot of setbacks then and I wondered if I was suited for this profession."
But the young actor did not give up his passion. Though lacking formal training, he learnt through watching the likes of Andy Lau, Louis Koo and Nicky Cheung in shows.
"After 16 years of taking on bit roles, he finally landed his first big break playing a gangster in a period drama. He had scored the role of Ah Long, and the rest is history."