Guo Liang – A Host of Successes
“I was really lonely when I first came to Singapore!”
Nobody would have thought that the young boy who didn’t have any dreams, or any plans for the future, would end up becoming one of Singapore’s most successful comperes one day. Shanghai-born Guo Liang didn’t always have it easy. “When I first arrived in Singapore, I did not have many assignments. I remember I waited for 3 months before I had my first outdoor shoot. Arrangements were slow as well and I had a hard time. I had no friends, nothing to do. It was an extremely depressing time.”
But Guo Liang’s determination and perseverance paid off. Today, best known for his eloquence and wit, Guo Liang, who was recently appointed as ambassador for Ebene Pain Relief Cream, is a familiar face with Singaporeans. Having hosted glitzy local television programmes such as Star Awards and regional ones like the China Singapore in Concert, Guo Liang admits he knew nothing about hosting when he first came to Singapore. “I graduated from a drama institute so I went into acting. I never had plans to go into hosting – hosting was pretty foreign to me.” Foreign or not, we all have to agree he is doing a superb job.
Ezyhealth & Beauty: When you first arrived in Singapore years ago, what were some of the challenges you faced? Was adaptation an issue then?
Guo Liang: I had two problems then – I had few friends and found difficulty in getting accustomed to the local food fare here. I eventually adapted to the food here but there were other problems such as language. For instance, beverages (yin liao) is known as water (shui) in local context. Also, I never knew that there was such a thing as ‘red vinegar’. I remember the first time I dined at a local Cantonese restaurant, ‘red vinegar’ was served together with my dishes and I did not have a clue what it was. There is nothing much I could do about such diversity other than adapting gradually. When I first got here, one of my favourite pastimes was cycling in Pasir Ris. It was a really lonely time for me. Looking back now, Singapore isn’t a tough place to adapt to.
EHB: Was coming to Singapore to work part of your plan back then?
Guo Liang: Not really. I was very young then. I didn’t know much, didn’t have any plans. Later, I was offered a 2-year contract in Singapore by Television Corporation of Singapore where I have stayed till now. I guess you can have plans but things don’t always go as planned.
EHB: Why did you settle for hosting? What inspired you?
Guo Liang: I graduated from a drama institute so I went into acting. I worked for three years after graduation doing stage plays and the like. Never had plans to go into hosting – so hosting was pretty foreign to me. It was only when I came to Singapore that I learnt to host shows.
EHB: Did you miss home?
Guo Liang: Yes I did. I made frequent long distance calls. Foreign students might understand – but then again, they have fellow school mates and school assignments. For me, I had friends, nothing to do (laughs).
EHB: What was work like during your early years in Singapore?
Guo Liang: When I first arrived, I did not have many assignments. I remember I waited for 3 months before I had my first outdoor shoot. Arrangements were slow as well and I had a hard time. I approached my representing company and they told me I had to understand Singapore before I could start work. In order to do so, I took the MRT train and got off at every stop! But after living here for the past decade or so, I have adapted to the local lifestyle. Singapore is peaceful and convenient.
EHB: Between acting and hosting, which do you prefer?
Guo Liang: I enjoy both! However, the program has got to be interesting. If it is a show with bad plot, no one would watch it. That applies to hosting as well. I always believe that, in order to accomplish an objective, one needs to have 100 per cent interest and dedication. I always ask myself, if I do not have complete commitment and dedication, if I do not enjoy what I do, how can I expect to keep the audience to be satisfied?
EHB: Wow, you certainly picked hosting up very quickly!
Guo Liang: Hosting is not extremely difficult, but to be a good host it can be difficult – you have to be thick-skinned and bold. Many hosts merely remember their scripts by hard, but a good host takes a step further and say more than just the script itself.
EHB: You are a success and a hot favourite amongst Singaporeans now. How do you go about meeting viewers’ expectations?
Guo Liang: I am not successful (laughs). One has to keep up with the time, actively breaking the boundaries and never staying in his own comfort zone. Also, be yourself, be unique, be positive, have the right mindset. You will find that things turn out well. The lifestyles and cultures in Singapore are entirely different from where I came from. I had to learn how Singaporean artistes engaged viewers. Other than diligence, factors like well-timed opportunities, meeting the right people etc also play a part.
EHB: We hear you coach others at hosting as well. What was it like?
Guo Liang: I am more than happy to share my years of experience with others. In the course of coaching others, I learn from others as well. I get to understand how the younger generation think, their interests and learning capability. Youngsters these days are very fast and keen learners! The fundamentals of hosting may be achieved with a few hours’ of coaching but there are areas of hosting which require years to establish. Unlike acting, where one can practise through dramas and role-plays, hosting predominantly revolves round articulation and competency. Knowledge and command of a language are not areas which can be achieved in a day or two; it takes years to amass. One may be quick-witted, or even a natural comedian, but without good language ability, he will not be able to display your capability and talent. That is why there are so few comperes/ hosts though many can speak the language.
EHB: Work must keep you busy! How do you find balance between work and family?
Guo Liang: I am usually able to find time for my family. I am only away from them when I have to travel for work. For instance, I have been travelling since the month of May. My son will be taking his PSLE this year and as a parent, I do worry about his studies. Thank goodness for advanced technology because we chat over Skype every other day.
EHB: How do you keep yourself happy and healthy?
Guo Liang: Exercising, watching movies, reading and spending time with my family. Once in a while, I meet up with close friends for a peaceful night out.
EHB: Now that you reside in Singapore, are there certain Shanghainese cultures and ways that you still keep to?
Guo Liang: The meals we have at home are cooked by ourselves so the food on our table is very Shanghainese. Shanghai is very modern too – I know of people who visit Shanghai and say that it doesn’t feel like Shanghai aside from China’s national flags you will see along the roads. In certain aspects, Singapore is more traditional than Shanghai. In Shanghai, because of the Culture Revolution, we don’t celebrate festive occasions like the Mooncake Festival. In fact I didn’t even know that there was a Mooncake Festival till I came to Singapore. Chinese New Year here is also much more ‘Chinese’ than New Year in some parts of China!
EHB: Any plans for the near future?
Guo Liang: For hosting, I hope that I will continue improving. I don’t have many plans. I prefer to focus and do my best at what I am doing right now and see where it takes me!