Why Richie Koh isn’t holding his breath to win Best Actor at Star Awards and 8 things you didn’t know about him
The actor is a hot favourite to go home with a trophy for his widely lauded acting in the drama Your World In Mine at the upcoming Star Awards 2023. Does he think he’ll win? And, wait – is “Richie” his real name?
Even while actor Richie Koh was in the initial stages of filming for the drama Your World In Mine, in which he plays a 21-year-old with the intellectual age of a seven-year-old, people were already telling him he was a shoo-in to be nominated for Best Actor at the Star Awards 2023.
The biggest culprit was his co-star Desmond Ng, who, as it turns out, is running head-to-head against him in the same category.
“We’d only just started filming,” Koh recalled. “Desmond said, ‘You’ll surely get it.’ I said, ‘Dude, let’s focus on the scenes first’.”
Your World In Mine, which aired in July last year, focuses on the trials and joys of a family who struggles to give equal care to all their members when one is disabled. The show received a bumper crop of nine nominations and has already won Best Drama Serial and Best Theme Song.
It's also earned Best Actress nods for both Huang Biren and Hong Ling; Best Supporting Actress nods for Xiang Yun and Lina Ng; and a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Zhu Hou Ren.
Koh and Ng are also up against Qi Yuwu, Brandon Wong and Ayden Sng for the Best Actor trophy. Winners will be announced at the ceremony on Apr 9 at Marina Bay Sands.
Judging by the almost wholly positive feedback Koh garnered for his performance in such a challenging role, it will be a surprise if he doesn’t go home with the prize.
Even before filming started, “People were texting me saying they were really looking forward to seeing the show,” said Koh, who added that he, like all actors, he believes, had been yearning for such a role long before he landed it.
"Sometimes an actor just needs one opportunity – and it can change the whole course of his career.”
While he’s frank about wanting to win – it is his first Best Actor nomination, after all – “it’s hard to continue if you keep thinking of winning acclaim and awards. You don't act for awards – you're trying to tell a story, right?”
While his previous projects were purely for entertainment, he said, with Your World In Mine, “my contribution to society is greater this time. Not every show has a strong purpose and meaning. In this one, we did our best to tell the story of a normal special family, and I think we did it very well”.
For example, in other shows, “You might wear makeup for a sleeping scene so that the shots look nice. In this one, we threw all that away and went as real as possible.”
In the lead-up to the awards ceremony, whatever pressure he’s feeling comes from other people betting on him to win, said Koh, who turns 30 in June. And there’s something of a case of once bitten, twice shy in it, too.
In 2018, “when I was nominated for Best Newcomer, a lot of people said I would win, also. I felt some pressure because everyone was saying that to me. I was a bit sad when I didn’t get it, lah. Then I thought, ‘Yeah, maybe I should appreciate their thoughts but not take it to heart. The higher the hopes, the higher the disappointment!”
For now, he’s focusing on things he can control, like what he’s going to wear. He wants to rock up in a tuxedo this year, he told us. “I don’t know, people might say it’s boring but I feel that when you dress like a gentleman, people tend to take you more seriously. The year before, I wore red. I think, if your outfit is very colourful, people feel like you’re fooling around.”
He’s also working on his thank you speech, of course, just so he’s not caught unprepared. After all, his manager, his hair stylist and even journalists like us are all reminding him that he should.
About the competition he’s facing, he said, “Everyone is strong, but I feel the one who stands out is Qi Yuwu. People tell me his show (Dark Angel) is also very strong and the way he portrays his characters is on point. And he's a veteran.” He added with a laugh: “But this one time, please let me win?
“I hope to win, because I don't know when my next opportunity to be nominated will come. Then again, if I don’t win, I won't put too much pressure on myself.”
As an afterthought, he added, with a sheepish smile, “But, I want to win, lah.”
Well, if he doesn’t, we’ll eat our hat. Meanwhile, as we wait to see who will take those shiny, new Star Awards trophies home on Apr 9, here are some things you didn’t know about Richie Koh, from his favourite carbohydrate to how he really feels about snails.
1. “Richie Koh” is his real name, but his Chinese name “Rui Qi” is a stage name
My real name is Zong Yong. I haven't shared this with anyone. Before I enlisted in National Service, I was on a variety show hosted by Quan Yi Fong. She asked me what my name was. I said, “Xu Zong Yong”. She said, “If you’re thinking of going into showbiz, I think you should adopt a new name. Firstly, your name is very similar to Dasmond Koh’s (Xu Zhen Rong) and not many people can remember that name well.” She suggested Rui Qi (a transliteration of “Richie”). So, I adopted that as a stage name.
When I returned to acting after NS, no one knew my real name. All my friends started calling me Rui Qi instead of Zong Yong – even my own family! But I didn’t change my name officially, because the “Zong” character follows our family’s genealogy book.
“Richie” is the English name given to me by parents and it’s in my birth certificate. My younger sister is Gloria, which suggests she’ll be very glorious in her life, and my older brother is Victor. And then my name is so shallow – money! But I think it was because the Richie Rich cartoons were popular around the time I was born.
2. Just call him the snail whisperer (in Your World In Mine, his character Tian Cai finds a snail, names him Ah Niu and takes him home as a pet, to his mother’s chagrin)
Snails are actually very sweet and harmless animals. Just remember to wash your hands before you eat, if you happen to touch them.
Our first snail was Ah Niu A. The team members lost him – they wanted to let him breathe for a while after we finished work, but then they lost him. So, they went and found Ah Niu B.
Ah Niu B was a very good actor. He never had any bad takes – I had more than he did. He was always moving around. That’s how I found out that snails can extend their bodies very far out of their shells. And you have to pour some water before you remove them from a surface, or they might get dislocated from their shells.
If I come across a snail in my path, I usually move it to the side. On rainy days, I might accidentally have stepped on one or two. But, I always apologise. I say, “I’m so sorry, snail.” The weird thing is that after Ah Niu became my best friend, I didn’t step on a single snail by accident. I think they’re all a bit jealous, so they don’t want to come look for me any more.
3. He’s a part-time foodie
When I’m not working, I start to think about food. Because food is everywhere. It's on your phone, social media. But when I'm working, I don't think about food. If I'm working every day, I start to slim down! Once I take a break, my manager looks at my photos and says, “Eh, you’re going a bit overboard.” I don't mind so much because I feel like gaining and losing weight is part of being human. You might lose weight when you're sick. And when you gain weight, it means you're happy in your current stage of life. You enjoy food and companionship with family.
4. He’s Teochew, but he doesn’t care for png kueh (glutinous rice dumplings)
I don't like png kueh because it's full of rice. I prefer soon kueh (bamboo shoot dumplings). But if it’s rice with curry on it, I’ll eat it. If it’s porridge, I like it with preserved olive leaves. When it comes to noodles, I usually choose bee hoon or kway teow – the Teochew way!
5. To prepare to play the role of Tian Cai, he practised in front of the mirror at home
When I got the role, I was like, “The opportunity is here.” I started to experiment a lot in my room. I began with trying to get the speech pattern correct. Then, the walk. My parents would walk by outside my door and say, “What are you doing?” It was very awkward!
6. His most memorable scene from Your World In Mine was the one in which he hopped onto Zong Zijie’s back and nearly caused an injury (because of all the weight he gained)
There’s a scene in which Tian Cai jumps onto his brother's back for a piggyback ride. I was quite heavy at that point in time because I’d been told to put on weight for the role. And Zijie was trying to cut so that his muscles would stand out more. When the director called ‘action', I jumped onto his back. And I heard a crack! We went on with the scene though, and the director loved the way it went. That was the scene that boosted my confidence in the character. After that, Zijie asked me to cut down on my weight! He told me the next day that his legs felt a bit like jelly. I said, “You skipped leg day, bro.”
7. He’s not Attorney Woo, and that’s okay
I think the worst comment I read about myself was something like, “Guys, why are you all thinking that he did so well? He's just very normal and acts badly compared to actors in other countries.” Then there were other comments below it flaming that guy, lah. It doesn’t affect me because I don't really read the comments. Even if I read positive ones, I just smile, and usually ignore the bad ones.
8. His favourite Chinese New Year indulgence is shrimp rolls
We filmed Your World In Mine during the Chinese New Year period, so it was very easy to maintain my weight – drinks, steamboat, bak kwa, pineapple tarts, and my favourite, shrimp rolls. I was very happy. I didn't have to consider how I'd look the next day – whether I'd be bloated or look out of shape. It was the first time I was so happy and so well-rested for a drama. No makeup, no hair styling, so much sleep. Even if I got the lines wrong, nobody would know!
Seah, M. (2023, April 3). Why Richie Koh isn’t holding his breath to win Best Actor at Star Awards and 8 things you didn’t know about him. CNA Lifestyle. https://cnalifestyle.channelnewsasia.com/entertainment/richie-koh-best-actor-nominee-star-awards-2023-353281