Another juicy role for Priscelia

Priscelia Chan plays Helen Wee (above), a hardened character who takes advantage of others to get ahead in Mata Mata: A New Era. -- PHOTO: MEDIACORP
Priscelia Chan plays Helen Wee (above), a hardened character who takes advantage of others to get ahead in Mata Mata: A New Era. -- PHOTO: MEDIACORP
Priscelia Chan (above) plays Helen Wee, a hardened character who takes advantage of others to get ahead in Mata Mata: A New Era. -- PHOTO: MEDIACORP
Priscelia Chan (above) plays Helen Wee, a hardened character who takes advantage of others to get ahead in Mata Mata: A New Era. -- PHOTO: MEDIACORP

There is a right time for everything. That is how home-grown actress Priscelia Chan views her Rocket Award win at the Star Awards this year - her first award after 15 years in show business.

She won the award in April for her striking portrayal of the villainous Han Xiuxiang in period drama The Journey: A Voyage (2013), a jealous and spiteful woman who is unafraid of going to extremes to get her way.

The Rocket Award is given to the artist who has shown the most improved or breakthrough performance over the past year.

Offscreen, the 35-year-old actress is bubbly and radiating with positivity as she tells Life! in a recent interview that "everything happens for a reason", even if it means getting award recognition only after so many years of slogging.

"I won't say the award came too late. When you've been in the industry for so long and you've worked so hard for every single role, you just see these things as serendipity," she says cheerily.

"I was given the award for playing this villain but if you gave me that same role 10 years ago, I don't think I'd have been mature enough to do it. So there is a right time for everything."

She sounds just as excited when asked to discuss her latest role - that of sultry nightclub performer Helen Wee in Channel 5's Mata Mata: A New Era, the follow-up to last year's period drama Mata Mata, which focused on Singapore's first female police officers.

Chan's character - which is new to the show - is described as someone who, after tragedy strikes, becomes hardened to the point where she takes advantage of others to get ahead.

She says: "Helen Wee was just so exciting to play. I really liked portraying her internal struggles and all of her complexities. She had this beautiful life but it all changed overnight when she lost her family and it was fascinating to explore that."

Remaining perpetually sunny over her job is something the veteran actress constantly reminds herself to be, even as newer starlets continue to snag prominent leading roles.

"Of course, everyone wants to play the lead roles but I don't believe in being envious of anyone," she says.

"There have been moments when I've felt like quitting. But I have a passion for acting and I believe that I should just keep doing it. I hope to touch people's hearts through my performances."

Since her Star Search contest debut in 1999, she has acted in more than 40 productions in both Mandarin and English, including Channel 8's war drama, In Pursuit Of Peace (2001), as a courageous and faithful woman; and Channel 5's sitcom, My Sassy Neighbour, as a timid daughter (2005-2007).

Perhaps choosing to stay positive came naturally for Chan after her mother died of heart failure nine years ago.

She says: "I was 27 then and it was a huge turning point for me. I realised that life can be gone the next second and it made me sit down and strive to be happy, and to do what I want to do instead of what society wants me to do."

It helps that she has a strong pillar of support in her husband Alan Tern, 38, whom she married in 2007. The former MediaCorp actor now runs an optical distribution business.

She says: "The best thing to happen to me at MediaCorp is that I got to meet him at work. We were best friends before we got married and that friendship was the best foundation for marriage.

"Whenever I feel down or tired, he can sense it and he'll just come and give me a hug. I'm really very blessed."

So are children on the cards? "We really love children but we've got to be patient. It just hasn't happened for us yet," she says.

In any case, it is clear that she is enjoying life to the fullest. She posts plenty of heartwarming pictures and messages on her Instagram account (@prisceliachan) about fun outings with friends and colleagues, and snapshots of her day-to-day life featuring pretty flowers and sunsets.

She adds: "Life is full of s*** so we have to stay optimistic and enjoy everything that we do. Otherwise, what's the point?"

Mata Mata: A New Era airs on Channel 5 every Monday at 8pm.