Ex-Channel 8 star Lina Ng now a Lion Mum on

Lina Ng plays a perfectionist mother in Lion Mums 2, which is her first English- language drama in her career.
Lina Ng plays a perfectionist mother in Lion Mums 2, which is her first English- language drama in her career.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Forgoing a full-time acting career for parenthood is worth it, says actress Lina Ng

8Q

Actress Lina Ng is perplexed - a bunch of excitable schoolgirls clamour for her autograph and line up to have a wefie taken with her.

Ng, 43, was a television host and actress most active in the 1990s and early 2000s. She is less regularly seen on television screens these days.

She says of her young fans: "They are the youngest to have approached me. Usually, mothers will recognise me and get their kids to pose with me for a photo. The kids will ask, 'Who is she?' and their mums will explain that I was popular back then."

Perhaps the young fans found her familiar from her cameos on recent Channel 8 productions. She is playing a deranged mother in the ongoing weeknight Channel 8 soap Have A Little Faith.

There will be more exposure for Ng soon. She is crossing over to Channel 5 to take on her first English drama, Lion Mums 2, playing a perfectionist mother of three high- achieving children.

"It feels as if I am a newcomer. If I was unsure of any pronunciation, I would Google it. I would memorise every single word of my lines two to three days before each shoot," says Ng, a mother of three sons aged between six and 13.

She made her name after placing second on Mediacorp Channel 8's talent hunt Star Search in 1993.

Humour is her strong suit. She was one of the four zany hosts on the popular 1990s prime-time variety show City Beat, alongside Sharon Au, Bryan Wong and Kym Ng.

After MediaWorks - the TV station she joined from Mediacorp - merged with the latter in 2004, she was offered a marketing job, which she turned down.

Show business then took a backseat and parenting become a full-time job for Ng, who is married to Mr Mike Lam, 47, an administrator at Hwa Chong International. She also runs Mustard Seeds Academy, which provides Chinese enrichment classes to childcare centres.

"I had time to think about what I want to do with my life. I went into early-childhood education and taught Chinese. It prepared me to take care of my own children and helped to build my patience."

1 Was it tough for you to leave show business?

It was definitely hard because it was not planned. It took me about two years to accept that I was slowing down my pace of life. I had to be comfortable with not getting any attention and telling people that I am no longer an artist.

I am not embarrassed about what happened. I am proud I am a stay- at-home mother. I know that whatever time I spend with my children will go to building their confidence. Forgoing my full-time acting career for them is not a loss.

2 What made you decide to take on Lion Mums 2, which is the first English-language drama in your career and your first leading role in more than a decade?

Nowadays, when I take on a project, it has to be something I've never tried before or something that excites me.

I love the script. I've never worked on a script so true to reality. The drama reflects what Singaporean parents are going through.

I want to challenge myself and be a role model for my children.

I've done Mandarin dramas for more than 20 years - this is my first English drama.

I want to show my kids that even if you are unsure whether you can excel at something that you are interested in, you should still try and make sure you do your best.

3 Which aspects of your perfectionist-mother character Chae Lian can you identify with?

Chae Lian and I always have backup plans in mind for our children.

Let's say even if your children can study well, but they fall sick during the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and flop, they should have something else to fall back on.

That is why both my boys have their sports - my eldest son is in water polo and second son is in football.

My eldest got a place in the school of his choice via Direct School Admission, so he was not so stressed for the PSLE.

But, thankfully, he did very well to qualify for the school even without the DSA.

4 Are you a Lion Mum?

It depends on what your definition of a Lion Mum is.

If you define it as a mother who disciplines her children, who nags at them to do their homework, who ensures they eat their vegetables and not just meat, then I am a Lion Mum.

But I am not the kiasu mum who demands my children get straight As. As long as they try their best, I won't be angry with them even if they do not do well.

5 Did your children have anything to say about your role in Lion Mums 2?

I was supposed to have a kissing scene with actor Lim Yu-Beng, who plays my old flame.

We held a family conference about it. My two older sons were against it because they felt I should not kiss any other men except daddy.

My youngest son was my only supporter. He was on the film set one day and a producer explained to him that the kissing scene is not real and just acting. He went home and told papa, "Mummy is going to do a kissing scene. Not real. Just acting." In the end, the script was changed and the scene was cut.

6 How do you survive parenting three boys, doing the housework and acting on the side?

There were days when I could not take it. I cried because it was too pressurising. I make sure I have "me time" once a week to maintain my sanity.

I love food. I will treat myself to a meal by myself. I like Japanese food and will indulge in sashimi or sushi. Sometimes, I crave Italian food and I will go for some nice spaghetti. Other times, I just need a nice cup of coffee.

7 Will you consider returning to acting full-time?

No. It takes up a lot of energy and time. Age is against me.

I filmed Lion Mums for four months and I am tired. I still have to take care of my family. If I have to wait for my youngest child to be old enough to take care of himself, that will be another five years.

8 How would like to be remembered?

Recently, I posed this question to myself. I don't want to become a full-time actress because I've experienced how it is like to be bogged down with work every day. I felt like I didn't have time to breathe. I ended up becoming negative.

I consider myself lucky that my husband is shouldering the financial burden. If I have this blessing, I want to be able to bless others too.

As a freelancer, I have time to reflect and rest. I want to be able to step into a place and emit positivity. I want people to remember me as someone positive and who brings joy wherever she goes.

• Lion Mums 2 premieres on Channel 5 on Aug 9 at 9.30pm. Subsequent episodes air at 10pm from Mondays to Thursdays.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2017, with the headline 'Mum's the word for Lina Ng'. Print Edition | Subscribe