Ex-Mediacorp actor Peter Yu makes TV comeback

Peter Yu says he is open to returning full-time to TV.
Peter Yu says he is open to returning full-time to TV. PHOTO: MEDIACORP

After more than a decade, former Channel 8 actor Peter Yu is back in a role mirroring his life story

After disappearing from television screens for more than a decade, former Channel 8 actor Peter Yu is making a comeback in a drama series that airs in November.

Currently working full-time as a taxi driver, the 48-year-old will probably find the return to acting quite easy when he begins filming for the Channel 8 drama Hero later this month - he will be playing a character modelled on himself.

He says: "The role is a man who was once a popular actor, but who got into a lot of trouble and whose life fell apart after he got divorced.

"The show will have him pick up the pieces of his life and start over as a new guy," he tells The Straits Times over the telephone in a mix of Mandarin and English.

Anyone familiar with Yu's story will know that the description sounds almost exactly like what he has experienced.

 
 
 

A finalist in the local TV station's talent hunt Star Search in 1990, he won a Top 10 Most Popular Artiste Award in 1997 at the height of his fame. The next year, he married fellow artist and host Quan Yi Fong, whom he met on the comedy- drama Happy Travel Agency (1998).

In 2008, he divorced her, fell into depression and became hooked on gambling. By 2011, he had reportedly run up debts of more than $100,000 after overspending on credit cards.

He got his act back together. A born-again Christian, he has been paying off his debts in regular instalments: "I will hopefully be completely debt-free by next year," he says.

Yu, who has a 16-year-old daughter with Quan named Eleanor, also has a new family. He married a sales merchandiser in 2011 and the couple have a son aged four, with their second child due in August.

Hero's executive producer Jasmine Woo approached him to return to TV acting after thinking about it for a year.

She watched him perform in the musical The Search For True Love last July, one of the handful of stage roles he accepted in the past two years, and believes that there is still room for him in TV.

"So I met him and talked about him making a TV comeback. As we talked, we saw that we could write a whole character based on his life," she says of Yu's role, which features prominently in the script of the upcoming drama.

"And I always believe in second chances. Everyone goes through some bad times in his life, but we should give him a helping hand if we can. I feel that his life story is very inspirational and that it would be great for TV."

While details of the character have been exaggerated or modified from real life, Yu says he is "okay with that".

"As long as this role can inspire viewers to live their lives to the fullest and know that they can pick themselves up no matter what kind of troubles they have, that's all that matters to me."

Does his involvement in Hero - which will also star Shaun Chen, Chen Hanwei and Jesseca Liu - signal a possible return to full-time acting on TV?

"I'm open to the idea. I don't know what will happen - it's all part of God's plan and I'll just see. I just know that I feel happy with my life now and that I'll be back at the TV station as a changed person."


• Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

• Hero is slated to air in November.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2016, with the headline 'Picking up the pieces and making a comeback'. Print Edition | Subscribe