Zero in on Pierre Png

After winning an award for Zero Calling, the MediaCorp actor returns eagerly to season two

Actor Pierre Png has been looking forward to returning to Zero Calling's set more than any other show in his 19-year career.

Not only does he like the script, which he describes as "witty" and "different from the usual Channel 5" shows, his role as the hapless main character David Tan - the target of blackmail - also won him a Best Actor In A Leading Role award at the Asian TV Awards last year.

"This season will be much more action-packed than before," says Png, 41. "On a scale of one to 10 on the action level, it will be a 10 for sure."

While he also won a Best Actor award for his role as the villainous Hei Long in MediaCorp's Channel 8 blockbuster The Journey: A Voyage last year, English is clearly his preferred language, as he believes he can converse better in that language and contribute more on the set.

Season one of Zero Calling tells the story of an ordinary man, David, who is blackmailed into committing crimes by an anonymous caller known only as Zero.

The season notched up viewer ratings of 685,000, it was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Asian Television Awards and won a Silver Remi Award for Best TV Miniseries at WorldFest Houston last Sunday.

The second season, which premieres tonight, delves deeper into the mystery as David discovers not just one person, but also a whole organisation known as the Zero Legion, led by the mastermind Zero One.

"What's different with season two is that every episode will be contained," says Png. "So even if you miss an episode or two, you can still catch up with the storyline."

Reprising her role as David's stepdaughter Maddy is Hayley Woo, who describes her role as being more involved this season.

"I'm usually more comfortable speaking in Chinese, so acting in an English drama was tough at the start," says Woo, 23.

"Pierre encouraged me by sharing his own challenges getting used to speaking in Mandarin on Channel 8 and giving me tips to focus better on set."

She adds that playing the role of a stepdaughter drifting further from her parents is challenging for someone who in reality is very close to her family.

While the two play stepfatherstepdaughter roles in the show, they could conceivably be cast as lovers or even husband and wife based on their looks and Png's track record of being paired with younger women on Channel 8 dramas.

The duo laughed it off, saying that such a pairing would be "very awkward" for both sides.

If Png's youthful appearance does not betray their 18-year age gap, the giveaway is their different attitudes towards social media.

Despite having Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, Png is not active on social media and has only 1,836 Twitter followers and 40,200 Instagram followers.

In contrast, Woo has two Facebook accounts, 15,000 followers on Twitter, more than 83,200 Instagram followers and her own website.

She says that the higher public profile from Zero Calling, however, has made her more careful about the information she posts online, such as when tagging her locations on Instagram.

Png has been married to television host Andrea De Cruz for 12 years. While the couple have no children, he says he does not pass judgment on parents in difficult situations, such as his on-screen character who is estranged from his stepdaughter.

"After playing a character like David for two seasons, I feel that everyone has a back story," says the actor.

"Every family will have their own challenges. It's no one's place to correct these situations because that's a journey they need to take on their own."

samgohwy@sph.com.sg

Zero Calling's second season premieres tonight on Channel 5 at 9.30pm.