SINGAPORE - Veteran actor Mak Ho Wai, known for his role as the head of the household, "Lao Hero" or "Old Hero", in popular Channel 8 sitcom Don't Worry, Be Happy (1996 to 2002), has died at the age of 76.
His death was confirmed by his good friend, Hong Kong actress Michelle Yim, 66, who said in a statement to the Hong Kong media that Mak died at his home in Singapore on Thursday (April 14).
"Ho Wai was a good husband and father who loved his family. He loved his friends and was a good actor," she said. "We have lost another friend. Rest in peace."
Actors from the cast of Don't Worry, Be Happy posted tributes to him on social media after the news broke.
Actress May Phua posted on Instagram Stories: "Today I say goodbye to my reel dad. Ten years acting as your youngest daughter is a long time for TV. Till we meet again."
Actor Chew Chor Meng, who played salesman Ah Bee on the sitcom, also posted, writing: "Forever (our) Lao Hero. Farewell."
Information on the cause of death or his survivors was not immediately available.
The Hong Kong-born actor, who was also known as Mai Haowei, studied in Taiwan when he was younger and had a degree in electrical engineering.
He joined the entertainment industry, however, to fulfil the wish of his younger brother, actor Mak Dai Shing, who died in an air crash in 1982 at the age of 29.
Mak Ho Wai attended Hong Kong broadcaster TVB's 12th artiste training programme in 1983. His classmates included Sean Lau, Lawrence Ng, Michael Tao, Carina Lau and Sandra Ng, who would go on to become big names in the Hong Kong entertainment industry.
Mak also went on to act in several TVB series during the 1980s and 1990s, with memorable roles such as the boss of an investment firm in The Justice Of Life (1989) and a news vendor in The Greed Of Man (1992).
His last acting role with TVB was as a prosecutor in the crime drama Crime And Passion (1994).
He then moved to Singapore, where he played TV roles such as the "Old Imp" Zhou Botong in The Return Of The Condor Heroes (1998), the adaptation of late writer Louis Cha's martial arts novel of the same name, and the immortal Han Zhongli in Legend Of The Eight Immortals (1998 to 1999).
He was likely best known in Singapore for his role in Don't Worry, Be Happy, which also starred Fang Hui, Tracer Wong and the late Huang Wenyong.
According to Lianhe Zaobao, after leaving showbusiness, Mak had a stint as a Mandarin-speaking docent at the National Museum of Singapore. Actress Yim had met up with Mak to celebrate his birthday in late 2018 and had last met him in early 2020.
In a joint statement, Mak's daughters, Hilda and Ingrid, said on social media on Thursday evening that they would not hold any memorial ceremony or wake according to his wishes.
"As a professional artiste before his retirement, dad found joy in bringing laughter and entertainment through the various roles that he played," they wrote on Facebook.
"Thank you for allowing our dad to be a part of your memories and we appreciate the support he received from his audiences. We believe that he will take great comfort in this."