A bittersweet return for Fiona Xie

While happy to be appearing in a new Channel 5 drama, actress Fiona Xie is heavy-hearted because a family member is ill

Fiona Xie will play a psychiatrist in Channel 5 drama Left Behind.
Fiona Xie will play a psychiatrist in Channel 5 drama Left Behind. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

It is usually a happy occasion when a star makes a comeback, but this was not quite the case for former Mediacorp actress Fiona Xie, 34.

Choking back tears at her first major press conference here after a seven-year hiatus from the small screen, she says that her return to show business has, unfortunately, coincided with a family member falling ill.

"While it's a bit sad for me, at the same time, everyone in the family is spending time together and it's a heartwarming experience," she says.

In fact, playing the role of a psychiatrist in upcoming Channel 5 drama Left Behind was a source of strength for her at a difficult time.

Speaking at a media session on Tuesday, she says in English: "It gave me a lot more meaning to do this role because I was dishing out all this advice day in and day out to all my patients in the show, and they were actually daily reminders for myself to be strong and to go on and to really live life."

Xie's last high-profile role was as the female lead in the Malaysian movie, The Golden Couple (2012), opposite Taiwanese actor Mike He.

Initially apprehensive about a return to television, she finally agreed to the project because of the drama's executive producer, Kenneth Liang.

He was the first producer to have worked with her at Channel 5 in A War Diary (2001) and he won her over with the plot, a "sob story bomb that shattered my heart".

There was also the pride factor, something she had talked about with fellow comeback kid Sharon Au. "Both of us are artists who left on a high. It's so scary to return when I left on that good note."

The bombshell shot to fame after her role as an impish genie in the 2001 TV comedy My Genie and she was once part of Mediacorp's heavily promoted line-up of Seven Princesses. Back then, she was one of the most popular actresses on Channel 8, along with others such as Felicia Chin, Jeanette Aw and Joanne Peh.

Donning a silver biker jacket and sporting a youthful ponytail, the porcelain-faced beauty takes it in her stride that viewers still remember her as the babe sprinting down Orchard Road in a bikini in the Channel 8 drama The Champion (2004).

She says with a laugh: "It is comforting to know that you made a mark on the history of television."

After leaving Mediacorp, she remained largely out of the public eye, except for some posts, including the rare selfie, on Instagram.

Away from the limelight, she has been overseas dabbling in photography, fashion and art. Though open to taking on more acting projects, she plans to return to Japan to finish an art curation project, which she did not elaborate on.

She says of keeping a low profile: "For seven years, I never did a single interview. A lot of people say, 'You should have kept up your profile, do more magazine shoots.' But magazine shoots equal questions, which I didn't want to answer. I apologise, please know that it came from wanting to protect the people I love."

Fans were shocked by her sudden exit in 2009 as she dropped out of a drama, Together, days before filming was to start.

News surfaced later that she had followed her then Australian- American boyfriend overseas. They have since broken up.

She says she has been single for the past year or so.

"For the first time, I've been single for a long period of time, but I'm not looking.

"It took me a long time to grow into the woman that I am now. I think everyone should enjoy me-time."

• Left Behind premieres on Channel 5 on Aug 22 at 10pm.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2016, with the headline A bittersweet return for Fiona Xie. Subscribe