Little Nyonya star Dai Xiangyu struggles to make his mark in China

SINGAPORE - MediaCorp's China actor Dai Xiangyu, 30, has been missing from the local scene for four years.

He left to make his mark in Chinese show business in 2011, but has yet to make a breakthrough. In fact, he was jobless for the first two years in China.

"I had no jobs, and I stayed at home all day. It was hard to adjust because I was doing well in Singapore, and I had to start from scratch in China," says the actor who used to be called Dai Yangtian when he starred in Channel 8's megahit drama The Little Nyonya (2008-2009).

"There were stressful moment. I would relieve my stress by eating ice cream. I can eat four pints of ice cream at one go."

He was in town on Thursday to do his rounds of forget-me-not interviews to remain in the public eye. "That's why I'm doing so many interviews now," he says candidly.

"Of course I could have taken on cameo roles to make a living. But I didn't want to do that.

"Even for actors in leading roles, it's hard to stand out and advance in China's showbiz. It would be even tougher for me if I started off with cameo roles. I will only do it if it's a huge production"

It was always his plan to further his career in China. However, he got sidetracked and stayed on in Singapore after getting his big break in The Little Nyonya.

Then he decided it was time to get back on track, and officially moved back to Shanghai in 2011.

Things only started to look up in China two years ago (2013) when he changed his name for better luck and met his current manager, Liu Tao. Last year, he signed on to Chinese artiste management agency Mango Entertainment.

Now based in Beijing, he is starring in the romantic drama Singles Villa, which is airing on China's Hunan TV, as psychiatrist to the protagonist played by Taiwanese actor Joseph Cheng.

Up next: his first Hollywood production, Lost In The Pacific, a sci-fi flick starring Superman Returns star Brandon Routh and Chinese actress Zhang Yuqi. He is currently filming the movie at the Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Johor. The shoot wraps next month (May).

Dai says his biggest challenge for this project is having to say his lines in English. He has hired an English teacher and memorises his lines by heart.

"The director told us that we could tweak our lines to make it sound smoother. But it will be even harder for me that way. I'll say it word for word.

"Now I know how actor Pierre Png feels," says Dai with a laugh, referring to his MediaCorp colleague who is infamous for struggling with his Chinese-language drama scripts.

On the personal front, he is on the look-out for his better half.

"She must understand the nature of my job. I don't like domineering women. I want someone that I can protect."

He admits that he has his eye on someone and is at the stage of getting to know her better.

"If I ever get married, I'll announce it by holding media interviews like I'm doing now.

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