Long seen in supporting roles on Channel 8 dramas, Shanghai-born actor Ian Fang has made the leap to leading man on the big screen for the first time.
He was picked from a group of around 150 actors to helm the Singapore-Malaysia co-production Goodbye Mr Loser, a remake of the 2015 Chinese comedy hit with the same title. It opens in cinemas tomorrow.
Snagging the meaty movie role may seem like a nod to his acting skills, but Fang, 27, thinks otherwise.
Answering with characteristic aplomb, he says: "The movie is a good opportunity for me. But I feel that my acting skills have already been recognised. I would not be cast in dramas and movies if I was not good."
People have dreams. I have goals. The movie is one of my goals that I have achieved. My next goal is to be a lead in a local drama.
MEDIACORP ACTOR IAN FANG
Such frankness would reinforce the notion in people's mind that he is cocky, but he says the criticism is not valid because people do not know the real him and he says he has matured with age.
He says: "That's my image, they do not know the inner me. I can't control people's perception of me. When I just entered show business, everything was new to me. Fame comes to you fast, you earn money, you get endorsements, you feel good. As days go by, things happen and you will change. Now I am more chill."
The lead role marks a milestone in his six-year acting career.
After starting off with a bit part as a trouble-making kid in Channel 8 police drama C.L.I.F (2011), he quickly shot to fame as a juvenile delinquent on Channel 8's teen gang drama On The Fringe (2011).
"People have dreams. I don't have dreams. I have goals. The movie is one of my goals that I have achieved. My next goal is to be a lead in a local drama," says Fang, who plays a middle-aged nobody given a second shot at life in the movie. His character travels back in time and becomes a superstar instead.
So far, Fang has been cast in supporting roles in Channel 8 dramas and local films such as Imperfect (2012) and Meeting The Giant (2014).
As to why protagonist roles have eluded him, Fang guesses that his boyish looks may not be suitable to front the type of dramas produced here.
He could be a better fit for youth-oriented idol dramas such as Taiwan's classic Meteor Garden (2001). But such productions are rarely filmed here.
"Maybe my time is not here yet. I cannot control external factors. I can only work on upgrading myself," says Fang, who is the only child of divorced parents.
"I used to be impatient and wonder why I don't have this or that. Now I'm just enjoying myself in a job that I love," he adds.
He was brought up by his mother, who invested in a pub business in Singapore.
Even though he has not been cast in a leading role, he still has a shot at bulking up his credentials at next month's Star Awards.
This year, he is a contender for the Best Supporting Actor award, for his performance as a spoilt mummy's boy in The Dream Job (2016). On his chance of winning, he names fellow nominees and works out the odds. He says: "We have the respected Chen Shucheng, amiable and approachable Romeo Tan, multi-talented Jeffrey Xu, skilled Andie Chen... I have a 20 per cent chance."
•Goodbye Mr Loser opens in cinemas tomorrow.