Watch Lin Ching-hsia wrestle and cook on Chinese reality show Up Idol

Screen legend Lin Ching-hsia (seated) with actress Xie Na on Up Idol.
Screen legend Lin Ching-hsia (seated) with actress Xie Na on Up Idol. PHOTO: WEIBO/UP IDOL

Taiwanese movie legend Lin Ching-hsia is often a picture of poised perfection. But even screen goddesses can get gritty when push comes to shove, as her fellow cast members on Chinese reality television show Up Idol found out.

Actress Athena Chu, 44, tells Singapore media over the telephone: "I'd always imagined big sister Ching-hsia to be an immortal who lives beyond the mortal realm. But she gives it her all and never gives up. She doesn't want special treatment."

In a separate phone interview from China, actress Ada Choi, 42, says: "In a segment that wasn't aired, there was a contest for food. I was on the defence, she was on the attack. I pulled her till she was on the ground. I apologised to her after, but she said it's okay, it's only a game."

Up Idol is the much talked-about showbiz comeback for 61-year-old Lin, who is married to billionaire Michael Ying and has not acted in a movie since Ashes Of Time (1994).

The China reality show features 10 female celebrities who compete in challenges such as arm-wrestling and cooking contests.

Lin's participation in the show is the most anticipated of all. When she first appeared on it, her fellow cast members were in awe and some were even moved to tears.

Hong Kong star Choi says: "She was my childhood idol. I recall watching her in movies, she's gorgeous. I couldn't believe we would be filming and having fun together. Now we're friends."

Chu, who is also from Hong Kong, confessed to having mixed feelings about competing against Lin.

Recalling one challenge where Lin struck her with a sandbag, she says: "It was painful, but at the same time I felt lucky and happy that it was big sister Ching-hsia who eliminated me."

Besides the privilege of filming with their idol, Choi and Chu also enjoyed taking part in the TV show because it gave the two long-time friends, who have known each other since starring in the cult classic A Chinese Odyssey Part Two (1995), the chance to catch up with each other.

Choi says: "We were happy to be on the same show. The entire process - on- and off-screen, or on the plane - felt as if we were going on a honeymoon. We chatted and reminisced about the past."

One might imagine that during the pals' endless chatter, they would have gushed about their husbands, who are known to dote on them.

Chu is married to former Beyond guitarist Paul Wong, 51, with whom she has a three-year-old daughter.

Calling her hubby "Ah Paul" endearingly during this interview, she says her lyricist husband is good with his words and pens her love letters.

She says: "I feel embarrassed recounting his sweet words. He said that meeting me is the biggest milestone in his life and having me by his side is his greatest happiness."

Similarly, Choi is happy to talk about about her soulmate , Chinese gongfu actor Max Zhang Jin, 41, who won Best Supporting Actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards for The Grandmaster (2013). The couple have two daughters aged four and two.

Choi says: "We have to talk to each other every day. We tell each other everything. A friend of mine is surprised that we know each other's phone password."

But she clarifies: "My husband is my lover, not my idol. He's pretty cool, he has a place in my heart. An idol is someone who is revered and admired from afar."

• Up Idol premieres on E City (StarHub TV Channel 111/825) on Dec 20 at 8pm. It airs on Sunday at 8pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2015, with the headline 'Watch Lin Ching-hsia wrestle and cook'. Print Edition | Subscribe