Li Nanxing worked as a Hollywood 'calefare' in the 90s to pay off his gambling debts

Even the gambling king himself has admitted defeat.

Karen Lui | February 19, 2021, 10:52 AM

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Guo Liang's new talkshow,  "The Inner Circle", started airing on Feb. 17, 2021.

The actor and host kicked off the first episode with Li Nanxing as guest.

While Li has recently gained publicity for his hae bee hiam products, long-time fans would also have heard of his struggles with debt and gambling in the past.

The 45-minute episode also saw Li discussing the high and low points of his acting career with Guo.

Gambling addiction

In one of the conversations, Li shared about how he was juggling both his business and acting commitments.

He admitted to developing a gambling addiction after ending his business.

He was looking for a quick way to pay off his debt and believed that relying on acting alone would take too long.

At that time, he happened to be filming "The Unbeatables II" and he said animatedly that if one was lucky, they can easily win hundreds of thousands of dollars after a few games, just as depicted in the television series.

Screenshot via meWATCH.

With S$200,000 that he had raised at that time, he visited the casino in Genting Highlands — wearing his character's clothes from the television series.

Upon arriving, he was immediately recognised as "Singapore's gambling king", and the casino security escorted him into the casino, treating him like "a big shot, a VVIP".

Unlike the gambling king character that he played, Li had "really lost" and it became a lesson for him.

Li looked distinctly sombre as he recounted the experience.

Screenshot via meWATCH.

"There was a time when I really hit rock bottom and didn't know how to turn my life around. It was very difficult, I didn't know which problem to address first, how to deal with the debt collectors."

Hollywood calefare

The veteran actor shared how he took on backstage work and "calefare" (extras) roles.

He cited an example of one he did for a Hollywood movie that he did not name.

He only had two scenes whereby his character was shot to death shortly after the door was opened, with barely any lines.

Li repeatedly emphasises, "It's like that," demonstrating his awareness of the nature of these jobs.

According to Li, some industry people were surprised to see his name among the audition submissions.

When probed about how he felt, Li responded that he had no choice as he needed the money and had to disregard his celebrity status.

"In this sort of situation, what else can I do other than find my own solutions by earning money here and there, to accumulate the sum that I need to solve the problems in front of me," Li explained.

Screenshot via meWATCH.

As audience still wished for his return to the small screen, Li eventually returned to acting, after spending four years to clear his debts.

"Eventually, I returned to my old trade as the audience still wanted me to return to acting. At that time I plucked my courage and went back to acting. I spent about four years to clear my debts."

Since returning to the industry, he has done his best for the roles entrusted to him, instead of doing a slipshod job, Li added.

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Top images via meWATCH.