Loyal Channel 8 viewers may recognise Shaun Chen as the actor who played villains in numerous local productions.
In the "Hear U Out" Feb. 26 episode, the 42-year-old actor discussed with host Quan Yi Fong his fall from grace when SPH MediaWorks merged with Mediacorp.
Starting his acting career
After giving up on his dream to be a national badminton player and boyband singer, Chen decided to give acting a shot, building on his prior experience in modelling.
A Mediacorp representative in Kuala Lumpur had approached him and arranged for an audition for him in Singapore.
Chen claimed that he did not do any preparations for the audition and just took a four to five-hour bus ride to Singapore to have a look as he had not travelled abroad before.
Despite NG-ing for 50 times over a scene that was a page long, Chen was offered a contract with Mediacorp.
Losing a stable income and BMW
Shaun Chen debuted as the second male lead in 2003 Channel 8 police drama, "True Heroes" opposite Phyllis Quek.
He gained more public recognition when he played Jeannette Aw's love interest in the 2003 hit Channel 8 television series, "Holland V".
Then, when Channel U started airing, SPH MediaWorks poached Chen, offering him a salary raise, which he accepted without much consideration.
He admitted that he failed to handle his change of employers well that time and should have done a better job to prevent angering anyone in the process.
The raised salary was so great that Chen even bought himself a BMW.
When SPH MediaWorks merged with Mediacorp in less than two years, Chen was among those who were left behind and did not join Mediacorp.
Chen went from an artiste with a stable income and a BMW to being jobless with no income from the next month onwards.
Besides being a non-Singaporean with no parents or relatives here, Chen found himself living in a rented flat with an extremely costly car.
He continued to pay his bills everyday until he ran out of money, after which he turned to credit cards.
He spent as little as he could on food while fretting over how to pay for the car.
His friend advised him to pay for the car with a lump sum of S$20,000 and sell it at a loss to alleviate the financial burden of the car.
Due to the lack of income, he shared how he returned to selling glasses, "Carrying two bags of spectacle samples, I went to sell them at optical shops."
He disclosed how the shop staff were surprised upon recognising him and would entertain him by buying a few pieces before showing him the door. "Actually, it didn't feel good at that time but I had to eat, I had to work," he said.
When asked about why he did not tell his parents about his predicament, Chen said, "When I come out to work, I can't die," as he tried to hold back tears.
"Since I was very young, I stopped taking money from my parents. I started working to earn money for myself since I was 18. Every month, I'd take a hundred or two hundred and give to my parents. I was determined not to take money from my parents."
He refused to inform them about his plight. Instead, he insisted he was still acting and working on a part-time basis. Despite the lack of a fixed income, he was okay.
At that time, he accepted any role he was offered.
Despite being stressed out by his poor English language skills, he accepted a role in "Heartlanders", an English television series on Channel 5 in 2005.
The tough period spanned two to three years because Chen did not wish to return to Malaysia and be seen when he was not in a good place.
"I insisted on staying here, I didn't give up, I still felt that I could make it because at that time, I performed very well in my first two years and I already knew how to act. I didn't give up."
Eventually, Chen went to Taiwan where he starred in a minor role in a production. He later returned to Singapore when he was offered a lead role, and a contract by Mediacorp.
You can catch Chen's interview on "Hear U Out" here (English subtitles available).
Top images via meWATCH.