Fresh off Wild Rice’s La Cage Aux Folles, Hossan Leong, the well-known Singapore comedian, answers some questions about aging and divas on set, and why he thinks some people need to grow up!
First off, let’s get this out of the way: You look nothing near your age of 43. What’s your secret to looking so youthful?
Be happy. Be positive. OK, it’s in my genes.
You’re affectionately labeled as the “Singapore Boy” – has this been a bane or boost for you?
Definitely a boost! It’s branding. Someone said to me once that I am the epitome of a Singaporean. I think that was a compliment.
You seem to have done it all – musicals, comedy, drama, television, theatre, movies – tell us, what is your ONE true love actually?
Theatre – My first love – be it acting or directing. Hosting We Are Singaporeans was also a dream come true. I hope that show becomes a yearly affair.
Since you’ve been in the industry for such a long time, have you seen any positive developments in it through the years?
Of course! There’s so much talent here. People are more adventurous and are willing to be more open to all sorts of art forms.
What is it like working with Glen Goei as director?
Glen is wonderful. I love collaborating with him. We exchange and share ideas to improve the show on a regular basis. And it’s always a two-way dialogue. He is amazingly talented!
How has it been acting with Ivan Heng?
What can I say about Ivan? I’ve respected him all my life. His passion and dedication encourages me to pursue my dreams. Each time we work together it’s a joy. Of course being in drag always helps.
La Cage Aux Folles tells the tale of an aging star plagued with insecurity. Does aging bother you, especially in an industry that seems to value youth?
Theatre doesn’t discriminate. It’s talent and passion that count. The older I get, the more confident I feel, and the choices I make in a role becomes deeper. And I’ve learnt to be disciplined: No fooling around at work, as the audience deserves the best.
As you get older, have you been met with any insecurity (internally, or from others) that you didn’t face when younger?
My waistline! Paunch be gone! That’s why I pole dance.
On a more positive note, what’s good about being an older actor or performer?
You get to share your experience with the next generation. You need to set a good example and work ethic. And also, confidence builds as you get older.
Do comedians generally have a longer “shelf life” and get discriminated against less in term of looks or age compared to dramatic actors?
Don’t think so. You just need to keep it fresh. Come watch the Hossan Leong Show. There’s no discrimination in theatre. We do it for the passion. Not for fame or fortune. You want that? Join Star Search.
If you could go back in time and say anything to the 20-year-old actor that was YOU, what would you tell your younger self?
Go to the gym. Just kidding. I would not change a thing. Life is a journey not a destination.
A theme of La Cage is of course Family and Love. What is “Family” to you? What is “Love” to you?
Family is people who love you no matter what. I have an amazing family. I love them to bits. I’m very blessed. Love is everytime you see your partner and your heart skips a beat. And just saying “I love you – every day, unconditionally
How important is support – be it by way of Family or Friends –especially for a Singaporean actor?
Very. Without it, it would be a real struggle.
I see that it’s quite an ensemble of actors that form the cast of La Cage. Any big egos or diva behaviour so far?
Just one. No names mentioned. But oh my goodness! I can do without diva attitudes and ridiculous demands – especially from a chorus girl. I’d like to tell her that everyone goes through the same problems so DEAL with it! If you can’t handle the heat get out of the kitchen!
What would audiences have gotten from La Cage?
Laughter, tears and warmth. As well as love and understanding.
In 2012, does a play with a set of leading gay characters still surprise/shock/offend Singaporeans? What do you think about this?
If they get offended it’s a choice they make. No one is forcing them to watch it. Anyway, it’s their loss if they didn’t catch La Cage.
Singapore needs to grow up. Who creates concepts for NDP (National Day Parade)? Who brings colour and life to the arts scene? And other sectors of Singapore?
Acceptance is part and parcel of a mature society. So I say, grow up! Bigotry and discrimination should cease regardless of race, religion, or orientation. Gay or straight, we all contribute to society. Deal with it or go back into your shell. I know of gay couples happy in a relationship longer than straight ones who break up after being married for three months.
So, what’s next for Hossan Leong?
I’ll be directing Stephen Sondheim’s Company in November and that’s a musical comedy not to be missed!