They may have had similar beginnings, but Elaine Wong and Alfred Sun have very divergent paths in their careers.
In a recent interview with AsiaOne for the new Mediacorp drama Silent Walls, Alfred shared his thoughts on seeing fellow Singaporean Elaine on the South Korean Netflix reality show Physical: 100.
“Seeing Elaine on screen was a very happy [occasion] for me, because I know she has been doing a lot of work overseas,” the 31-year-old artiste said.
“But because of that, a lot of the Singaporean audience don’t know about her, so to finally see people here talk about her is very nice to witness.”
Alfred was one of four K-pop idol prospects from Singapore, alongside Tasha Low, Ferlyn Wong as well as the 33-year-old Elaine.
In 2010, he passed two auditions held by South Korean entertainment agency JYP in collaboration with the Singapore-based Alpha Entertainment, and was even offered a contract with the latter.
Although he went to South Korea for a short period to train together with the other three candidates, he wasn’t able to defer his National Service and had to give up on the idol dream.
Over time, the other three talents also dropped out after varying degrees of success in South Korean showbiz, with Tasha, 29, and Ferlyn, 31, returning to Singapore. Elaine opted to remain overseas while Alfred found success in other Asian countries.
He landed the lead role in the 2018 short film, Summerdaze, and made it to the top 30 of Chinese reality show, We Are Young (2020).
The quartet have been a “tightly-knit” group of friends despite their different career choices.
“I honestly think it takes a lot of bravery,” Alfred said, “I feel we’re quite similar because for Elaine, after the whole K-pop thing didn’t work out, she stayed overseas to pursue acting in China, South Korea — but she had no visibility in Singapore.
“This is something I’ve also struggled with quite a bit. For the past, say, five years, I’ve taken part in opportunities overseas, in Taiwan, China and Malaysia.
“But then I started to question, ‘Who is Alfred in Singapore?'”
‘This is home, right?’
As someone who is proud to be a Singaporean, this was a difficult question to consider, Alfred admitted.
He shared: “This is home, right? Our families are based here, even for Elaine.
“So it is quite sad sometimes, because you don’t feel like there’s anyone in Singapore who will celebrate whatever you’ve achieved overseas, perhaps it’s because what we’ve accomplished isn’t huge enough.
“For Elaine to continue doing that (working overseas), for the number of years that she has been doing, I think it’s really quite admirable and brave.”
And although Elaine has Alfred’s respect, he has no intentions on returning to South Korea just yet — conversely, he wants to continue making headway in local showbiz.
He’s only been based in Singapore for the past year-and-a-half, he said, and he feels like he wants to do more here.
Alfred explained that the support he received from Singaporeans while he acted overseas felt “a bit disappointing”, while acting in Singapore gives him a “sense of community” that he found refreshing.
“Seeing more people willing to consume local entertainment has been an even greater motivation for me to want to do more things here.
“I don’t think it (Elaine’s success) has inspired me to want to go and do anything in particular, because I feel that I’ve travelled enough to different countries and experienced different showbiz cultures — and Singapore’s one of my favourites.”
Singapore’s showbiz compared with the world’s
Describing the differences between the entertainment scenes in Singapore and abroad, Alfred told AsiaOne that “there are more opportunities overseas”.
“The landscapes of the industries are very different because Singapore’s is so small, so it feels tightly-knit and like a big family.
“Overseas industries, I think, are more fast-paced and — based on my own experience — artistes are more like a product.”
In contrast, Singapore’s showbiz allows for more creative input from the stars themselves, Alfred said, which is something he respects and treasures more.
He said: “Especially because I’ve been overseas for a while, I really do want to cement my position in Singapore a bit more and expand my social circle and work with more diverse people locally.
“Of course, if I have the opportunity to go overseas [for work], I’d still be glad to take it on.”
Silent Walls is Alfred’s first local drama wherein he plays the introverted son of a well-to-do family in 1988, Jin Kaide, who hopes to pursue dance.
However, he becomes embroiled in a dispute over inheritance after the death of his grandfather when Kaide’s sister, Jin Kaiting (Meixin) becomes the sole heir of the family’s business.
Silent Walls also stars Darren Lim, Mindee Ong, Desmond Shen, Chen Shucheng, Andie Chen and Charlie Goh.
It is available for free on meWATCH and premieres tonight (March 15) at 9pm on Channel 8.