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'I actually don't like Chinese New Year': Henry Thia finds festive preparations stressful and tiring

'I actually don't like Chinese New Year': Henry Thia finds festive preparations stressful and tiring
Actor Henry Thia identifies with the Dragon trait of being lucky.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE — Actor Henry Thia is not sure if he is "naturally charismatic", a common description of those born in the Year of the Dragon.

"I only know people always smile when they see me on the street. Not just in Singapore, but Johor Bahru too,"?says the 71-year-old, who is known for his roles as the bumbling, imperfect everyman.

His latest film Money No Enough 3, which is showing in Singapore cinemas, reunites him with Jack Neo and Mark Lee. The trio play long-time buddies navigating a rapidly evolving digital age.

Although Thia has starred in 40 movies since the first Money No Enough in 1998, he does not regard himself as a star or "ah ge"?(Chinese for big brother) in show business.

"I’ve not changed. I’m still always in bermudas and slippers, and eating at coffee shops."

Henry Thia’s (right) latest film Money No Enough 3 reunites him with (from left) Mark Lee and Jack Neo. PHOTO: Shin Min Daily News

But Thia identifies with the Dragon trait of being lucky, which has got him this far. "I live a charmed life. I just keep going and things will fall in place,"?he says.

He was a former handyman at a factory when he took up part-time work as an extra at then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.

"I wanted additional income to support my family and thought being a calefare would be easy."

His first appearance, he recalls, was in the Channel 8 blockbuster drama series The Awakening (1984).

"I was so excited when it aired and got my family members to crowd around the TV set. But I couldn’t even spot myself,"?he recalls with a laugh.

In 1988, he signed up with actor-director Neo’s acting school. Lee was his coursemate and both were later roped in to play bit parts — followed by bigger roles — on Neo’s hit TV variety show Comedy Nite in the 1990s.

Today, Thia is a talent under Lee’s King Kong Media Production, although he considers himself a retiree and does not actively seek out work opportunities.

"It’s funny how life pans out,"?he says. "When I was a calefare in The Awakening, [local actress]?Xiang Yun was the leading lady. She is now my on-screen wife in Money No Enough 3."

Henry Thia and Xiang Yun (second from left) play a married couple in Money No Enough 3. PHOTO: Golden Village

In real life, Thia is married with three daughters in their 40s and has six grandchildren, who are in Primary 1?to Secondary 2.

He and his wife Mary Yeo, a 67-year-old childcare centre cook, have been living in their five-room HDB flat in Sengkang for more than 20 years.

This Chinese New Year’s Eve, his big family will be having steamboat at home.

"You know what? I actually don’t like Chinese New Year,"?he says.

"The month-long preparation leading to the occasion is so stressful and tiring. We have to spring-clean our home, queue for new notes, pack hongbao, plan what to eat… All that for three days of gatherings."

He adds: "I’m not the only one to feel this way, right?"

ALSO READ:?Never got to say 'I love you': Sharon Au regrets not meeting late dad after over 20 years apart

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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