1990s Hong Kong stars, from Jordan Chan to Dicky Cheung, find fame in their 50s singing and dancing on Chinese reality TV

In the first episode of Shine! Super Brothers, Francis Ng sang a song from classic Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs II. He is the latest Hong Kong star to make waves on the Chinese reality show landscape.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

They were big in Hong Kong cinema in the 1990s and 2000s – and now these male actors are finding a new audience and fans in China.

Stars like Jordan Chan Siu-chun and Michael Tse Tin-wah (both 54), made famous in the Hong Kong triad film series Young and Dangerous (1996-2000), have become overnight sensations in China after they won the reality competition show Call Me by Fire last month.

The show, like Sisters Who Make Waves, features experienced celebrities competing against one another – only this time, it’s only men.

Other stars who took part – such as 50-year-old Julian Cheung Chi-lam, Jerry Lamb Hiu-fung (51) and Edmond Leung Hon-man (50) – joined Chan and Tse in spin-off show A Night at Greater Bay Area, which aired after the finale of Call Me by Fire.

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The latest stars from Hong Kong to make waves on the Chinese reality show landscape are 56-year-old Dicky Cheung Wai-kin and 59-year-old Francis Ng Chun-yu, who are in the second season of Shine! Super Brothers – another competition for older male celebrities.

The show, which has been streaming on the YouTube-like platform Youku since November 20, is currently the third most watched variety show in China, according to Maoyan – a Chinese ticketing platform that ranks television programmes in terms of ratings. Youku is the video platform arm of Alibaba Group Holding, which owns South China Morning Post.

Jerry Lamb in Call Me by Fire. PHOTO: South China Morning Post 

Ng tells the Post that Hong Kong entertainers lend themselves well to variety shows in China, as many received training in dancing and singing at a very young age.

“Rehearsals started immediately after I arrived in Wuxi [a city near Shanghai],” the actor says. “I rehearsed for the first episode for around five days. For the street dance [performances], I didn’t even need to rehearse as I was born with the skills.”

In the first episode of the second season of Shine! Super Brothers, Ng sang Forgotten Time, a song featured on Infernal Affairs II (2003) in which he played a cunning and ruthless killer.

Hong Kong star Francis Ng in Shine! Super Brothers. PHOTO: South China Morning Post
Francis Ng (top) and Eric Tsang Chi-wai in a still from Infernal Affairs II. PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Despite having appeared on stage in 2019 in musical First Date alongside singer-actress Ivana Wong Yuen-chi, Ng says that singing live is stressful for him.

“It might sound incredible but I seldom listen to music. I’ve been listening to more music lately and the only song I listen to is Forgotten Time. When I am at home, I don’t like noise. I don’t do anything that makes a sound.”

Ng says joining Shine! Super Brothers has been a big challenge for him: “This is a contest of performing talents and I have to collaborate with a team. But I am happy that there are young people on set who teach me about music.”

Ng appeared on stage in 2019 in musical First Date with singer-actress Ivana Wong Yuen-chi. PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Fellow contestant Dicky Cheung says he finds the show invigorating, especially the dance segments. He says wants to have a “breakthrough in dance” as he also wants to join the fifth season of the hugely popular Street Dance of China.

To stay in shape, Cheung says he does 60 push-ups and 300 jumping jacks in his hotel room on days when shooting involves a lot of physical activity.

“I think the show producers can be more demanding,” he says.

Dicky Cheung Wai-kin on Shine! Super Brothers. PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Both Hong Kong stars look younger than their age – a factor that no doubt has helped win them scores of fans in China – and Cheung says the key to staying young is to not think about getting older and to be optimistic.

“Whether for my work or personal life, I expect the best to happen but also prepare for the worst outcome. I apply this mental strategy to whatever I do,” he says.

Philip Ng Wan-lung (left) and Jordan Chan in 2017 film Colour of the Game. PHOTO: Hong Kong Star Dynasty
Pop group Wind Fire Sea in 1995: Michael Tse (left), Jason Chu Wing-tong and Jordan Chan. PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Ng says sleeping and meditation helps him stay youthful. “I love meditating, reading and cooking. There are 21 stars on Shine! Super Brothers . It’s a long night when shooting is done,” he says.

“I meditate during the intervals before it’s my turn to perform. I actually suffer from a bit of social anxiety, and meditation helps me calm down.”

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This article was first published in South China Morning Post.

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