A lacklustre career here and a desire to experience a new culture has driven former MediaCorp actress Apple Hong to Beijing.
The 34-year-old, who was born in Malaysia and is a Singapore permanent resident, moved to the city of opportunities about a week ago. She is staying with a friend while she looks for an apartment there.
In a phone interview from the Chinese capital on Sunday, Hong told The New Paper she has experienced many ups and downs in her 12-year showbiz career in Singapore.
There were times when she received a lead role - the last one being the 2010 Channel 8 drama, Mrs P.I, where she played a housewife detective - but these have dried up in recent years.
She attributed these to bad timing and bad luck, and the move, she hoped, would boost her popularity.
"Some artistes get interviews and go on the cover of magazines after filming a drama. If an artiste is featured in the media, the public will naturally turn their attention to her," said Hong. "But I've never had much publicity when I finished filming a drama..."
She added that MediaCorp's focus seemed to be on its crop of up-and-coming artistes.
"They want to capture the younger audience, so they have young artistes like Ian Fang and Kimberly Chia... It's bad luck that I'm not on their list (of artistes to groom), but I believe I create the paths that I want to take in life, hence my move to Beijing," she said.
Her contract with the organisation ended last October, and she subsequently worked on a per-drama basis.
She said she didn't renew her contract because she wanted the freedom to manage her eatery business, Xiao Bar Wang, in Kuala Lumpur.
She also wanted to move to China in search of greener pastures.
But the actress is not about to disappear from the little screen just yet. In the new Channel 8 period drama, Joys Of Life, which marks its debut tomorrow at 9pm, Hong plays a meek woman who is abused by her Japanese fiance (Rayson Tan) and later falls for Chew Chor Meng's character.
Hong told TNP she's giving herself one to two years to break into the China market, but will return for projects in Singapore or Malaysia if approached.
The idea of working in China first came to her in 2003 when she was an artiste with the now-defunct MediaWorks Channel U, and went to China to act in drama collaborations.
She feels there's a lot to learn in China and the money is good. But she knows she's starting from zero there, and the thought scares her sometimes.
She's aware of the possibility that she may not find success there, but it's a risk she's willing to take, and a door has already opened.
Hong said she has been offered a leading role in a Chinese drama about World War II. But there's a catch: She would have to sign a talent management contract with the company.
Hong said she's still considering the offer as she wants to keep her options open when it comes to management contracts.
And yes, she claims she has already been propositioned by producers and directors asking for sexual favours in exchange for roles.
It happened last year when she attended a contact dinner where an agent from a management agency introduced Hong and other artistes to a few producers and directors.
"A movie director threw me an obvious hint. He told me he liked me a lot and that he didn't have a girlfriend because he was too busy with work," Hong claimed.
"He said how wonderful it would be if he had a girlfriend that he could work with and date at the same time. He then asked me how I felt about it.
"If this had happened to me when I was younger, I think I would have either cried or looked very grouchy. Now that I'm older and stronger, I laughed it off. I simply told the director I would be returning to Singapore soon.
"I would definitely reject such propositions. I'm not that short of money."
Hong added that she's met other producers who are not looking for special favours.
Besides Hong, another MediaCorp actor, Zhang Yaodong, who's in his 30s, is also planning to go to China to advance his career.
He told Shin Min Daily News in a recent interview that he's not certain if he would renew his contract with MediaCorp.
Actresses Cynthia Koh and Michelle Chia, who are in their 30s, are also taking a break from acting for an unspecified period of time, while Michelle Chong has left to turn her attention to directing movies.
Hong thinks the broadcaster is at the losing end with the exodus of experienced artistes, adding: "Some of my friends outside of showbiz watch local TV dramas only occasionally.
"And when they do, they don't recognise many of the new faces and so they aren't interested to continue watching."
This article was first published in The New Paper.