updated 22 Oct 2012, 08:07
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Shaun Chen talks about divorce from Michelle Chia
by Kwok Kar Peng

After a turbulent decade in showbiz, which included getting retrenched and a highly publicised divorce from local actress Michelle Chia, MediaCorp actor Shaun Chen is restless.

The Malaysia-born Singapore permanent resident, who turns 34 next month, wants to take a shot at the Hong Kong, Taiwan and China markets, following artistes like Christopher Lee and Apple Hong.

He told The New Paper in a recent interview: "People ask me why I want to go overseas to carve out a career as it's tough. I could stay here and have a stable career for a long time.

"But that's not what I want. I don't want to go without challenges. I have a goal to let the rest of Asia sit up and notice local actors.

"It won't be easy, and I would have to rely on connections and help from others."

Chen, who has agents in Taiwan and China, has already got his first opportunity - he will play a man who turns to the dark side in a 13-episode Taiwanese idol drama.

He will head to Taiwan at the end of next month to begin filming and will stay there for about two months despite not knowing the name of the drama or the rest of the cast.

He said he is likely to be one of the leads.

Chen will, however, still be based in Singapore as he has just renewed his contract with MediaCorp for another two years.

He'll return at the end of January to shoot the Channel 8 drama The Dream Makers, which is about larger-than-life personalities in the showbiz industry. The show will also star Zoe Tay, Jeanette Aw and Rui En.

Chen is currently appearing in the Channel 8 drama Game Plan, where he plays a policeman separated from a young age from his older brother, who's now a conman (played by Lee).

The actor acknowledged his years in showbiz have been a roller-coaster ride.

While he's a familiar face, fame continues to elude him, and he said that he probably needs more time to show off his star quality.

After being talent-spotted by MediaCorp in Malaysia in 2002, where he was an eyewear salesman and a part-time model, he was thrown into hosting the Channel 8 variety show City Beat with Sharon Au, Jeff Wang and Fiona Xie.

Recalled Chen: "I didn't speak Mandarin well and didn't know how to host. The company threw me into the sea and left it to me to learn how to swim...

"The first year was difficult. I got scolded by the director and the camera man many times, and some of the crew said unpleasant things to me when I had bad takes."

He considered giving up showbiz, but stayed on when MediaCorp gave him many acting opportunities.

There were rumours in 2003 that he had been slapped by his Holland V co-star Aw for being too touchy-feely during a shoot.

In late 2003, he jumped ship to the now-defunct MediaWorks, but lost his job when the latter merged with MediaCorp in 2005 .

He then acted in several local TV dramas on a project basis. Things picked up when MediaCorp offered him a fresh contract in 2006.

Chen told TNP that the lowest points in his career were his retrenchment from MediaWorks and his divorce from Chia.

"Looking at the (retrenchment) letter, I thought that was the price I paid for jumping ship. I was very down and Michelle, who was my girlfriend then, supported me through it," he said.

Chen and Chia got together in 2004, married in 2008, held a live televised wedding banquet in 2009, and announced their divorce in April last year.

Separate ways

Chia told TNP then that the reason for the split was "too personal and difficult to explain".

It was additionally difficult for Chen because he had to act in local romantic comedy film The Wedding Diary soon after the divorce was announced.

He also had to act in two break-up scenes in the Channel 8 drama Love Thy Neighbour about the same time.

Chen said he's over the heartbreak, adding: "Michelle and I are still on very good terms. I'm very lucky in the sense we didn't have big quarrels. She also encouraged me to go overseas to forge my career."

Chen visits her parents and the dog he got with Chia at her family home once a month for 30 minutes.

He's now single and putting love on the backburner as he wants to focus on his career.

"I may not be able to give a woman what she wants in a relationship. A relationship is a lot of commitment and a big responsibility," he explained.

"It's not that I'm a commitment-phobe now. I'll be working overseas and I'd rather be alone than be separated from my partner. When I have a steady flow of jobs in Taiwan and China, then I'll think about getting a girlfriend."

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