BAZAAR Screen Kings: Lim Kay Tong, The Seasoned Veteran

The experienced thespian reveals the biggest lessons that he has learned in his career

Jacket; sweater; shirt; pants; shoes, Louis Vuitton. Photo: Gan

LIM KAY TONG

The thespian kickstarted his illustrious career when he landed a role in a stage production during National Service.“I finally found something that challenged me physically and mentally, in a way that I enjoyed,” the 62-year-old recalls.In the four decades since, he’s gone on to play a diverse range of characters in theatre, television and film — among them a memorable turn as Mr Tay in the drama serial, Growing Up.

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There’s a wave of nostalgia sweeping Singapore’s social media scene and Growing Up is often mentioned.

It’s very strange, you know? At that time, people sort of liked it, but it didn’t become the icon that perhaps it should’ve been back then. In retrospect, it was a good series. There was a certain integrity and it felt authentic. Maybe that’s why it appealed to Singaporeans… even foreigners! A couple of years ago, I was with my wife at the doctor’s and an Indian lady who’s probably a new immigrant told me she enjoyed the series. It opened her eyes to Singapore.

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How much of acting is talent? And how much of it is a skill you can learn?

I think it’s a combination of both. But it’s also perseverance and sheer hard work to get to the level you want to achieve as an actor. There’s also luck — what projects you’ll encounter in your lifetime is also about chance.

What benchmarks did you set for yourself when you started out?

I wanted to be in international productions. That came quite early, when I was turning 30. But as time goes by, you realise the roles you’re going to play are very limited in the Western world. You have to be realistic. You need to make the right contacts, which I wasn’t very good at. You face countless rejections and begin to question your abilities. But it’s a fallacy because it’s how the industry works. I’m glad I went through it. It gave me very good insight about where I do or don’t fit in.

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By Gerald Tan and Dana Koh
Photography by Gan
Styled by Windy Aulia
Hair and Makeup: Grego, Manisa Tan/PaletteInc, Red
Styling assistant: Gracia Phang
Fashion intern: Abielle Yeo

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