Singapore TV and theatre stars reminisce about their favourite local shows and movies from childhood to present

This National Day, we asked 12 local actors and directors across TV, film and theatre what their childhood and current favourite local shows and movies are, and the industry professionals who inspire them the most.

Najip Ali, 55, actor, producer and musician


“Back in the late ‘70s to the early ‘80s, there was a Malay variety show called Pesta Pop (Pop Festival) featuring local singers like a young Rahimah Rahim, Anita Sarawak, Kartina Dahari, Ismail Harun and many more. These artists were all very different and their uniqueness as artists have inspired me till today.

“My most iconic local director is the talented, versatile and sensitive K. Rajagopal (Yellow Bird). His ability to keep it real and put something of himself in all his films and TV shows is inspiring to me.”

You can catch Najip as the patriarch of the Ibrahims on the English long-form drama Sunny Side Up, airing on Channel 5 every Monday to Thursday at 7.30pm. It is also available on the Mediacorp Drama YouTube channel and on demand for free at meWATCH.

Edwin Goh, 28, actor


“I watched Holland V and also Police & Thief in primary school. I think they really captured the essence of Singaporeans living in the heartland and everyone’s interactions. They were captured in a way that Singaporeans can really relate to.

“There’s also The Little Nyonya, a show that captured Singapore in the past that lets the audience have a sense of what Singapore was like. There’s history and drama, and I think Singaporeans loved that too.

“There are so many influential actors that I have been so lucky to work with. My first Channel 8 role was in the drama On The Fringe with Li Nanxing. Being able to learn and act alongside him was such a valuable experience. We played a pair of estranged father and son and it felt like I was dreaming. It was quite surreal.”

You can catch Edwin in the Chinese drama Home Again on meWATCH as well as the upcoming When Duty Calls 2, premiering Aug 15 at 9pm on Channel 8. It is also available on demand for free on meWATCH.

Siti Hajar Gani, 48, actor


“The most memorable local TV show for me is the Channel 8 drama On The Fringe. I was 14 back in 1988 and the plot was about a group of teenagers. I developed a huge crush on one of the characters from the show. 

“Thirty-one years later, I acted alongside my crush Duan Weiming in 128 Circle. I only realised that after the production had wrapped!

“I look up to award-winning actor Mastura Ahmad, who is a very close friend of mine, for her versatility — how she is able to do both serious and comedic characters very well. I hope to be able to hone my acting skills and be as versatile as her.”

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You can catch Siti Hajar in 128 Circle on meWATCH and also in Sunny Side Up.

Haresh Sharma, 57, playwright


“My favourite local TV show of yesteryear would hands down be the Talentime series from the 1970s. I loved them so much. My friends and I would spend hours talking about each episode in school the next day — or on our landline telephone! 

“These days, I like the Channel News Asia (CNA) documentary programmes which highlight important social issues and platform a diversity of Singaporean experiences. I hope that CNA will create more of such shows, focusing on topics such as the death penalty, migrant worker issues and 377A.”

Haresh is the 2015 Cultural Medallion recipient and The Necessary Stage’s resident playwright. Catch Acting Mad at the Esplanade from Aug 25 to 28.

Sheryl Ang, 24, actor


“My favourite childhood show was the 2005 drama Portrait of Home, the one starring Pierre Png and also Felicia Chin as Little Mermaid. It used to be telecast at 7pm on weekdays. I was seven years old and the drama has stuck with me because I would rush home to watch it after finishing school. 

“I can still remember Adrian Pang’s character saying ‘You can chop off my head but my hair cannot be messy’. I was drawn to the witty stories, the feeling of home and how the characters were very distinctive.

“The most influential actor to me is Christopher Lee. He was my mentor when I took part in Star Search 2019 and he taught me a lot. He didn’t sugar-coat his comments. I prefer people to be straightforward with me so that I know what I need to work on.”

Watch Sheryl on Key Witness and look out for her in the upcoming long-form Chinese medical drama Healing Heroes. It airs on Channel 8 on Aug 9 after the National Day Parade and subsequently at 7.30pm on weekdays, and is also available on meWATCH.

Sharda Harrison, 35, actor and presenter


“Growing Up really allowed me to have a deep emotional connection and gave me an insight into Singapore in the 1960s to ’80s. We live in a different Singapore now, so that show was rich in a time in Singapore I yearned to learn about.

“My favourite local movie is Pop Aye by Kirsten Tan. I’d say that film was a miraculous effort and sheer skill in direction on Kirsten’s part, working with an elephant and the Thai actors… that elephant!”

Sharda plays Rose on Sunny Side Up and is the artistic director of theatre collective Pink Gajah.

Jean Yeo, 51, director 


“Growing up in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, there wasn’t a whole bunch of local productions. Local Chinese dramas just started not too long ago in the late ‘70s but I remember kids’ shows like Little DD when I was younger. I also recalled watching some episodes of Army Series, Flying Fish and The Awakening as a child. 

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“So actors like Huang Wenyong and Xiang Yun became household names and I am still so respectful of Xiang Yun as a national treasure when I worked with her recently. I was very sad when Wenyong passed away [in 2013].”

Jean Yeo is the creative director of Ochre Pictures. You can catch her series Last Madame on meWATCH and stay tuned for the upcoming Mediacorp English drama Third Rail releasing later this year.

Eswari Gunasagar, 32, actor


“For me, the most memorable show from my childhood has always been Under One Roof. I remember watching it as I grew up and it tickled my funny bones!

“I’m biased you would say, but my favourite local movie now is Ah Airls Go Army. Personally, I feel it’s a movie that represents the true spirit of Singaporeans. We may complain at first, but once we set our hearts to it, we only soar high!”

You can catch Eswari in the sequel Ah Girls Go Army Again. Cathay Cineplexes is running a promo from Aug 4 until the film run ends, where tickets are priced at only $5.70 in conjunction with Singapore’s 57th birthday. 

Vanessa Vanderstraaten, 34, actor


“I think many Singaporeans around my age will agree with me that Growing Up was one of the most moving and well-crafted television shows of its time. The show is also the reason why I was blown away to meet and work with Sue Tan in the first season of Lion Mums back in 2015. I remember just being slack-jawed and thinking, ‘Oh my god, that’s Poh Choo!’ Other honourable mentions are Under One Roof and a lesser-known sitcom called Can I Help You?

“A local actor that I would most like to work with is Vernetta Lopez. She’s still an icon from my childhood and one of the first few Eurasian faces I remember seeing on TV, which was a really big deal for me. And Tan Kheng Hua is a local actor whose career trajectory and longevity I would most like to emulate!”

You can catch Vanessa in Lion Mums on meWATCH and the upcoming drama Third Rail.

Farah Farook, 23, actor


“While there were so many good shows growing up, my favourite would definitely have to be Phua Chu Kang! That was undoubtedly the best show in Singapore, JB and some say Batam. PCK has stood the test of time and set the precedent for what a sitcom should be in Singapore.

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“I remember always looking forward to watching it and having a laugh with my family after dinner. It’s so iconic that you could probably mention elements of the show or characters to anyone and they’d know exactly what you’re talking about!

“Currently, my favourite show is Crimewatch! Honestly I’m just curious to know what kind of crimes are being committed and the punishment for it, because I find myself taking the safety in Singapore for granted. Crimewatch helps in highlighting the current trends and how to be more street-smart because you know, low crime doesn’t mean no crime.”

You can catch Farah on Ah Girls Go Army Again. Cathay Cineplexes are currently offering a $5.70 ticket promotion!

Bridget Fernandez, 57, actor


“During [my childhood], only one out of every 58 people had a television, if I’m not wrong, and my household was one of them, since my dad worked for Radio and Television Singapore all his life as a musician.

“My friends and I were on a Malay talent show doing a Hawaiian dance; I was very involved with performing in and watching entertainment shows. Talentime was my favourite because my sister and my brother were on it. We were very much in the entertainment industry so I used to watch it because I knew people on it.

“A local director who does a lot of independent stuff that I have great respect for and would work with over and over again is Glenn Chan. He just caught my attention because working with him was brilliant. The first time we met was on En Bloc, where he directed me, Carla Dunareanu, Nat Ho and Rebecca Lim.”

Catch Bridget on Kin, Best Telenovela — National Winner in the 2020 Asian Academy Creative Awards.

Ebi Shankara, 32, actor, singer and presenter


“My most memorable local TV show has to be Growing Up. My family would gather around the living room to watch the show and not miss an episode of it. What an amazing show it was! I would say, currently my favourite local series would be this local Tamil drama called Mani.

“I grew up watching Adrian Pang both on stage and screen and I eventually had the great pleasure to share both the stage and screen space with him. You can learn so much just by watching him work.”

Watch Ebi in The LKY Musical alongside Adrian from Sept 7 and the upcoming Mediacorp x Wattpad adaption of The Girl He Never Noticed.

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