Fighting traffic, chasing parking, then hopping on the train, I finally arrive at my destination, The Princess Theatre on Spring Street, in the city. I have organised to meet our very own Australian King, Chris Fung, who is playing the lead role in The King and I. Taking over from American actor Jason Scott Lee(Dragon ~ the Bruce Lee Story), who has withdrawn from the Melbourne season of The King and I after tearing a calf muscle during a performance, Chris will be holding the fort almost single handedly as the King, till the arrival of Lou Diamond Phillips, (La Bamba, Young Guns) another American actor, who will replace Jason Scott Lee and perform in the next week.
Outside the crowds are milling around for the matinee
As I walked past the crowds, I was quietly pleased with my secret knowledge that I was getting the opportunity to go back stage to meet Chris Fung. I walked up stairs, along corridors, past wardrobe (tried not to look at a beautiful array of clothing while one of the wardrobe staff was busily attending to costumes) and into his dressing room. It was very kind and generous of Chris to give me 20 minutes of his time just before a performance, but that's the kind of guy he is; warm, welcoming and an eloquent, articulate wordsmith.
He had to be some kind of special to have won a part in the production of the King and I, then go on to be the understudy and now wear the crown of the prime role in the show. All this while he's in his second year and before hes even completed his studies at The Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University (QCGU).
Chris is just 25, with a background steeped in Canton, Hong Kong. I charged at him and barrelled through questions and scribbled on my pad faster than a speeding bullet, in keeping with the time-frame allocated to me. I didn't want to repeat what has already been written about him, so here we go!
What do you have for breakfast? Muesli, protein powder, yoghurt, banana, and lots of it.
What's your favourite meal? Roast chicken.
Which is a side of you that no one sees? I have a quick temper. Its slow to get started, but once it gets going..... but I'm working on it.
What's one thing no one, or very few people, know about you?
I do a bit of magic with playing cards (at this point he proceeds to pull out a deck of cards but didn't get a chance to show me a trick as I was very aware of my small window of opportunity here to interview him in 20 mins). I also play 'Magic the Gathering' and won a tournament which took me to places like Paris, the French Alps, Germany and so on.
I checked out what this game was about online and found that 'Magic' is a tradeable strategy card game where you trade with friends and build up your collection, assembling decks of cards, and battling against an opponent and their deck. You cast powerful spells and summon monstrous creatures... and that was enough for me.
Hanging with the King ~ Warm, welcoming, witty and an eloquent, articulate wordsmith.
I could see why Chris would love it. With creativity and imagination oozing out of his every pore, casting powerful spells and summoning monstrous creatures sounds soooo him! I could imagine him like Moses at the top of the mountain, using his powers to defeat the enemy.
If you could change one thing in the industry for you, what would it be?
More time amongst people and fellow actors at this level. There's so much to learn.
What is your strong point in acting?
Weirder than most, and I'm willing to embrace that. He goes on to quote something American actor Philip Seymour Hoffman once said about looking for character inconsistencies in a role and doing just the opposite.
What is your weak point in acting?
I'm a giggle pot and John Adams (Sir Edward Ramsey in the current production of the King and I) has got me a few times.
What's the best part of being an actor?
How much there is to learn. A wonderful realisation I'm only a small fish in a big pond.
Hobbies outside of acting?
'Magic the Gathering', touch football and obstacle course races and events like Tough Mudder and Spartan.
Bringing it back full circle... How do you feel about being in the King and I?
It's my single biggest achievement to date. It has jump started my career and given me opportunities I should not have. I've been in the life-changing company of people I admire. (To quote him from a previous interview, I love the way he said 'Experienced actors who have spent entire decades shaping artistic aesthetics until they gleam and sparkle in sunshine'. I told you he had a way with words.
Chris Fung ~ Taking on the Crown and doing a right royal job of it !
Before I hurtled out of there, we touched on a couple of other little things like learning lines and what method he uses. Chris explained that he has to have the given circumstances of the scene firmly in his mind. 'Where are you?' 'What kind of man are you?' 'What happened to you before?' 'Learning lines', he says 'feels like a train track. There are walks, then dense bushland you go past; after a while, travelling on the track, you get to know more and more the nuances, the key-bend and so on. When you know the path, you get word perfect. You have to make sure your mental state is in sync with the character. You must pay attention. Not everything is a clean and logical moment in acting and it has to strike a chord with people'. He continues, 'Acting is re-acting. The difference between the professionals and the amateurs is that the professionals 'listen''.
On that note, I wrap up my precious time with Chris, a humble wonderful young man whom I have no doubt will go far, based on what I saw; his dedication, attitude, creativity, talent (obvious) and willingness to learn every step of the way.
I have already seen The King and I, but with three Kings on the throne (lucky Lisa McCune) over the life of this one production, I feel like I need to watch it over and over again to catch all the Kings.
All the very best Chris Fung, and thank you so much for sharing some of your precious time with me.