The man who has it all figured out

Former MediaCorp artiste Edmund Chen is a man of many talents. With over 100 television appearances and 18 international and local films under his belt, you’d think he would be resting on his laurels. But wait, there’s more. His resume not only includes actor, but producer, director, show host, illustrator and author. He has also won many awards for his work and broke the Guinness World Record for “Longest Drawing by Individual” in 2013. How could it be that this overachiever can obtain all that while maintaining a healthy family life? It’s time to find out!

LiveWell: What have you been up to?
Edmund Chen: Right now I am actually in the postproduction phase of my webby-talk show called Memory Project. I realised that memory is the most important asset that we have because at the end of the day, it’s the time you’ve spent with your loved ones and the things that you’ve done that make you who you are today.

What was the inspiration behind it?
I first had the idea of doing this project about a decade ago. At that time, I came across some older Chinese actors who have worked their entire lives but have beenforgotten because there was no documentation of their work. I wanted to put something together for them; as an artist I just felt for another artist. They’re not looking to be honoured but to be remembered.

It’s also timely for SG50!
Yeah, I hope people will enjoy it and see it as something special. It’s one of the toughest projects I’ve done apart from the ‘Longest Drawing.’

Speaking of which, what was it like breaking a Guinness World Record?
Oh man. During that period, I would not have made it without Ensure. I worked for 11 hours a day, standing and drawing endlessly. I had no appetite to eat but my dad kept making Ensure for me to drink so I would down 8 or 9 cups every day as my meal substitute. I know my capacity – most of the time after 3 days, I would have fallen sick but this time round, I lasted the entire 11 days and even through the assessment day. I think that was another record.

Yeah, you should submit that for approval too! Jokes aside, are you a particularly health conscious person?
Recently I have been training. I’m weak with running but I’m trying to participate in a marathon. My boy makes me run every day from point A, my house, to point B, a coffee shop, where we have our eggs and toast breakfast. It’s like a carrot, he makes me run then I can eat.

Your own personal trainer.
He accompanies me so we encourage each other and then my girl will come along sometimes. We live in the east and are blessed with a beautiful coastline so we run and then we walk back. We chat and have a very nice bonding session.

You seem to have it all figured out. How do you balance both family and career, and be successful at that too?
You got the key word, balance. It has always been my biggest challenge trying to achieve this balance. My two children are nine years apart – my son is 24 and my daughter is 15. Physically, it’s tough on me to cope. It’s really like a pink school and a blue school. But one day, I decided to quit MediaCorp and start from ground zero. I did it because I missed my boy growing up and didn’t want to see that repeated. I wanted to accompany my little girl, especially while she is still young.

Having said that, it was very scary because I was in that job for 29 years and didn’t know where to go next. I literally sat at home for 8 to 9 months trying to figure out something that could allow me to see her grow up and be able to feed the family too. That was the toughest time. I was so sceptical about whether I had made the right move.

Do you regret it?
No, but looking back it was very frightening. Now I am still learning, still working at it, but in a way, I have the best of both worlds. My kids know what I’m doing because they are so involved to the point that they sometimes supervise my work and know 90% of my contacts! On the whole, I try to be content.

So what advice would you give someone who is at a crossroads?
My son asked me the same question before applying for University, “Should I choose a course that gives me security for my future, or one that my heart believes in?” I told him to go for something that makes him happy and is sustainable. Every day you must live life to the fullest!

How about 3 health tips for our readers?
My number one health tip is to stay alert. You need to look inwards and be aware of yourself. It’s like the 3 R’s: Respect, Realise and Re-evaluate yourself to know your limits and find your balance.