Audiences might see her on screen as a strong independent character, but with the milestone of her 20-year anniversary in Hong Kong’s entertainment industry, Nancy Wu is ready to reveal a never-before-seen side of herself. The award-winning actress and performer sits down with us to chat about her passions, her plans, and how she’s learning to embrace her softer self.
How long have you been in the entertainment industry? Did you always want to be a performer?
I’ll be celebrating 20 years in the entertainment industry in 2022. Time really flies! Before I entered the industry, I worked as a secretary for around two years. However, I wasn’t satisfied with sitting in an office environment and I wanted to do something I was passionate about. I’ve loved singing since I was young and I participated in a singing contest before I turned 18 years old. At that time, I really enjoyed singing on stage and wanted to become a singer. This can be traced back to my primary school days, when I enjoyed being in school choir and doing drama performances. So, it’s safe to say that I’m passionate about performing – and that’s why I’m still in the entertainment industry now.
Twenty years ago, I had a chance to learn acting and became an actress on television, which marked the beginning of my entertainment career. For all these years, audiences have watched my development and growth in the industry to become who I am today. With my solid acting background and experience, now I have more freedom to choose what I really want to do.
You entered the industry with your singing talent, then you went on to place in the top three of a dance competition, and needless to say, there have been many dramas and multiple awards since. Can you share more with us about that journey?
I participated in the dance competition show Strictly Come Dancing [in China] and although I didn’t win, I was named “the perfect-score queen” because twice I earned a full score from all four judges! I’d say that competition in 2008 was one of the major turning points of my career. It allowed more people to discover me and my ability as a newcomer in the industry. I have to say I had a very good start for my career, when I was cast in one of the most popular TV dramas alongside very experienced actors and actresses. I was the youngest at that time and I was taken care of by others like their little sister. And with the dancing competition, it really allowed me to show my different facets to the audience.
I used to learn traditional Chinese dance during my high-school days and it has been an enormous help for my career. Back then, I was chosen by my teacher to join the Chinese dance class, maybe because they saw potential in me. I was very boyish when I was young and Chinese dance showed me what elegance is. By the time I graduated, I landed in the cast of a major dance routine. Also, with all the performing opportunities I had back then, it really shaped who I am when I’m on stage today.
If you had to choose between singing, dancing or acting, which one would you say is your favourite and why?
Singing – no doubt about it! While I think singing is a gifted talent, your passion for it will not be affected by your ability. Not everyone can become a good singer, but I think if you really love singing, your stage is limitless. My favourite stage is my shower! I think now is the right timing and I’m looking forward to some singing projects in the future.
You’re also known for your acting. What do you like most about acting? Does it bring out a different side of your character?
I think people’s image of me from my acting might not reflect 100 percent of me. People always see me as a strong and tough woman, so I’ve always landed roles that have tough characters. I rarely play a soft-character role. I reserve the softer side for myself.
Indeed, many people see you as a strong, career-oriented woman. Is this how you would describe yourself? How do you want people to see you?
At my age and with my life experience right now, I hope I’ve already mastered the balance of both the hard and soft sides of myself. I think people go through different stages of life. When I was building my career, I was always in fighting mode and thus, I built up a strong image. And when other doors open in life, I’m ready to be flexible and show another side of myself. The art of finding this life balance is difficult, yet essential.
I think different people see me differently. Not many get to know me on a personal level and therefore they only know me based on how I’m projected on TV. Some perceptions are wrong, but I’m kind of curious to learn what those perceptions are. I don’t feel upset anymore, though, as there are so many criticisms – especially in this modern virtual world nowadays.
What other passions do you have besides acting and performing?
Sports and being in nature are things I’m passionate about. I like hiking and recently discovered the fun of playing tennis. I started playing tennis with my father with the purpose of some father-daughter bonding at first, but after the first session, I immediately fell in love with it. I feel like I can really release my energy through this sport. I started watching videos about different tennis techniques on YouTube. I feel really excited and I hope I can spend more time learning it. I’m someone who, if I find something I love and am really passionate about it, I will invest time in it.
I know that coffee brewing is also one of your new favourite things to do. Can you share with us how you got started with this hobby? Do you find the process of coffee making relates to your life philosophy?
It all started with my friend Moses Chan, who’s my co-actor in a TV drama. I had to go to the mainland to shoot the drama, with 21 days of quarantine, so I seized the opportunity to learn to brew my own coffee. Moses has shared a lot of coffee brewing knowledge with me and also gave me a brewing kit. When I was back in Hong Kong, he taught me a lot about coffee beans. I now brew my own coffee every morning. It’s my me-time, and I really enjoy the smell and the whole process.
Coffee brewing also teaches me about patience. My whole family and I are very fast-paced, but you really need patience to produce good coffee, from the very first step to the last. You also need to be focused. Even with exactly the same beans, the same temperature and the same utensils, the coffee will taste differently with different brewers. That’s the interesting part. You really need to put your heart into it. This also resonates with my life philosophy. You need to have patience and you need to have an open mind to try different things. For example, even when you think you’ve found your favourite coffee beans, you still need to try others – and you might find something better.
You’re also into fitness, and are often found in the gym exercising and training. To you, what is wellness and a healthy lifestyle? What’s your take on living a full life?
To me, mental wellness is equally important [as physical wellness]. Nowadays, people can be easily affected by their surrounding environment and feel pressured. Inner self-healing is essential. You might look fit and healthy physically, but to also maintain a clear mind is vital to a happy life. My way of releasing stress is to talk to my good friends. However, sometimes I’ve found it difficult to find the right person to share with. There have been times when I really couldn’t find anyone who could provide me with an answer.
A full life to me is all about work-life balance. I love my work and I don’t mind working hard, but I have to reward myself for that effort – even just a nice meal with friends. That’s what makes me happy.
Are there any goals you want to achieve in terms of your career and personal life?
For my career, I’m looking forward to be involved in some singing-related projects. For my personal life, I wish to find my life partner.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Living a happy and celebrated life.
PHOTOGRAPHY: RICKY LO
VIDEOGRAPHY: KEHO CHEUNG @BLACK CAT IMAGE
ART DIRECTION: VIVIEN WONG
STYLING: BIRD TSE
HAIR: MATT CHIU
MAKE-UP: VINCCI TSANG