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How Hong Kong actor Philip Keung fell in love with Penang instead of Vietnam, and even made a movie, The Locksmith, set in the state

The Hong Kong actor found a home away from home in Malaysia, but how did it come about?

Hong Kong actor Philip Keung ended up in Penang. (Photo: Instagram/black_gorgor)
Hong Kong actor Philip Keung ended up in Penang. (Photo: Instagram/black_gorgor)

Google Philip Keung and you’ll see quite a bit of news linking the Hong Kong actor to Malaysia.

In fact, the 57-year-old Hong Kong actor has expressed his love for the country, and in particular, the state of Penang. Most recently, Keung even made a movie, The Locksmith, that was set and filmed in Penang.

But, how did his love affair with the country blossom?

Well, during an interview with Yahoo Southeast Asia earlier this month for the film, Keung chalked it up to fate.

He said, in Cantonese, “Originally, I wanted to travel to Vietnam with my wife, but we didn’t manage to get the air tickets so we changed our destination to Penang. This is the fate of Penang and I.”

Keung also attributed his love for Penang to its many heritage buildings, chill environment, and the fact that most of his friends are staying there.

And though it was previously reported that he called Penang his “second home”, Keung clarified that it’s not entirely the case.

He explained that he’s still based in Hong Kong, but Penang is a place where he can travel to relax, rest and unwind when he’s stressed from work.

How does he unwind after filming?

In The Locksmith, Keung plays a good-hearted fugitive Cheng Haoren who has settled in his new life in Penang, where he is an apprentice to master locksmith, Uncle Shan (Benz Hui).

However, the arrival of Shan’s daughter, Yi Jing (Samantha Ko), a young female neighbour, and Cheng’s old criminal accomplice derails his idyllic life as the ghosts of his past come knocking.

The film also stars Raymond Wong as Cheng’s friend and cop, Officer Liu.

Cheng goes to some pretty dark places as the film unfolds and that heaviness is what attracted Keung to the film.

“The role is very emotionally heavy… so it’s a challenge for me… When I saw the script, I took a huge interest in the character because it requires a very detailed exploration of his emotions,” he said.

Though Keung is no stranger to very emotionally heavy roles, he said The Locksmith goes even deeper than his previous works.

So, is it tough for him to get out of character when filming wraps?

Keung said, “Whenever I film such emotionally heavy roles, I really get into the character and I can be cold to the people around me. Everytime when I’m done filming, I return to the hotel room and I take five minutes to sit, calm myself down and take a shower.

“My method of decompressing is to take a shower and it can be 20 minutes to 30 minutes. After that, I’ll take some time to reflect on my acting and emotions for the day to see how I can do better.

“Or, I eat some chocolates.”

Wants to act in a comedy

Despite a decades-long career, there are still things Keung wants to try - namely, a comedic role.

He shared, “When I started in showbiz, I actually did comedy but at some point, directors started finding me for heavier roles and I’ve been doing that till now. So, I really want comedic roles but there haven’t been any directors offering me one.”

When we pointed out that Singapore has made some shows in the comedy genre and suggested that he look for opportunities here, he exclaimed, “Exactly! Everyday I’m looking for Singapore directors, knocking on their doors, saying I want to act in a comedy.”

Keung also revealed that he had the chance to act in a local drama just before the pandemic hit, but was unable to work out his schedule for it.

That said, he’s been to Singapore as a tourist many times and he feels that as a country, it’s very progressive and flourishing - even more so than Hong Kong.

Given the chance, he would like to make a cultural film (with a side of action) set in Chinatown as it carries an air of mysticism.

As for one of his favorite spots in town, well, he likes running along Marina Bay Sands - so fans might want to keep their eyes peeled the next time he’s here.

The Locksmith is now showing in cinemas

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