“We Must Dare to Venture Beyond Our Comfort Zone”: Actor/Action Director Sunny Pang Says It Like It Is7 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
Bouncer, ticketing sales officer, storeman – those are just some of the occupations accomplished martial artist, actor and action director Sunny Pang has on his resume.
Perhaps best known locally as television series Code of Law‘s gruff police officer Inspector Han, Sunny’s acting range and skillset have led him to become an internationally sought-after actor and action star with fans from all around the world. In between his on-screen brawls, Sunny heads stunt team Ronin Action Group, dedicated to moulding Singapore’s next action star.
Having just returned from a shoot in Birmingham for his upcoming film Exiled: The Chosen Ones, Sunny joined Say it like it is host Nicholas Chee for an effervescent conversation on his journey as an actor, his works, and his hopes for the future.
The first of a four-part series, talk show Say it like it is will feature figures from Singapore’s creative and cultural industries as they bare their souls to share about their journey so far. Made possible with the support of Our Singapore Fund, the series will be livestreamed for the next three Fridays at 4:30pm on Facebook group SG COVID-19 Creative/Cultural Professionals & Freelancers Support Group.
Prior to entering the industry, Sunny took on multiple jobs, including working at 7-Eleven and at the now-defunct Tang Dynasty City. It was his work as an extra that would give a glimpse of the future to come. Once while warming up, he caught the eye of a stunt director from Hong Kong who worked with Channel 8.
This would lead to his stint as a stunt performer with the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, as well as his portrayal of antagonistic characters in television series such as The Price of Peace and Masters of the Sea.
This would continue until 1999 before a four-year break from show business. He explained: “There weren’t any prospects for me and that was when I thought I should move on and change a job.”
Sunny would be pulled back into the industry with award-winning local film Perth: The Geylang Massacre, where he played a foul-mouthed pimp. His experience with the film would be a turning point in his career. He said: “It was very different and very liberating [compared to my prior work]…it made me realise that film is something that I wanted to do more of.”
“With the kind of freedom that I was given [in Perth], I was just reflecting on day-to-day life. That is the way we live and that is what I felt. If you want to draw audiences to your world and come to your movie, you have to make something that is close to them regardless of where you come from or which country you are in. Because when people invest their time and money, they want to know something that is close to them.”
Following Perth, Sunny would take on roles in both feature-length and student short films, often portraying sleazy, down-on-their-luck characters. He felt that his time with student films was a good training ground for him both as an artist and actor; honing his craft was and continues to be his prime concern.
His entry to international film came with Malaysian director James Lee’s Call If You Need Me in 2009, whose films he would star in for the next few years. He would soon find a foothold in Indonesia as well. While working on a film there, he found out that his name has been circulating around the archipelago.
Sunny would catch the interest of Indonesian director Timo Tjahjanto. Together, they would garner a cult following with films Headshot in 2016 and The Night Comes for Us in 2018. Sunny’s suave yet vicious performances in both films would earn him fans from all around the world eagerly awaiting his next projects.
Despite a successful career, including his role in acclaimed television series Code of Law, Sunny is not spared from regrets. In a heartfelt moment, he shared with viewers his biggest regret: how he was never able to share his successes with his deceased mother and fulfil his promise to walk down a red carpet premiere together. Still, Sunny is dedicated to fulfilling her wish for him to continue to be a good husband and father.
In the cards for Sunny’s future are his upcoming films, including Exiled: The Chosen Ones and Blood Rush, and his work with Ronin Action Group. Sunny started Ronin Action Group in 2012 with the betterment of his field in mind, looking to fill the gaps in missing standards, administration work, and insurance. Offering training in both stunt work and acting, the group is dedicated to grooming the next generation of action stars, with plans to expand its family to the UK.
The veteran actor hopes for Singapore to be “more diverse and daring” with film even despite the possibilities of financial flops. He hones in on the importance of dialogue between government bodies and filmmakers, how more can be done in the marketing of local films, the possibilities of working with counterparts from the region, and, above all, to “dare to venture beyond our comfort zone”.
The next episode of Say it like it is will welcome actress, singer and host Jo Tan to the show. She has performed throughout the world, with her self-penned one-woman show Forked winning this year’s Life! Theatre Awards for Best Actress. Jo stars in upcoming local feature Tiong Bahru Social Club, which recently premiered on the opening night of the Singapore Film Festival and will see an islandwide release on 10 December.
Don’t miss this second episode of Say it like it is happening this Friday, 4 December, 4:30pm on Facebook.
Catch the first episode of Say it like it is on Facebook here.
(1:07) Start of episode
(5:10) “How did you get into show business?”
(10:03) “Did you go for any acting training?”
(11:05) Sunny on Perth: The Geylang Massacre, his first acting gig after his four-year-long hiatus from the industry
(12:55) “How was it like working on your first feature film?”
(14:05) On how Perth made him realise that film was what he wanted to do
(14:25) An awkward situation at the premiere of Perth featuring former minister Mah Baw Tan
(15:45) “Do you think your past experiences working in different occupations and meeting different types of people allowed you to absorb and observe?” and on the importance of being authentic
(18:23) On Sunny’s experience working on short films
(19:45) Sunny shares some of his most memorable moments working on short films
(25:47) On short film The Trainee
(26:40) On his inputs in the creative process and his experience with student films
(28:25) Sunny on working with Malaysian director James Lee for Call If You Need Me
(30:55) Sunny’s experience with television series Code of Law
(33:22) “Which medium do you prefer to work on: film or television?”
(34:52) Sunny on why he started Ronin Action Group
(43:00) Sunny on how he got onboard Indonesian film Headshot and the reception he has received from the film
(49:24) Sunny on his international fanbase
(51:30) On how Sunny looks to develop the next generation of Singapore’s actors and how he looks to try action directing
(52:58) Sunny shares his experience filming in Birmingham for Exiled: The Chosen Ones earlier this year
(57:15) On how the global pandemic has affected Sunny and the Ronin Action Group
(57:44) “What are you most afraid of?”
(58:27) On Sunny’s experience with short film Lucky 7, which earned him a nomination for Best Performance at 2009’s inaugural Singapore Film Awards
(1:00:00) “What are your regrets?”
(1:05:45) “What is your advice for someone looking to breaking into the industry?”
(1:07:53) “What are your future plans for Ronin Action Group?”
(1:10:10) “Do you have any advice for aspiring actors?”
(1:13:35) “Do you believe that one has to go through proper training to be an actor?”
(1:15:19) “What other genres does Singapore need, to come close to Hong Kong’s early 70s cinema period?”
(1:18:32) Sunny on the potential of OTT platforms and how Singapore should work together with Southeast Asian counterparts.
(1:20:03) A quick summary of a day in training with the Ronin Action Group, and the prerequisites to join the group
(1:22:25) “What can Singapore’s film industry learn from Indonesia?”
(1:24:26) “What is your dream team film?”
(1:25:34) Conclusion of episode
– Sinema.SG LIVE! Episode #14: Actors Jo Tan and Edward Choy
– Film Review: Intense and Profound, ‘Wife of a Spy’ Captivates with a Story Propelled by Secrets and Lies
– Interview: Joshuah Lim, Film Student and Director of ‘And They Roamed’