Why I Left My Dream Job In Australia To Start An Acting Career In Singapore

Abigail Chue – Becoming an actress in Singapore

When people entertain the idea of a mid-career switch, many would look for work that would have transferable skill sets. Rarely do you hear of people willing to start from square one in an industry they have absolutely no clue about. But that’s the gist of how Abigail Chue became an actress in Singapore.

The former marketer left a cushy job she trained hard for in Australia and fell into acting when she returned to Singapore. Here’s her story and how she became one of the nominees for Most Popular Rising Star at Star Awards 2024:

Moving 6,000km for school & work in Australia

Like most Singaporeans who end up migrating overseas, I first headed to Australia to study. I was there to get my Bachelor of Arts in Communication after I graduated from polytechnic in Singapore.

Image credit: @abifaithc via Instagram

I was only meant to stay in Melbourne for a couple of years, but then I took up an internship in a digital marketing agency that convinced me to further my education in marketing. I stayed on to do a Master’s Degree, which then granted me the opportunity to apply for relevant jobs in Australia.

That got me an executive role in a multinational corporation (MNC) that provided a variety of marketing services to clients. The work I did was broad, but it got me acquainted with multiple facets of the industry in a short period of time. It also helped that I had a great team with helpful managers who wanted to see me succeed.

Team meetings & her team in Melbourne.
Image credit: Abigail Chue

And so did I. Marketing was something I had come to fall in love with and for the longest time, I thought that this would be the career I would be pursuing for the rest of my life. In Melbourne at least, I was earning a 4-figure salary per month – more than enough to let me rent a place relatively near my office in the CBD.

Coming back to Singapore

Then in 2020, Covid-19 hit. I had been in Melbourne for about 6 years at that time, and after a year of economic uncertainty, I felt a tug on my heartstrings to return home to Singapore in 2021.

Call it kismet or divine intervention, but this lined up with the pending renewal of my work visa. Jobs were being cut everywhere, including at my company, and I was told that it was unlikely that my contract would be renewed. They did offer an interview at their Singapore office, but it wasn’t a guaranteed position, so I declined.

Last flight back to Singapore.
Image credit: Abigail Chue

I was left with 2 options: Look for a job to continue staying in Australia, or go back home to Singapore. No prizes for guessing what I picked in the end.

Booking my first role on a whim

Back in Singapore, it would’ve seemed natural if I started looking for a job in marketing to pick up where I left off in Melbourne. But it’d been such a long time since I had been back in Singapore that I thought I would take a break to enjoy being home first.

In the meantime, I looked for things to do to fill my time, like hanging out with friends and family, and mindlessly scrolling through social media. That’s when I saw a post on Facebook asking for calefares for a short film.

I’d never acted before and the closest I came to was attending a couple of acting classes back in Melbourne. I was looking for a creative outlet after I stopped dancing because I had broken my foot.

I got to play a background character in the film and I earned just a couple of hundred dollars for it. Although my character only said 2 lines in total, I enjoyed being in front of a camera, and I found myself wanting to do more of such work. I was added into a Facebook group that sourced for hosts, models, and extras, and I would apply for whichever one sparked my interest.

After all, YOLO, right? Plus, I felt like I had nothing to lose. I was a nobody in the industry, so it wasn’t like I had a reputation to uphold or a standard to abide by. If I didn’t manage to book the gig, I could always fall back onto finding a marketing job.

One of my first big projects was a hosting job for a series of videos on ComfortDelGro’s social media pages. I managed to book that gig, and that one casting call snowballed into more as I gained the confidence to try out for more of such work.

Abigail’s first speaking role in an English drama, 128 Circle.
Screenshot from: MeWatch

By then, a number of casting directors were getting familiar with me and the work I could do.  It’s a small industry and word gets around fast on who’s new to the scene. That’s how my contact details ended up with a casting agent of 128 Circle, a drama produced by Weiyu Films for MediaCorp Channel 5. It was a 2-episode cameo, playing the daughter of a side character.

After my audition, I asked for feedback on my acting, but was told by the casting agent that he had no notes. A few days later, however, the executive producers gave me a call to run through how I could improve my skills. I thought that meant I didn’t get the part, but was surprised when they called again to offer me the role.

They say that there are no small roles, only small actors. That statement rings true for me. If the executive producers hadn’t taken a chance on me, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.

Abigail in a scene with Shaun Chen in Healing Heroes.
Screenshot from: MeWatch

My next gig was for a side character in the 130-episode MediaCorp Channel 8 drama, Healing Heroes. It was meant to be a minor role to be written within half of the series, but my character was subsequently kept around until the end of the drama. It was encouraging to me as a newbie actress to see that the producers and directors were willing to let me continue acting in the drama. It was the push I needed to try out for more roles.

From then on, I’ve appeared in a number of other Channel 8 dramas, such as The Sky Is Still Blue, and Moments, which is currently on air Mondays to Fridays at 9pm.

What it’s really like being on set

Of course I didn’t expect being on set to be anything like my 9-5 desk job, but it did take some getting used to.

I’m technically considered a freelance actor, so work is not guaranteed. There’s no fixed salary nor CPF with each paid gig either. The industry can be quite unpredictable as a supporting actress, since projects aren’t guaranteed and it’s up to you to sign up for casting calls. Even then, the industry is competitive since you could have 20-odd others vying for the same spot.

It’s why I’m supplementing my income with a part-time marketing job. The hours and work are flexible, and I’ve got an understanding team that allows me to go for auditions and be involved with various drama productions.

In my downtime, I would have to diligently audition for roles to book my next gig. I’m now signed under Starsnest Artiste, a talent agency which helps to get my name out there to executive producers and casting agents, but ultimately, whether or not I get the job depends on my skill set.

Getting your hair and makeup done doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be a glam look. Sometimes it calls for looking battered and bruised.
Image adapted from: Abigail Chue

On days that I do have to film, I’m at the mercy of the call sheet. My call time could be 7am, which is when I would have to arrive at MediaCorp to do my hair and makeup. The rest of the day could involve dry rehearsals to go over lines and moving from location to location to film.

There are so many moving parts –  lighting, sound, scriptwriters, producers – needed just for a couple of minutes of dialogue, so days can stretch up to 12 hours long.

It can also be nerve-wracking having to work alongside veterans in the industry. Not to be a name dropper, but I got to be in scenes with the likes of Chen Hanwei, Shaun Chen, Ann Kok, Pierre Png, Desmond Tan, and Paige Chua.

Abigail with Ben Yeo in The Sky Is Still Blue.
Screenshot from: MeWatch

If you clicked in hoping I would have tea to spill regarding working with MediaCorp royalty, unfortunately, or fortunately, I have nothing to share. I can genuinely say that they’ve been friendly and helpful to newbie actresses like me.

Since they were established, they knew how to interpret scenes better, and would give suggestions on how to deliver a line to make my acting more natural and convincing.

Abigail receiving acting advice from Pierre on how to carry out a fight scene.
Image adapted from: Abigail Chue & Accel Erator via YouTube

Both Pierre and Shaun even gave me advice on how to stay true to the character I’m playing. “What does your character stand for?” was what Pierre said to me during a cast meeting. It wasn’t enough to just know the lines I was delivering, but the motives behind them, in order to stay true to the vision of the scriptwriters and directors.

Facing acting challenges like filming emotionally-charged scenes

My first acting challenge involved my lack of fluency in Mandarin Chinese. I primarily speak English and even in school, often faring below average in my Chinese exams. Oddly enough, I managed to score distinctions whenever it came to the oral portion of those exams. My teachers praised my accurate pronunciation and flair for conversing in Chinese.

However, when it came to actually understanding what I was reading, I was frequently stumped. That doesn’t fare well for an actress whose job is to convey the gravity of emotions penned by the scriptwriters. Brushing up on my Mandarin then became a priority. I’d have Google Translate open on my smartphone so that I could better understand my lines in preparation for filming.

Another challenge was how emotionally-charged some of the scenes I shot were. Without giving away too much of the plotline of Moments, I have one scene where I am assaulted by a man.

Image adapted from: Accel Erator via YouTube

I completely zoned out once the cameras started rolling while we did this scene. Maybe it’s because we were filming in an empty warehouse and my scene partner really looked the part of an assailant. But at that moment, I forgot that I was acting. Even though he wasn’t actually hurting me, it felt as if he was assaulting me for real.

Tears were still rolling down my face and I was hyperventilating long after the director had yelled “cut!” Thankfully, crew members were around to help calm me down. Even my scene partner tried to joke around with me so I’d shed that terrifying image I had of him and saw him in a more pleasant light.

The scene was difficult to get through, but it is one that I’m proud of, since I’ve only really begun my acting career. A lot of the established actors you recognise from TV have been acting or practising the art of acting from a young age. So as someone who doesn’t have that same amount of experience, I would count being able to pull through a performance like that quite an achievement.

Being nominated for Star Awards 2024

I’ve only been acting for a couple of years, and even then, I can barely believe it myself that this is now part of my career.

You can then imagine my surprise when I first found out that I was nominated for Star Awards 2024. There’s hardly anyone in Singapore who wouldn’t know about the local version of The Emmys. So to be recognised as one of the Most Popular Rising Stars in Singapore has been surreal to say the least.

Screenshot from: MediaCorp 

When I started out, I didn’t even have the courage to tell my friends, let alone my own family, that I was going for auditions and filming alongside household names.

But this nomination has cemented all that. I’m one of 42 nominees in this category alone and I’m up against more well-known names like Shawn Thia and Ayden Sng. I can’t say for sure that I’ll win, but I already feel like I’ve won and I’m beyond thankful to even be considered. I’ll just have to wait till then to find out if I’ll be giving a thank you speech.

What is it like being an actress in Singapore?

Depending on when you read this, you might catch a glimpse of Abigail Chue walking the red carpet or seated at the awards ceremony for Star Awards 2024 on 21st April 2024 from 5pm onwards. It’ll be broadcast on Channel 8, Channel U, MeWatch, and the MediaCorp YouTube channel.

If you’ve missed all that, she still has a number of scenes left in Moments, which you can catch up on for free on MeWatch. She also has a couple more filming projects, so she’s not about to leave the small screen just yet, hopefully in bigger roles next like supporting or even lead parts in the near future.

People often think that being an actress is glamorous work. On one hand, it can be, when you get to work with people you’ve admired since your childhood. But like any other job, it has its trials and challenges as well.

Abigail’s career switch isn’t something many Singaporeans go through. And while she recognises opportunities fell into place for her, she also knows it takes a tonne of perseverance and fortitude to face the many rejections that come with the job.

In her words, “going back to marketing full time wouldn’t be the end of the world. But it does feel like I’ve invested quite a bit of myself getting into acting to leave this quickly.” It’s just the start of the season for Abigail and we’re excited to see where she ends up next.

More unconventional jobs:

Cover image adapted from: Abigail Chue, MeWatch

Raewyn Koh

Old millennial.

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