After acting on stage for more than 30 years, Ngoc Huyen has become one of the key members of the Youth Theatre. Also the wife of a famous comic actor, she talks to Thien Kim about her secrets for success, both at home and on stage.
dMeritorious artist Ngoc Huyen has received many noble awards, like the first prize for talented actress in the 1991 Youth Stage Festival for the role of Emilia in the play Othello and gold medals in national professional stage festivals for her roles in plays like Dinh Cao Mo Uoc (Pinnacle of Dream - 1985) and Ben Osin (Terminal Osin - 2011). She is the wife of meritorious artist Chi Trung, familiar to Vietnamese audiences from his role in comedy series Tao Quan (Kitchen Gods) shown every Lunar New Year.
Inner Sanctum: As a wife of a renowned comedian, you seem to be quite reserved when it comes to talking about yourself. Have you ever considered being married to him a disadvantage?
My family has an unwritten rule that one person has to take care of the family while the other takes care of family finances. Since my husband is the main breadwinner, I have to juggle between work and family commiments. To be honest, I always feel satisfied with my role instead of comparing it to what might be.
I have been offered fewer roles than my husband has due to my apparent disadvantage. I often take on subordinate roles like school girls, old ladies and housemaids. But I'm pleased with these roles.
Inner Sanctum: Many actors of your generation started acting because that was what their parents did. Are you one of them?
Absolutely not! When I was first admitted to the theatre, I felt pretty nervous because I was totally fresh to the career, while most of my colleagues inherited the acting gene from their parents.
I came to acting completely by chance. When I was 13, a group of film producers visited my school to look for an "actress" for the role of class monitor in the movie Quyen Vo Sang Trang. It was unclear why the director had his eye on me, but he picked me for the role.
In 1978, my best friend encouraged me to apply to the Youth Theatre. I agreed to go with her just for fun. I didn't think that I would get in, let alone become a professional actress. Unexpectedly, I passed the test with flying colours. My parents, however, prohibited me from acting, so a cadre from the theatre had to persuade them to let me go.
Inner Sanctum: You are said to act intelligently and be adept at handling situations. I see that you are not only intelligent on the stage, but also in real life.
As long as you have passion, it is important to learn anytime and anywhere, both from colleagues and from life. Though I frequently take up subordinate roles, I make them memorable. I remember most the time I acted in Terminal Osin. Adjusting the scenario created by writer Ho Anh Thai, director Le Hung gathered the group and asked each member to tell a story about housemaids to enrich the play. One said that she saw her maid go out carrying a mess tin every morning and night. It turned out that she was buying noodles for the builder whom she had fallen in love with.
Afterwards, the director asked me to act similarly, falling in love with a builder and getting pregnant. All these details are taken from life's abundant narratives, which we have treasured and applied to our roles to make them more interesting.
Inner Sanctum: Your husband tends to take up positive roles, acting with many beautiful actresses. Have you ever felt jealous?
During my first days as an actress, I used to cry my heart out many nights because he was acting with other actresses. I could not stand it when one glance or one smile of his was not aimed at me, let alone a whole scene of showing affection, but I gradually got used to it. As a senior actress, I consider those scenes normal, and it is best not to watch those plays or films.
My husband is intelligent. He knows how to use humour to keep our marriage relaxed, so to be honest, I do not try to control him. I do not know how to open his cellphone or ask him about his phone calls, as long as he informs me where he is going.
On the contrary, my husband constantly phones me every 30 minutes to ask me where I am and what I'm doing. His first sentence upon arriving home is asking my children "Where is Mum?" In short, he cares about me by knowing where I am, what I'm doing or whom I'm meeting, while I, on the other hand, do not have enough energy to ask him because answering his questions is enough for me to end the day.
Inner Sanctum: You said that maintaining the fire of happiness in an artist's family requires many sacrifices from both sides, especially from the wife. What are your husband's strengths and weaknesses?
Trung loves his family very much and gets endless happiness from earning money and using it to take care of us. But his weakness is a lack of romance. He does not have the habit of asking me to go out or buying me presents on any anniversary.
One time, hearing me complain, he wanted to show off his gallantry by taking one cosmetic item on my dressing table as a sample to buy me a surprise. That evening, he happily gave me a carefully-wrapped gift, saying that he bought me my favourite kind of perfume. But I couldn't help laughing: instead of my bottle of perfume, he mistakenly took my massage cream! I stopped asking him to give me presents after that. — VNS