The Moneymaker: Thomas Pang

Just because theatre newbie THOMAS PANG finds money on the ground (all the time!) doesn’t mean he’s gonna spend it foolishly, okay? He’ll take $4 haircuts — over, um, $10 ones — any day, thank you very much.

moneymaker

The Moneymaker
: THOMAS PANG, 25, actor. The new kid on the block makes his theatre debut in upcoming family dramedy, Tribes, playing Adrian Pang’s hearing-impaired son (nope, they’re not actually related). The Aussie-born Malaysian actor, who lived in the States for 11 years, moved here three years ago to study acting at LaSalle. “I developed a love for performing when I was seven. We were doing a module on the Roman Empire and my dad thought it’d be cool if I turned up in class with a monologue from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar memorised. It wasn’t even required by school,” he muses.

HIS HOME IS: A Farrer Park apartment where he rooms with his 23-year-old dancer sister. The sibs share the apartment with other students.

HIS RIDE IS: Bus and MRT. “I rarely take cabs, only about twice a month,” he says.

WHAT’S IN HIS WALLET: About $30 in cash, an EZ-link card, a debit card, paper cranes (“I can’t remember why my friends gave that to me, but I can’t bear to throw them out”), personal notes (“I write down names of songs that I come across”), and an old earring (“I just never bothered to take it out”). “I’ve had this Fossil wallet since I was 18. My friend found this when he was clearing out his room, decided he didn’t want it and gave it to me brand new,” he quips.

8 DAYS: You’ve landed your first theatre lead role in Tribes, starring alongside Adrian Pang. What kind of career advice has he given you?
THOMAS PANG: He gave me advice about starting out as a young actor, about managing your personal image vs your public image. There are people who want to be public figures and those who just want to be an artist. I’m not sure which route I want to take yet, but I don’t think they are exclusive. 

Other theatre actors tell us no one goes into acting for the money. Does that apply to you? It certainly does. My finances do tend to be a bit tight, but I’m not in a position right now where I have kids to feed. Rent in Singapore is high, but that applies to everyone, not just actors. You get by doing side gigs like commercials and short films. Lots of my friends do kids’ parties and earn about $250 for a couple of hours. I have been a ‘vampire’ for a birthday party and earned about $100 to $250 for that.

What’s one thing you don’t believe in spending money on? Haircuts. I pay $3.95 for mine. I don’t think I make enough money to have a fancy haircut. I used to go to those $10 salons but they were giving me bad haircuts. So I figured if I was getting a bad haircut, I might as well go somewhere even cheaper and fix it myself after that if I wasn’t happy with the haircut. I used to cut my own hair when I was living in the States and in KL.

What’s the last thing you paid for by card? Three movie tickets to Avengers, which cost $36. That’s also my biggest recent splurge. I usually try not to spend money on anything. Before that, I used my card to pay for a pre-paid top-up for my phone. In a month, I spend $40 on my phone. I don’t have a post-paid account like most people ’cos I don’t want to be too reliant on my phone. I hate the idea that people can contact you whenever and wherever you are. It’s annoying. What if I just want to walk home alone without getting bombarded by messages asking me where I am or what I’m doing?

Besides acting, what skill do you have that you think people will pay you money for? (Laughs) Friendship? I don’t know! If I don’t act, I don’t know what else I’d do. I wanted to be an astronaut until I was 19. I took Astronomy 101 in college in Minnesota, but I failed that ’cos I didn’t go for classes.

The last time someone cheated you of your money? A few days ago by Singtel. The Internet at home broke down and they were supposed to come over to fix it. They said that they’d called me and weren’t able to reach me, and I wasn’t at home for them to fix it. And they can charge you $50 for not being there. The thing is, they never called! We haven’t talked it out but I’m definitely not paying.

What’s the first thing you’d buy if you found $100 on the ground? Actually, I’ve found money on the ground here a number of times — I’ve picked up about $300 in total. I don’t remember where, though. I’ve used it to top up my MRT card, buy my pre-paid phone card and buy food and coffee.

What’s the least amount of money you’ve survived on in a day, assuming you’re not vegging out at home? $10. That covers transport, two meals of economical rice with only vegetables, and two coffees. Not Starbucks — more like, kopi peng.

Tribes is on May 22 to June 7 at the Drama Centre Theatre. Tix from SISTIC. 

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