Hong Kong's TVB has turned out some great acting talent over the years, especially during the 1970s and 1980s. A few of their former stars such as Chow Yun Fat, Tony Leung, and Andy Lau, have since gone on to become international superstars.
There were a number of great actors from that period, however, who appeared prominently in TVB's series in memorable supporting roles, but seldom had the opportunity to actually take on a starring role for TVB.
I'm thinking of:
Name: Wong Wan Choi
Approximate Dates of TVB Employment: 1972(?) - 1987
Memorable Roles: Fa Mun Lau (LUK SIU FUNG, 1970s and 1980s versions), Au Yeung Hak (LOCH '82)
Current Status: Retired from entertainment industry
Discussion: Wong Wan Choi became a TVB legend for his portrayal of the blind wuxia hero Fa Mun Lau in TVB's LUK SIU FUNG adaptation. His performance in this role was widely acclaimed and well remembered to this day. So excellent was Wong in this role that when TVB made a new LUK SIU FUNG series in the 1980s, he was the only actor who was asked to reprise his original role from the 1970s series. A versatile actor who was also great at playing villains, Wong Wan Choi was also memorable as Au Yeung Hak in LOCH '82. He appeared in dozens of series for TVB during the 1970s and 1980s, but never as the star of any of those series. He was an actor who could have carried a starring role, but never had that opportunity at TVB.
Name: Wong Yeun Sun
Approximate Dates of TVB Employment: 1973(?) - 1980
Memorable Roles: Sai Mun Chui Sheut (LUK SIU FUNG), "Little Fish" (THE TWINS), Ah Fei (THE ROMANTIC SWORDSMAN)
Current Status: Unknown. Retired from entertainment industry in 1989 and became a Buddhist monk in 1990. *Rumored* to have left the monastery and returned to a secular life, but outside the entertainment industry.
Discussion: Several actors have portrayed the Sai Mun Chui Sheut character from Gu Long's LUK SIU FUNG novel, but none have ever topped Wong Yeun Sun, who portrayed the character in TVB's 1970s adaptation of said novel. Wong was "Mr. Gu Long" during the 1970s: whenever TVB needed someone to portray a cool heroic swordsman for a Gu Long wuxia series, Wong Yeun Sun was the "go to guy." His deft martial arts moves and commanding screen presence made him ideally suited to these roles. As great as Wong's performances were, and as memorable as characters such as Sai Mun Chui Sheut and Ah Fei were, one must remember that SMCS and AF were both *supporting* characters in their respective novels (albeit very important and prominent supporting characters). Only "Little Fish" was a starring role for Wong, and even then, he had to share the spotlight with Sek Sau's Fa Mo Keut. Wong Yeun Sun didn't get any real starring roles until he left TVB and went to RTV, where he was memorably cast as the title character of FOK YEUN GAP.
Name: Kent Tong (Tong Jen Yip)
Approximate Dates of TVB Employment: 1980 - 1986
Memorable Roles: Chan Hon Lam (THE BUND), Deun Yu (DGSD '81), Fok Do (ROCH '83)
Current Status: Mostly retired from entertainment industry. Appears in cameo roles in occassional film projects.
Discussion: Kent Tong was the first of TVB's "Five Tigers" of the 1980s to make his mark on the public consciousness. He was the first of the new wave of lead actors for TVB to emerge in the 1980s as the Adam Cheng/Chow Yun Fat generation began to age beyond "young leading man" roles. After memorably portraying Chan Hon Lam in THE BUND, Tong was cast as Deun Yu in DGSD '81, a role that he conducted well. It should have been his stepping stone to greater stardom, but in the next two years, Tong would be leapfrogged by his fellow Tigers Felix Wong, Andy Lau, Michael Miu, and Tony Leung. After his starring role in DGSD '81 (in which he had to share the spotlight with Felix Wong and Bryan Leung), Tong found himself relegated to more supporting and villainous roles. DGSD '81 represented the highlight of his career.
Each of the above three actors could have sustained more starring roles, but never had that opportunity with TVB. It's a shame because all three were excellent actors.