Saturday, May 25, 2024

Gregory Charles Rivers, actor who starred in Hong Kong TV dramas, found dead

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According to media reports, the actor’s wife Bonnie Cheung died a few months ago.

Born in 1965 in Australia, Rivers studied medicine at the University of New South Wales, where he befriended students from Hong Kong and discovered Cantopop.

He taught himself Cantonese using cassette tapes and volunteered as a chauffeur for the late superstar Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing and Cantopop icon Alan Tam Wing-lun when they performed in Australia in the 1980s.

Gregory Charles Rivers in a TVB drama. The Australian actor portrayed a supervisor, police inspector and a missionary, among others, throughout his career spanning three decades. Photo: TVB

Rivers said he was introduced to Cheung as Ho Kwok-wing through “some Chinatown people”, and the name had stayed with him since. Ho means river in Chinese, with the first name borrowed from Cheung.

He dropped out of school in 1987 and eventually bought a one-way ticket to Hong Kong. Rivers first worked as an English teacher, met his wife, and then started his acting career after securing a contract with TVB, the city’s leading free television broadcaster, for a drama series at the time.

He soon became the go-to person for roles requiring a Cantonese-speaking Westerner at TVB, portraying a supervisor, police inspector and missionary, among others. A generation of Hongkongers grew up watching him on TV.

Why Gregory Charles Rivers, also known as Ho Kwok-wing, is the ‘Real Hongkonger’

“I’m lucky because Hong Kong people don’t consider me a celebrity who can’t be touched, I’m one of their own. With every script that I got, I learned more Chinese,” he told the Post in an interview in 2022.

In 2007, Rivers taught English to world-renowned Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-fat who was dubbing for a film role that he had done for Hollywood in mainland China. Rivers worked with him on a regular basis for months, going through newspaper clips while teaching him English.

After wrapping up his contract with TVB at the end of that year, Rivers also accompanied Chow to Mexico to shoot the film Dragonball Evolution for three months to make sure his English was up to scratch.

Rivers previously said he had never regretted coming to Hong Kong as he made friends in the city and loved the culture and language, which he never stopped learning.

What next for Hong Kong’s former go-to Cantonese-speaking white actor?

“The more fluent the language, the clearer you see society around you,” he said. “If you don’t speak it well, you miss the details. Hong Kong has a lot of gweilos but not many integrate to the extent of speaking Chinese day and night.”

Rivers spoke openly about his views on the city he called home, saying he did not like the “changes” he had observed, which had led to people becoming more depressed, anxious and pessimistic about Hong Kong’s future due to a widening wealth gap and high rent.

The actor continued to appear in TV shows by different broadcasters and films after leaving TVB in 2007, and was awarded the Gold Song and Most Popular Male Singer awards in 2016 by TV Most, a satirical multimedia-content website.

He performed Hong Kong Place, a Cantonese rap song about his love for the city, at the TV Most award show, winning applause from many residents who dubbed him a “real Hongkonger”.

“I have been here for over 29 years now. Unless I look into the mirror, I am not reminded that I am a foreigner. I consider myself as a local in terms of language, attitude and my work,” he told the Post at the time.

“But the last thing I would expect is for a group of people, or even society as a whole, to actually give me the label of ‘Real Hongkonger’. That was a huge surprise and it was extremely moving. When you value a group of people and they openly accept you, it always feels extremely special.”

If you have suicidal thoughts, or you know someone who is, help is available. For Hong Kong, dial +852 18111 for the government-run “Mental Health Support Hotline” or +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans and +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

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