Bored of acting, Peter Ho says directing is 'the happiest thing in my life'

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·Lifestyle Editor
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Director Peter Ho on the set of Who's By Your Side. (Photo: HBO Go)
Director Peter Ho on the set of Who's By Your Side. (Photo: HBO Go)

Actor-turned-filmmaker Peter Ho's new series, Who's By Your Side, is now out on HBO.

Who's By Your Side is only his second project at the helm as creator and director since 2018's Age Of Rebellion, in which he also starred as the main character Gao Yi. This time, he focused on directing and worked solely behind the camera and not in front of it.

The 10-episode Taiwanese drama stars Kaiser Chuang, Vivian Hsu, Janine Chang and Ivan Chen. Zhi-sheng, a debt-ridden car mechanic with low self-esteem (Chuang), and Yong-qi (Chang), whose seemingly happy marriage conceals her repressed insecurities, are forced to confront their respective marital problems when disaster hits his wife and her sister, Yong-jie (Hsu).

Director Peter Ho (in cap and mask) with the cast of Who's By Your Side (from left): Chiao Yuan Yuan, Vivian Hsu and Kaiser Chuang. (Photo: HBO Go)
Director Peter Ho (in cap and mask) with the cast of Who's By Your Side (from left): Chiao Yuan Yuan, Vivian Hsu and Kaiser Chuang. (Photo: HBO Go)

Ho directed Who's By Your Side from a script he co-wrote with Chiang Yu-chu (The Magician On The Skywalk), adapting it from horror novel Huang Wen by Zhang Yu-ge. 

We've watched the first three episodes which were screened for media. It's an unusual fusion of genres: marriage/family drama and hints of horror/supernatural elements.

Speaking in Mandarin to reporters in a virtual interview, Ho says that he took a risk with a very stylistic approach to directing Who's By Your Side, and that it will probably not appeal to a mass audience. The themes he wished to express were human fragility and a warning against extreme measures we take when we're forced to our limits."Viewers will probably either like it or hate it," he said. 

Director Peter Ho and actress Janine Chang on the set of Who's By Your Side. (Photo: HBO Go)
Director Peter Ho and actress Janine Chang on the set of Who's By Your Side. (Photo: HBO Go)

It's a risk he's willing to take, though, as he seeks to make a "personal breakthrough" in his directing career. The Taiwanese-American actor is known for dramas such as Summer's Desire and Butterfly Lovers, and was recently seen in movies like Double World and The Game Changer.

Ho didn't want to repeat the subject matter or cinematic style of teenage drama Age Of Rebellion, for which he won Best Director at Taiwan's Golden Bell Awards. He broke the mould of that action-packed show by opting for more lingering shots this time with less editing, which served to showcase the actors' expressions. 

With Who's By Your Side, 46-year-old Ho has cemented his earnestness to work as a director and tell stories of his own making. He previously said after Age Of Rebellion was released that he wanted to quit acting, but would continue taking acting jobs while still building his credibility as a filmmaker.

Janine Chang (left) and Vivian Hsu in director Peter Ho's Who's By Your Side. (Photo: HBO Go)
Janine Chang (left) and Vivian Hsu in director Peter Ho's Who's By Your Side. (Photo: HBO Go)

"I prefer directing to acting much, much, much, much more," Ho says. "I've already acted in over 60 TV shows and more than 30 movies. I've done the same thing for more than 20 years. Unless it's a really special acting role, I do find it a bit boring now. Being a director is, to me, the happiest thing in my life."

Ho is under no illusions that proving himself as a filmmaker will be an easy task. "The public might think I'm just another actor who's made some money and now thinks that being a director is fun. I acted in so many idol dramas, so some people may feel I'm not qualified. But whether I have the ability or not, I'll let everyone judge based on my work. These things take time. I'm not forcing anyone at gunpoint to recognise me as a director. If I'm not recognised, then it'll just mean that I haven't worked hard enough." 

Who's By Your Side premiered on the HBO channel and HBO GO on 3 October with two episodes. A new episode will drop every Sunday.

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