Zhang Zetong Recently Thought He Was Going To "Pass Away" When His Body Reacted Badly To… Ginseng Chicken
The star of Mediacorp long-form drama Healing Heroes talks to 8days.sg about his health, hospitals and that hilarious clip of him performing CPR.
Let us address the elephant in the room first.
By now, most people would have seen the scene from long-form drama Healing Heroes, where Zhang Zetong performs CPR, or what we assume to be CPR, on Xixi Lim’s character, while the latter is wheeled into an operating theatre.
It was first shared on Reddit before going viral for how unrealistic the scene looked — Zetong's head was bobbing up and down while his arms, that were pressing down on Xixi, remained as stiff as rigor motis.
Some called it the "worst CPR" they've ever seen, and they were not wrong.
When 8days.sg reached out to Zetong, who plays thoughtful, caring junior doctor Chong Hao Nan, for a comment about his performance, the 29-year-old admitted that the scene was “challenging to film”.
“It was also a little awkward but I’m glad audiences saw the humour in the situation. I’m grateful for all the constructive comments, and this has been a learning experience for me,” he added.
He would later share the scene on IG Story, writing “It’s really quite funny lah now that I look at it”.
We first met the Star Search 2019 champ a month ago at the press conference for long-form drama Healing Heroes and when it comes to first impressions, Zetong makes a good one.
The 29-year-old, with his now-trademark dimpled smile and puppy dog demeanour, reminds us of that super sociable class monitor who will most likely be voted Prom King.
He was eager to get the conversation started and has an indelible a way of making one feel comfortable.
It could be his genuine earnestness or his likable aw shucks attitude or maybe it's that enthusiastic fist bump he launched in our direction right from the get-go.
Whatever it is, we're paying attention.
Zetong in his junior doctor garb
8DAYS.SG: It’s been three years since your first drama, has showbiz been what you expected so far?
ZHANG ZETONG: Um, there are definitely things that fell within my expectations. Things like acting, a bit of hosting and also meeting celebs who were my childhood idols.
Things that were out of my expectations were like traveling for work. Those are things I used to do, but not in the same capacity as now. For instance, the first thing out of the gate when I joined Mediacorp was traveling for variety show Aus-some Getaway where we had tour guides bringing us around Western Australia and it’s all expenses paid trip and stuff. It was something I did not expect to happen so quickly for me.
One of the not-so-glamorous side is how all actors actually spend a lot of time on set just to shoot a very short part. So one minute of a production could actually take a full day of work. Filming is actually a tedious and time consuming activity that many people who are watching us onscreen would not think much of.
But of course the good thing that comes out of it is that people on set are always very chill and very nice to hang out with. That’s very big plus for newbies like us who are still very new to everything. We also try our best to not make many mistakes.
You mentioned meeting your idols, who are some of them?
(Excitedly) So many! Ah Jie Zoe Tay was one of them and I got to work with her in a previous drama, You Can Be An Angel 4. I definitely wanted to meet her up close because I used to know her as the Gambling Queen with Li Nanxing da ge in The Unbeatables.
[I met] many other actors as well like Zhu Houren da ge, and Chen Shucheng da ge. And with this show, it’s my first time acting with [Chen] Hanwei da ge. Finally meeting him is very enriching for an actor because you do need someone a lot more senior and a lot more experienced to guide you.
Has he given you any advice?
Yes, plenty. We can be on set and he would say something like “Maybe you can try that”. But not in the manner where [he’s like] “I’m a senior so you should listen to me”.
He would give me different options to deliver the same line so I can switch up the performance a lot more. I’m very grateful for that. When the director shouts ‘action’, he becomes very immersed in his character, so I dare not let myself slip up too. It’s a good and rare feeling for a newbie to have.
Unlike fellow actor Herman Keh of Tiktok fame, Zetong opts to connect with fans through a Telegram channel
Many of your peers, like Herman, are very active on Tiktok.
(Laughs) I guess I'm just not as viral as him.
Hmm, actually I tried TikTok for a bit, especially during Covid when the trend was mostly dancing and funny stuff. But I feel that Tiktok is moving towards vlogging and talking to the camera, that kind of stuff. That might be something I want to try out as well. Because I don’t think finger tutting is my thing, I don’t think transitions is my thing, I don’t think dancing is my thing, so I'll move on to vlogging. Maybe just telling people what the top three most annoying MRT [stations are] in Singapore? No, just kidding! (Laughs)
There’s someone who does that already!
Ah damn! Let me think of something else. I have to come up with a totally different genre right? So yah, I think that’s definitely in the back of my mind, but right now I largely focus on Instagram.
Do you reply to messages from your fans on IG?
(Nods) Yah, I do. If you leave a comment or you send me a DM I will definitely read them. But a lot of the time I might not have the time to reply individually.
What I’ve done to connect with my fans is that I've created a dedicated Telegram channel, for them to… because I feel IG is becoming a magazine where you only post well curated and well filtered photos and there’s a level of expectation [for the content]. Many people are tuning in to TikTok where things are more candid and more real, so since I feel I can't do TikTok, I have a dedicated Telegram channel for my fans where I post behind-the-scenes stuff.
Do you think competition in showbiz is fiercer these days?
Do you include content creators?
Then yes for sure. Maybe back in the early 2000s, the only public personalities were actors right? The same interchangeable actors. Today it’s different. You have YouTubers, TikTokers and influencers of a different niche.
With regards to acting, there’s another global trend where people are moving to Netflix, Viu or Korean and even Thai shows these days. So I think competition is definitely intense.
But in Singapore, we do have a dedicated crowd of viewers who have been with Mediacorp for a very long time and we would love to serve them as much as possible. Here, there are more and more young actors coming up [and] I feel that that’s only a good thing for us because now audiences don’t just see the same few faces on TV every time. It will actually help to boost viewership so I actually welcome all people who want to become actors. I feel that more is actually better in this case.
Zetong with fellow junior doctors Gini Chang, Herman Keh and Sheryl Ang
Have you ever thought of becoming a doctor?
No... No... (Laughs). Never. (Chuckles)
I thought of becoming a lawyer, a scientist maybe, and once when I was a lot younger I wanted to be the president ‘cos the president seems like the most powerful man in the country.
I did think of becoming a pilot too but never a doctor ‘cos I feel that being a doctor is gross because you have to go in and cut everything up, and then you have to put things back [in]. There are also so many chores you have to do like, cleaning people’s poop. It wasn't something I wanted when I was younger.
Oh, so it’s not because doctors have to study a lot?
I was okay with studying but I wouldn't say I was very studious.
Do you like hospitals?
The only thing I like about hospitals is that they always have the clean, sanitary smell.
You like that smell?
(Chuckles) Oh, I do! It makes me feel like the place is clean and free of bacteria and germs and I can feel safe.
Fortunately, I haven’t really come across sad events that happen in hospitals ever since becoming an adult. Okay once, when one of my uncles was in the ICU because he had terminal lung cancer. I would say the episode happened very quickly so it was over before I could even react to it.
So you don’t have any scary stories to tell about being in a hospital?
There was a car accident that happened when I was in secondary school or JC. Basically I was in my family car and my dad tried to make a turn without signalling, and a motorbike came crashing into our car. The motorcyclist flew several meters and there was a lot of blood. We sent him to the hospital and I remember vividly it was during Chinese New Year. You know how the older Chinese would be wary of entering hospitals during that festive period. My parents are superstitious, [so] my dad went in while my mum stayed outside.
We took care of the medical bills for the motorcyclist and fortunately, he wasn't too badly injured.
It's also why up until now, I keep telling my dad to be careful when he makes a turn.
Are you super careful when you drive too?
Super. When you turn, you should always signal, and signal early. Most importantly, you have to check your blindside. That’s one thing I never miss since I started driving.
He looks like an oppa here but Korean food may not be for him
Have you had any health scares?
Yes, I had one recently. It’s so funny and I still don’t know the cause of it.
I was at a Korean restaurant and had ginseng chicken. But that day the ginseng chicken tasted extra herbal. After I eating it, I suddenly had a dizzy spell. I had to sit down. I was like 'Wait a minute, something bad is happening.' I could feel my strength bar — if you think of yourself as a character in a game — going lower and lower.
Thankfully, I still had the mental strength to send myself to Thomson Medical Hospital. I didn't go to A&E lah but the GP. I remember [I was seen by] a junior doctor also (chuckles) and he did a stroke test.
Fortunately I passed it and he concluded that it was from a lack of sleep and too much stress at work which was true lah. After that I sat outside the GP and I felt okay. So… it was strange. Maybe it was the ginseng chicken that caused the blood to flow away from the body.
Did you think you were having a stroke?
At first I didn't know what the test was for and I just followed the instructions. But he assured me that I didn’t have one. I was very thankful 'cos if I did, it would be very troublesome. For my family and the production crew as well.
But what about yourself?
(Laughs) Well, I mean people usually do recover, at least I hope, as a young person. I have a cousin who also suffered from a stroke. I was genuinely worried when I had the dizzy spell. I was like “Am I really just gonna pass away? From this?” (Chuckles)
Photos: Mediacorp/ Photo Unit, Zhang Zetong/ Instagram
Healing Heroes is available on demand for free on meWATCH. It airs on weekdays, 7.30pm on Ch 8.
You can also catch Zetong in an episode of Healing Heroes below.
Related topicsZhang Zetong healing heroes Chen Hanwei Sheryl Ang Herman Keh
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