This is the second in a series of articles looking at young people who’ve returned home after leaving the Islands for greater opportunities abroad.
Michael Ng knew that if he wanted to go into show biz, he needed to leave Hawaii. He moved to Los Angeles where he landed roles in TV shows and commercials. Then, after five years, his dad was diagnosed with cancer. Ng moved back home in 2010 to help his family care for his father.
Although he had to abandon his acting career, Ng has no regrets. “Family is most important to me,” he says. “I did what I needed to do. The biggest regret would have been not being here for him.”
Although his dad died eight months later, Ng decided to stay in Hawaii. Yes, there are less acting opportunities here, but he realized that Hawaii is where he wants to be. “I like our way of life,” he says. “I like the community and family feel. We respect each other despite our background. It’s more laid back and accepting here.”
Ng appreciates the shorter commute and slower pace compared to Los Angeles, where he worked a full-time job at night and auditioned and acted during the day. Most of all, it’s the people who keep him here. He has family and longtime friends who he can count on. “In L.A., it was hard to really get to know people because we’re constantly working,” he says. “You’re judged based on your exterior.”
Ng in a scene from the ABC show Last Resort. Photo: Mario Perez
The 40-year-old Ng has landed roles on Hawaii Five-0 and Last Resort and started acting and directing in local community theater. He also found a new career as the drama teacher at Kaimuki High School, his alma mater. For Ng, mentoring stage kids and working behind-the-scenes is just as fulfilling as being in front of the camera.
“It’s given me a new direction,” he says. “I feel like I’m contributing to the community and providing guidance for the youth. I’m not in it for recognition and fame. It’s about the learning and experience,” he says.
Ng as the King of Siam in an I'm a Bright Kid Foundation production of The King and I.
Ng wants to stay in Hawaii to be close to his mom. And although he thinks about moving to New York to work in theater, he doesn’t plan to leave anytime soon.
“The older I get, the harder it is to leave,” he says. “I’m not in a hurry. Things will happen if it’s meant to be.”
Photos: Courtesy of Michael Ng
Check out Michael Ng's latest project directing A Timeless Princess, a new play about the life of Princess Kaiulani.