SINGAPORE – “I’m [like] a rabbit being thrown to a pack of wolves,” recounted Physical: 100 contestant Elaine Wong, 34, a television personality and actress.
She sat down for an exclusive interview with HallyuSG, dialling in remotely from South Korea, where she now resides.
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Wong is the only Singaporean contestant in Netflix’s most-raved physical reality series, Physical: 100. The nine-part series concluded its broadcast run on Tuesday (20 Feb).
Physical: 100 featured big names in the sports industry like MMA fighter Choo Sung-hoon, skeleton racer Yun Sung-bin and YouTuber Shim Eu-ddeum.
Contestants are oblivious as to who their fellow participants will be, until the first episode where they meet each other with their ceramic busts, as shown to viewers.
It was then Wong realised that Choo was also in the same programme. “I signed up for the wrong show; what show can I do with him?” she joked before cracking up.
Wong previously starred in variety television programmes like MBC’s South Korean Foreigners (2018) and Welcome, First Time Living in Korea? (2020). But Physical: 100 easily tops the list of most challenging series for her.
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The showmakers first contacted her through her entertainment label, and that’s where she “got a hunch” that she might have been selected for the show. The whole process took two months and producers were tight-lipped throughout.
They only asked her one question: are you scared of water and heights?
Viewers would know that this is probably a pre-show check on quest zero, where contestants had to hang to an elevated metal frame. Failing to do so will cause them to free-fall into a pool of water.
Her answer was yes to both.
And it was even scarier than viewers might have thought as what was presented was visually misleading.
It didn’t look like it, but the height from the metal bar to the man-made pool was about two to three storeys high. Wong did not even know that it was water beneath her.
But “I didn’t think it was going to be that bad,” Wong told me. If anything, she thought it’ll be a programme like Running Man (2010-present), where participants embark on an amazing race to clear challenges.
Amidst the bloodbath and gruesome battles, things are amicable outside the battlefield.
There is no bad blood, only great sportsmanship. “I became friends with [the other contestants too],” she told HallyuSG in the phone call.
My conversation with Wong lasted slightly over an hour. She spoke in fluent English throughout our interview, occasionally using Mandarin and Korean when she couldn’t find the right words to express herself.
Her Korean is exceptionally fluent for a foreigner. What’s more impressive is that it’s all self-taught.
It didn’t come easy though. “I had problems even ordering food in the first year and it became a struggle. I ate ramyeon (instant noodles) and kimbap for a year,” she now says with a laugh. But I reckon it was a painful affair then.
As a foreigner there, feeling homesick is inevitable. And being alone makes the experience much worse.
There’s no doubt that Wong made a name for herself there, but there are times where she faced rejections, got betrayed and even got no one to turn to when she’s sick.
This year marks her 12th year in South Korea, but our hour-long interview tells me that she still has got that sense of patriotism buried deep inside.
“I wanted to make Singapore proud. That’s why I introduced myself as a Singaporean actress in the first episode,” she said.
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