Spotlight: Chris Mak Discusses Teenage Textbook: The Series, His Career and Personal Growth

Fast-rising star Chris Mak reflects on his journey in entertainment thus far and discusses his acting debut in Teenage Textbook: The Series.

Photo: ZYRUP Magazine, Shot by Joel Lim

We were first introduced to Chris Mak when he debuted on the entertainment scene as a fresh face (or rather, voice) on Mediacorp 987fm’s slate of DJs back in 2018. It’s not always that people in the industry sit up and take notice of a newcomer, but for Chris, they sure did.

Within a short span of time, the 28-year old has clinched multiple magazine interviews and gigs (which is no mean feat) and has recently landed himself a role on Teenage Textbook: The Series, a modern take on the 1988 hit novel written by Adrian Tan.

Chris walks in casually to the ZYRUP studio –alone– and proceeds to introduce himself to the rest of the team. Clad in a chic black turtleneck and casual denim jacket, the strapping 1.84m tall charmer looks like he had just walked off the set of Riverdale (in reality, he had just ended his afternoon slot on radio).

Others have written in detail (sometimes a little too much in detail, I feel) about his good looks, but meeting him in person, I see now why paragraphs have been dedicated to his appearance. With his hair neatly-but-nonchalantly slicked back, and his reserved-but-friendly demeanour, Chris Mak is effortlessly cool. But despite all the attention and fanfare surrounding him, he has no airs about him, and that inadvertently makes him even cooler. Truth be told, I had expected him to be energetic and domineering but instead was pleasantly surprised to find a collected and composed guy.

Before his cover shoot, we sit on a sofa in the lounge to begin his interview. With his arm casually sprawled across the sofa with one leg tucked in, Chris begins to talk about his journey in the entertainment scene.

Chris Mak
Photo: ZYRUP Magazine, Shot by Joel Lim

Being overweight back in 2015, he decided to seize back control of his life by committing to improving his fitness. Doing so tremendously improved his mood and energy level, as well as his self-esteem.

Chris counts his lucky stars to even have had the opportunity to get a start in this industry. “I was very blessed to have met someone who introduced me to the industry and [I just] took it from there,” he says.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the entertainment industry. Acting in particular, but sometimes you enjoy other things on the way.”

Interestingly enough, he was on the hunt for acting gigs before landing the coveted slot on radio that so many others would kill for. He currently helms the afternoon slot on Mediacorp 987fm.

Alas, things have come full circle, as he is now starring in a lead role in Teenage Textbook: The Series. Officially, the series is a modern interpretation of the beloved title, and one made for video streaming platform meWATCH. Unofficially, with its good-looking cast and school setting, we refer to it as Singapore’s answer to Riverdale

Chris Mak
Photo: ZYRUP Magazine, Shot by Joel Lim

The Teenage Textbook was a 1988 novel written by Adrian Tan and the book was a bestseller. In 2015, ‘The Teenage Textbook’ was selected as one of the Top 10 English books from 1965-2015 by The Business Times. In 1998, the first installation of the series was adapted to the silver screen, starring Melody Chen and Caleb Goh. 

The story chronicles a 17-year-old girl named Mui Ee, embarking on her journey in polytechnic to become an engineer with a secure job. In this modernised adaptation 33 years after the original book’s publication, watch as she manoeuvres around teenage drama involving the campus heartthrob, Tom D’Cruz, played by Chris Mak himself. How the series ties in the original work is through Mui Ee’s father (played by Tay Ping Hui) who aims to turn a teen self-help book named “The Teenage Textbook” (wink) into a smartphone application.

In preparation for the role, Chris says that he watched the iconic movie for homework. “It was on Netflix and had my chance to learn more about the characters and then develop my own take on it from thereon,” he reveals.

When asked how it was like transitioning to be in front of a camera, as opposed to only needing to be heard on radio, he reflects and says that being on radio actually helped a lot. “I got to develop confidence in myself and my speaking abilities despite my challenges with speech impairment which I still work on till today behind the scenes.”

As our conversation draws to a close, I cannot help but feel like the man sitting before me is one whose career will have legs.

Later on that night, over dinner, we ask him if he has anything he has his eyes set on once the pandemic is over.

“There are some things I don’t want to say right now, but there are plans in motion,” he replies, with a sheepish but confident smile.

Chris Mak
Photo: ZYRUP Magazine, Shot by Joel Lim

Click here to catch Chris Mak on Teenage Textbook: The Series, streaming now on meWATCH.