Jamie Yeo on 'really bad' Growing Up cast conflict and how success got to her head
It was silence between the actors till the cameras rolled, said the current mommy influencer in this episode of CNA Lifestyle’s podcast series, House Party For 2.
Back in the army, while carrying out my Basic Military Training duties to the best of my PES C9 abilities with the rest of the boys who were too malfunctioning to step out into the field but not quite defective enough to be excused from using a broom and dustpan, I was only useful to my bunkmates for two reasons: 1) I always had the good zit cream on me, and 2) I knew Jamie Yeo personally.
Conversation (post-pimple-care) would typically go like this.
Army dude: Eh, you from Mass Comm, ah?
Me: Yes. And please put some clothes on.
Army dude: You got know any chio bu, not?
Me: I went to school with Jamie Yeo... Does that count?
Army dude: Wah! She damn chio, lor!
Then I would get a tasty Oreo treat, just for having been in close proximity with the girl from Growing Up, and wag my tail like a good boy.
It would probably surprise those army boys to know that Jamie didn’t – and still doesn’t – think of herself as, to speak their language, “chio”.
“I have never once thought I was pretty enough to do anything,” said Jamie, over an unfiltered conversation over chicken pie on my couch for CNA Lifestyle’s podcast series, House Party For 2. “I just knew I wasn’t ugly, and I knew that if they needed a girl-next-door kinda face, I could do it.”
(FYI, people: This podcast was recorded in early January, way before circuit breaker protocols went into effect, so there’s no need to text the authorities. The only socialising I’m doing right now is with my cats, who are proving not to be great conversationalists.)
It was really bad, actually. It was silence when we were all getting ready.
Jamie scored the role of Tammy Tay, the youngest of the family in Channel 5’s nostalgia drama series Growing Up, while she was still my classmate in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. It was just good luck, she said, that she happened to look like the rest of the siblings, played by Irin Gan, Steven Lim and Andrew Seow, who – along with the parental units played by Lim Kay Tong and Wee Soon Hui – had already completed two seasons of the show.
Big eyes, said the 42-year-old mum of two, changed her life.
The third season of the show centred around the ups and downs of the Tay family in the 1970s – and according to Jamie, things were tumultuous behind the scenes, too. “We had our problems,” said Jamie. “It was just that there were different cliques within the cast.”
“I don’t think it had anything to do with me – it was more like who I chose to take sides with.”
READ: House Party For 2: The totally true story of how Chua Enlai left a friend to die in the open sea
“It was really bad, actually. It was silence when we were all getting ready. The moment the director yelled, ‘Action!’, then we’d start talking. It became so bad. And I was so young, I didn’t know how to deal with it. So I just went with the whole, ‘Okay, fine. If you’re going to treat me like that, we’ll just do it like that.’”
“I just didn’t understand how it all worked because I was very, very young and inexperienced. So if someone older and a lot more experienced says…” said Jamie, trailing off as she realised she was saying too much. “I’ll just tell you another time!” she said, coyly.
“I’ll tell you after the recording. You would be so intrigued.”
I pushed on, the busybody that I am. Was it general conflict on set, with the producers, writers and crew? “No, it was just the cast,” said Jamie, laughing, adding that it’s all water under the bridge for her and that she’s truly grateful for her time on the show.
She might not have been the cause of the mysterious conflict within Singapore’s most famous polyester-wearing family – but Jamie admitted to sometimes adding to tensions on set.
“I think that at one point, I became quite a diva. I wish I could do things differently. After a couple of years on the show, I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t really want to do this… I don’t want to wear scratchy 70s clothes and have my hair hair-sprayed to death.’”
“I would get upset if a director had too many shots and we overran,” she said. “Things like that, that I wouldn’t have done in my first year. Yeah, I became quite a diva, which was not good.”
Adding to the prima donna behaviour? Jamie had also joined Perfect 10 (that’s what 987 was called back in the day, kids) as a fulltime DJ, hosting the station’s biggest show, Say It With Music.
“Radio was giving me lots of opportunities, and it was paying me much better,” said Jamie. “It just got to my head.”
Not that she realised any bad behaviour on her part right away. “I don’t think I changed a lot during that time,” laughed Jamie, embarrassed. She was eventually written out of Growing Up, and ultimately left Mediacorp for ESPN Star Sports where she was a presenter for four years. “I thought, ‘This is regional – whatever, Mediacorp! I’m so glad I got out of this small pond!’ You know? But essentially it was just a slightly bigger pond. It was still a small pond!”
“I think gradually, as the years went by – now that I’m looking back – I realised it,” said Jamie.
“I should have forged better relationships with people, like the camera crew, the producers, the casting people… I could have done more. I could have gotten to know people better – which I didn’t.”
Oh, and by the way, Jamie told me what happened between the cast of Growing Up. Oh, lordy! I'm sworn to secrecy but it's totally worthy of that "ooooooh" cat meme from Puss In Boots, is all I'm saying.
Listen to the full House Party For 2 podcast to find out how Jamie’s found a man with enough good to balance out her difficult side, why she doesn’t think it’s wrong to involve her children in her influencer work, and what she’s learnt about love over the years.