Derek Siow On The 60 Seconds That Changed His Life - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Derek Siow On The 60 Seconds That Changed His Life

After his career stalled during COVID, Australian actor Derek Siow regained his mojo on a London film set.

As an actor, there’s always uncertainty. That’s something we all have to deal with due to the auditions, the rejections and the emotional roller-coaster all that entails. My acting career had never come easy for me and I really had to work from the ground up, scratching and clawing for every little role I could get.

It was a tough process. But after grafting for 10 years, I’d managed to do some films that I was really proud of like Zero Dark Thirty, War Machine and Angel Has Fallen. But then COVID came along.

By the end of 2020, I hadn’t worked on anything for a whole year. I was living in London with my young family where we kept being plunged in and out of lockdowns. After 12 months of this sort of on/off isolation, it felt like I’d barely even spoken to anyone in a professional context.

Productions were being halted or shut down entirely. As an actor, I started wondering: What does this mean for me? How long is it going to last? The doubts did begin to creep in.

Finally, I got a role in this film, All the Old Knives. The script was amazing and, although I’m not delusional and knew my role wasn’t the biggest, I was proud of the character that I got to play. Mainly, though, I was just grateful to be part of it. In rehearsal on the first day I was standing there and on my left was Chris Pine, on my right was Thandiwe Newton, in front of me was Jonathan Pryce and then there was this creative genius of a director, Janus Metz, who’d just done Borg vs McEnroe.

After a year of not working, I was standing in this room with some of the most talented actors around.

A couple of days later, the director was talking to somebody wearing a beanie and a face mask so I couldn’t tell who it was. But I instantly recognised his voice. It was Laurence Fishburne. Now in my mind, he’s one of the greatest actors, right up there with Robert De Niro. I grew up watching all his films, from Boyz n the Hood to The Matrix.

When you make films, there’s a lot of waiting around, so I often found myself sitting there with Laurence, sharing our stories and getting to know each other. Laurence plays a father figure in so many of his roles and there I was getting all this life wisdom and career advice from the actual person. Having those interactions meant so much to me, especially during the pandemic when I felt that I hadn’t really got the chance to talk to anybody for so long.

Just before Christmas, myself and a few of the other cast were finishing up on the film. We were in this studio in London when someone got all the key actors – Thandiwe, Chris, Laurence and me – to stand together for a photo. God knows what happened to that photo, but I still really want a copy of it.

After that picture was taken, this big emotional feeling swept over me – it was overwhelming. I felt so grateful and so proud for having been part of that film.  Following so much uncertainty, I walked off the set with a renewed sense of confidence. 

It felt monumental, like a pivotal moment. Suddenly I had fresh clarity about where I was heading and belief that all those years of hard work really had put me on the right track. 

Things really did change for me after that, too. Suddenly it was like I’d tapped into some new internal momentum. Shortly afterwards, I booked a role in two big studio feature films and then two roles in television shows. I booked more jobs in the next 12 months than I’d ever done before. That experience on All the Old Knives somehow made me a bit more sure of myself and of my ability as an actor. We all have doubts, but sometimes you just have to keep going.  

More From

Gather Round
Faultless footy, cutting-edge cars, and an atmosphere like no other: a weekend in Adelaide for Gather Round

Faultless footy, cutting-edge cars, and an atmosphere like no other: a weekend in Adelaide for Gather Round

If there’s one thing Adelaide is known for, it’s turning it on when major events and festivals come to town. During the 2024 edition of the AFL’s Gather Round – otherwise known as the festival of footy – the city didn’t disappoint. Men’s Health was on the ground to soak it all up, exploring the city in select Toyota vehicles. Similar to the round itself, the cars from the AFL’s premier partner live up to the hype.