The actor and new dad reckons fatherhood has been everything it’s been made out to be ― and much more!

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Actor-host Max Loong, 37, is no stranger on and off the air. Best known for his juicy role on local family drama Lion Mums, the Swiss-Chinese plays Richard Lee, a philandering husband.

Lest you mistake real for reel life, Max sets the record straight immediately ― he’s nothing like the character he plays, thank you very much. In fact, he found it challenging initially to play an unhappily married man on screen, since his life is quite the opposite.

“Richard is a fun character to play. I enjoy playing these kinds of roles because they offer challenges. However, being in a happy relationship myself, I had to find a darker place to play a bad guy,” notes Max, who is married to actress-producer Sepideh Haftgoli, 36. “So, I was delighted to hear the feedback from fans of the show ― that Richard came across as a bad, bad husband.”

The seasoned actor also had to flex his acting chops when playing a doting dad, since he wasn’t one then. He admits having to “dig deep” to find the father in him.

Lion Mums was the first time I played a married man with children,” explains Max. “There were definitely moments while playing Richard, where I felt excited that I as Max Loong, will start a family of my own soon.”

It [fatherhood] has been such an eye opening experience and it truly gives life a whole new purpose.”

This is exactly what he did. Shortly after the couple tied the know in 2016, the good-looking pair fell pregnant. Their son, Ryden Lynx Loong ― affectionately known as “button eyes” ― was born on 5 June 2017.

Before fatherhood beckoned, the sought-after host, who has been bringing Formula One racing action live from the tracks, also ventured into hospitality by opening Hidden Hills Villas resort in Bali and Supperclub, a members-only Los Angeles nightclub.

So, how much does his real-life role as a dad match up to his reel-life experience? SmartParents finds out more from the new dad

Congratulations on becoming a dad! How was Ryden’s birth?
It was an incredible experience ― we got lucky as it went by so fast. It took only four hours from the first contraction until birth. We arrived at the hospital when Sepideh was 10cm dilated and it took only 45 minutes from check-in to delivery!

Describe the moment you met Ryden.
It was the best day of my life. To hold him for the first time was a magical moment. A feeling I have never felt before… Pure love.

Who does Ryden look more like now?
You’re asking the wrong person ― I never see big resemblance between babies and their parents! So far, family members and friends say from his nose up he looks like mummy and from his nose down like daddy. One thing is for sure, his button eyes are from his mummy.

So, how has fatherhood been so far?
It’s been such an eye-opening experience and it truly gives life a whole new purpose. It’s been incredible watching Ryden grow, learn and change every day. He is a bundle of joy. For me, it’s been also amazing, to simply stare at him for an hour and play with him. I don’t remember the last time I completely shut off and didn’t do anything for an hour.

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Any aspects of fatherhood you didn’t expect?
Honestly, from all the many conversations with friends who have been enjoying fatherhood, it’s been everything they described and more. I guess again, it’s that unconditional love I didn’t expect to be this intense and strong.

Are you taking time off work to be with your wife and son?
Yes, absolutely. Luckily I freelance, so I can control my time. Even though in the past years I have been enormously busy and on the road a lot, I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to spend as much time with Ryden as I can in the first crucial three months of his life.

What baby duties are you in charge of at the moment?
Pretty much everything besides breastfeeding, which is obviously a substantial part of it ― diaper changes and so forth. I also get up in the night to feed him some pumped breastmilk, so my wife gets to have a six hour stretch of sleep as well. We are lucky that Ryden is a good sleeper.

How did you and your wife settle on the name Ryden?
We both always liked unique names and initially we liked the name Lynx but were a little worried it might be too hard for certain cultures to pronounce. We found Ryden in an exotic name book and like that it represents the warriors and horse riders from the old days. We wanted to keep Lynx and decided on Ryden Lynx Loong. To top it off, it is also in homage to my late father, whose name was Ronnie Loong. Now they both carry the initial R.L.

I can’t wait to play games with him, play with toys, do sports and show him how to race cars one day. Basically, I am excited I get to be a boy again myself.”

How did you and your wife meet ― how did you know she was the one?
We met at a restaurant in Los Angeles. We were both out with friends who happened to know each other. We were introduced and the rest is history. I know it’s hard to believe but, pretty much from the first date, I had a great feeling that Sepideh could be the one. It was until about six months later when I knew I am going to want to marry and have kids with her.

So, you both wanted kids pretty quickly into the marriage?
We both always wanted kids and since we are both not the youngest anymore, it was quite clear we would try to have kids as soon as we got married. We got lucky it happened so fast as that’s not always the case.

Do you both want to have more kids?
We would like to have more kids, and of course with having a boy now we would love a girl. Then again, we are not caught up in it and will let time tell if we get lucky to have another child ― girl or boy.

What are some of the parenting moments you are looking forward to with Ryden?
I can’t wait to play games with him, play with toys, do sports and show him how to race cars one day. Basically, I am excited I get to be a boy again myself [laughs].

What was the best parenting advice your on-set colleagues gave you?
The best advice I got is not to listen to everybody’s advice. In the end, being parents is one of the most natural tasks in life and even though it sounds quite scary before you are confronted with it, once you are a mother or father, your instincts will just guide you to do the right thing.

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Who’s your favourite character on Lion Mums?
My favorite characters are the kids. They are an integral part of the show, and of course, being biased, I really enjoy working with Alexandra Tan, who plays my daughter, Ada. It’s also been a joy to work with Scott [Hillyard] again who plays my son, Jeremy, and whom I worked with previously on another drama, First Class.

If Lion Mums comes back for a third season, will you approach your character differently, now that you’re a dad in real life?
I definitely think real-life fatherhood will affect the way I play Richard. Clearly, I will stay true to Richards’s character as again Richard is not Max, but there will be new elements I will be able to incorporate. As always, you would have to tune in to see the result of that!

Do you and your wife plan on raising your kids in Singapore in the future?
Both Singapore and LA will be the main base for us, as most of my work is in Singapore and most of my wife’s work is in the US. That being said, Singapore is one of her favourite cities and depending on job offers, we could imagine raising our children in Singapore. Then again, we will always be citizens of the world.

What do you think makes Singapore a family-friendly country?
Singapore is not only a green city with lots of activities for families, it is geographically ideally located in the heart of South-east Asia, and most importantly it offers amazing schools as well as lots of career opportunities.

I know Tiger Mums only want the best for their children, but sometimes giving kids a bit of room to play and enjoy childhood can go a long way for a person’s future.”

In which areas do you think Singapore can improve to be more family-friendly?
I think we shouldn’t be so strict and hard on our children’s upbringing. There should be more space for kids to be able to be kids and a healthy balance between education and childhood. These are exactly the topics we cover in Lion Mums. I know Tiger Mums only want the best for their children, but sometimes giving kids a bit of room to play and enjoy childhood can go a long way for a person’s future.

Tell us about the other projects you are working on at the moment.
Aside of my acting and hosting gigs in entertainment, I have ventured into the world of sports. I have been doing more and more hosting jobs for car-related shows and also report for Fox Sports Asia as the on-site reporter at the Formula One races. The other area I am focusing on more professionally is travel shows. I had a pilot episode of my new travel show No Agenda recently air on DIVA–NBC Universal, which I created, produced and hosted myself. I am in the midst of looking for sponsoring partners to put together an entire season. These are just a few of the many up-and-coming projects.

Before we say goodbye, complete these sentences…

· If I wasn’t an actor/host I would be a… Race car driver because racing is one of my biggest passions in life.

· My dream work assignment would be to… Host the Academy Awards.

· The one thing no one knows about me is that… I always wanted to drive from Switzerland to Singapore by car.

· I am happiest when… I’m surrounded by my family and/or friends.

· The one important life lesson I want my son to know is… To respect each and every one, each and everything.

· I want my tomb stone to say… Max Loong lived life to the max!

· I would like to be remembered as… A human being that impacted other people’s lives in a positive way.

This interview was edited for clarity.

Catch the second season of Lion Mums at 10pm on Channel 5 from Monday to Thursday, till 2 October.

Photos: Max Loong & Jason Ho

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