Without a flicker or hint of irony, Sandra Ng Kwan-yue says: 'I am an actress, not a star.' Cringe as you may but the 31-year-old - best known for her mo lei tau farcical roles in Stephen Chiau's slapstick comedies - is serious. And there is some credibility to her claim. Apart from running late (but what is an hour's wait in showbiz?) for this interview, Ng is all no nonsense. She drives herself to our meeting, apologises profusely for the delay, poses for the photographer, sits down, mutters something about publicity for her new movies and is ready to take questions while she touches up her make-up. Ng, who has starred in more than 70 comedies, is big enough a name to turn every head in the cafe. But she doesn't play the pedantic movie star. Stardom? She's been there, done that. 'There was a time when I wanted to be a star like Lau Tak-wah. But after 4 Faces of Eve, I realised that wasn't something I wanted to pursue. In a way I have [achieved] it and it is time to move on to something else,' Ng says. Her performance in 4 Faces of Eve, an independent film project she financed in 1996, has received critical acclaim and earned her a best actress nomination in the 16th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards last year. Ng, who also appears in radio dramas, says she is willing to take even minor roles to hone her acting skills. 'I have yet to work with many directors. So I don't mind starting from scratch. If the directors dare even to give me a minor role or cameo [in a serious movie], I would take it,' she says. 'If I was a star, I wouldn't make these movies. My career path has been rocky because I have been typecast as a madcap for years. So if I am given a chance, I will take it.' Although 4 Faces of Eve was a turning point in Ng's career, being recognised as an 'actress' came with a price. The movie took her off regular filming - and the commercial market - for two years. 'After 4 Faces of Eve, some directors thought I had given up making commercial films and stopped approaching me. That was strange because I never said I would stop making them,' Ng says. But opportunity knocked on her door early last year when producer-writer Manfred Wong (also known as Man Chun in the industry) asked her to play a small role in Young and Dangerous IV, a sequel to the box-office hit series about the triad gangland. 'Man Chun wanted me to play one of the characters because he thought I fitted into it perfectly,' Ng says. 'He even gave me the comics [which Young and Dangerous is based on] to read. I trusted his judgment. Besides, this series has been a commercial hit so I thought I had nothing to lose. At least the film would draw a large audience. 'Golden Harvest bosses saw Young and Dangerous IV and thought my part could be further developed.' Her new film Portland Street Blues, to be released next week, is thus a spin-off (rather than a sequel) of the Young and Dangerous series. Ng is also starring in the sequel, Young and Dangerous V , currently on show. In Portland Street Blues, Ng plays Sup Sam Mui or 'Sister Thirteen', the only female gang leader in the fictitious triad group Hung Hing and runs the gang's vice dens in Portland Street, Mong Kok. The movie charts her rise to power. What separates this production from the Young and Dangerous series is that it gives a greater insight into the characterisation of its protagonist, something that is conspicuously missing in the sequels. Ng says she is thankful someone 'had the guts' to cast her in this more serious and emotionally demanding role. 'I like the Sup Sam Mui character because she is not a comic character. After about 70 farcical roles in comedies, I think I have had quite enough,' she says. 'I also like the part because I have to play the young and grown up Sup Sam Mui. A lot of actors like these roles because they give them good opportunities to act. 'I am also glad there is a movie with a female lead at a time when the local film industry is in a slump. In general, most films in Hong Kong are very male-orientated.' But is Portland Street Blues really an exception? At the end of the movie, a fellow male gangster is asked to take care of Sup Sam Mui because 'she is a woman'. The plot is further confused by the playwright's naive handling of her sexuality. There are hints of lesbian liaisons but the portrayal is a simple stereotype of a 'butch' woman. 'It is all written between the lines. In the story, Sup Sam Mui was in love with a man she could not have,' Ng explains. 'In a way, she lost confidence in men because she could not have the man she loves. 'When love fails, Sup Sam Mui focuses on her career. She takes charge of a female-dominated industry and in doing so enhances her power. And it worked. It was her choice.' Ng argued with the playwright about the 'she is a woman' remark but concedes 'it was a man who wrote the script'. Ng says the shallow handling of homosexuality is not surprising as the film is made for a commercial market. 'I am not disappointed. If people want to watch something with messages, then they should go and see a Stanley Kwam [Kam-pang] movie. This is a Man Chun movie and you know what to expect.' 'At the end of the day, the movie needs to make money.' To critics who complain the Young and Dangerous series has a bad influence on young audiences, Ng counters that there are already many violent movies on the market. If they were all censored, she says, there would be little footage left to see. 'Besides, we are not saying these gangster characters are wonderful, they too have their problems and they die,' she says. 'Now that the audience has come to know the characters in the series well, they don't take them seriously anymore.' While Ng has again proved in Portland Street Blues that she can do more than play the madcap comedienne, how it will fare at the box office has yet to be seen. The former television show Enjoy Yourself Tonight host hopes to take the director's seat but she believes that day is still in the distant future. 'I regret not directing one segment myself in 4 Faces of Eve,' she says. 'But I crave to direct and write a script. It will have to be a light comedy but I won't act in it. It will be too difficult to act and direct in the same film. I will direct someone else.' And who will that be? 'Lau Tak-wah and Michelle Reis or even Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing because they still have to carry their baggage [of being stars]. I want to see them going a little bit further,' Ng says. 'Or actors who have yet to be recognised. These are the only people or choices if I were to direct a film. But I am very happy at where I am now.'