In many ways, Chick King is your average Southbourne-based fast food takeaway. It prides itself on serving up healthy but speedily prepared food. With a small but faithful clientele of regular customer, run by a family who are proud to live and work in this district of Bournemouth. But this is one local business with a big difference – its owners all regularly moonlight as actors in the feature film and TV industry!
“We’ve been involved in TV and film for over twenty years now,” says Paul Ho, who co-runs the takeaway with his brother Pete, sister Janet and her son Haywood. “Janet was the first – she’d already been involved in modeling and beauty contests since she was young. And when she started getting into acting roles, she was able to throw us a few jobs. We’ve been splitting our time between doing that and working here ever since.”
Between them, the Hos have appeared in a variety of films and TV shows over the years, from supporting roles in blockbusters such as Tomorrow Never Dies, Die Another Day and Star Wars: Episode One, as well as regularly acting in TV shows such as Eastenders and My Hero. Even nineteen-year old Haywood is soon making his feature film debut, having recently been cast in a fighting scene opposite Keanu Reeves in the upcoming movie 47 Ronin.
Janet says customers at the takeaway are often surprised to find out about the family’s second line of work: “A lot of people often don’t believe it. They look at you over the counter before asking: ‘excuse me, weren’t you in Only Fools and Horses last night?’ They’re shocked to see someone working in a takeaway that they’ve seen on TV – I guess it’s not what you expect, is it? But we’re normal really, just normal people doing different jobs.”
But the family admits that the two lines of work couldn’t be more different. Between flying off to glamorous locations worldwide one day and serving up food to customers the next, Janet says that she sometimes feels like she’s living a double life: “One day I’m on the most beautiful sets in the world, with the most beautiful people in the world – looking at all these people, thinking ‘wow!’ The next day I’m back in Southbourne, cooking chips. It’s absolutely hilarious.”
But despite their success in the world of show business, they say that the takeaway has always been important to them for the solid, reliable income it brings in. Pete says: “Some weeks there can be lots of work, and other weeks there can be a bit less. So having a regular source of money is important.”
And besides, the regulars at Chick King seem to enjoy chatting with them about their adventures. “It’s great fun talking with Paul about some of the stuff he’s done,” says Will Hirsch, who comes in every couple of weeks. “He goes and shoots a scene with all these famous people off in Europe or wherever, and then he’s just back here telling you all about it.”
Laughing, he says: “You don’t get that in many takeaways, do you?”