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From research laboratory to 'China Rush'

LIVING out of a suitcase is second nature to television host Allan Wu, who finds himself racking up the frequent flyer miles traveling to far-flung spots across Asia.

The host of the "The Amazing Race Asia" and its latest Chinese incarnation, "The Amazing Race, China Rush," Wu says that when he does finally take a rest he wants to relocate to Shanghai to break into the Chinese mainland's booming television industry.

The host and former Ford Model is based in Singapore but he is so convinced of the potential of the television market here that he hopes to move his family to Shanghai next year.

Wu burst onto local television screens earlier this month with the premiere of "The Amazing Race, China Rush" on International Channel Shanghai.

The 12-episode series shows the adventures of 10 two-person teams as they race around China.

Contestants are vying for the top prize of a trip around the world and face tough physical challenges including specially designed extreme sports events.

Wu faced his own physical tests, with the Shanghai production company Fly Films filming the series over 30 days in 10 cities across China.

"Your whole life becomes this race and you are constantly flying from one location to the next, trying to get there before the teams arrive," Wu says.

"I am just wiped out after I finish a series. After filming in China I came home for a couple of days and then I was off again around Asia for the next series."

His travels have taken him to almost every country in Asia as well as locations in Australia and the Middle East.

But filming in exotic locations for a smash hit television show is a long way from Wu's first career, as a bookish research scientist in the United States.

Wu, who grew up in Los Angeles, used to work in the biotechnology firm Chiron helping to manufacture biopharmaceuticals. But the sterile white-coated environment proved to be too stifling for the future television host.

His work included designing drugs to treat multiple sclerosis, different types of cancer and also developing gene therapies.

"If you had a passion for sciences, it was great. But I found that I was a bit more of an extrovert and I needed a more social environment," he says.

"This was a more controlled, isolated environment and definitely sterile in every sense of the word."

It wasn't until a serious snowboarding accident shattered his wrist that Wu decided to plot a course in the entertainment industry.

"I felt it was now or never. I have always enjoyed making people laugh," he said.

"In the States there are certain stereotypes about Asians - that we don't know how to speak English well, or that we only know how to do kung fu or that we are all the class nerds."

"I saw an opportunity to re-articulate that generalization. I figured then that now was the time to get out there and break into the world of entertainment and contribute to a positive image of Asians, namely Asian men."

Wu signed a contract with the famous Ford Model Agency in Los Angeles but it was a suggestion from friends to try Asia that sent him to Hong Kong in the late 1990s.

Gigs in television commercials followed and despite speaking little Chinese, he managed to pick up a job hosting MTV Taiwan.

He learned Chinese, hosted a number of the MTV shows and interviewed visiting music stars such as Whitney Houston, Alanis Morissette, Enrique Iglesias, The Cardigans and the Smashing Pumpkins.

After two years with MTV he moved back to Hong Kong in 2000 and acted in more than 50 television commercials.

It was during a trip to Singapore that he met people in the entertainment industry and it was there that his career has blossomed.

Wu has spent the past nine years in Singapore and has broken into feature films, including his latest "Love Cuts" about the challenges of dealing with breast cancer.

"There is a small niche film scene in Singapore. We are trying to build it to the point of Hong Kong or the mainland," he said.

He has also been in several Chinese films, including "Kung Fu Hip Hop" with Fan Bingbing and Jordan Chen and "Night Corridor" with Daniel Wu (not related).

He has also stared in television dramas in English and Chinese that have screened in Singapore.

In 2005 AXN launched a regional search for a host of "The Amazing Race Asia" and Wu auditioned without much hope of getting the role.

But he was one of the final two and says a deciding actor was his motorbike. When producers saw he arrived on two wheels they figured he was the kind of adventurous, rugged host they were looking for.

Wu says coming to China was special as he could delve deeply into the country where his family has its roots. They come from northeast China.

"I had been to a few places in China before but the show gave me a chance to go to all these cities I had never visited, which was a big highlight," he said.

"The race gave me a chance to see so many different sides of China, the culture, the heritage and the people from around this amazing country," he said.

"Amazing Race China Rush" screens on ICS at 8pm every Sunday and is re-broadcast at 6:30pm the next Monday. For more information, check


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