Think of Fiona Xie and Ch 8 dramas, and the first image that comes to mind would probably be that of Miss Xie’s nosebleed-inducing run down Orchard Road in 2004 hit drama The Champion. So when the producer of that drama came knocking again, the decision to take up the role was a no-brainer for the actress. Her long-awaited return to Ch 8 after a decade came soon after she wrapped up filming in KL for her Hollywood debut. Fiona went straight from playing the fun and flirty Kitty Pong in Crazy Rich Asians to playing a crazy rich but vicious businesswoman plotting to take over her father’s company in Gifted. And, boy, did things get messy. 

8 DAYS: Why did you choose Gifted as your Ch 8 comeback? 
First of all, I haven’t done Mandarin TV in more than 10 years. Secondly, I literally just wrapped up filming for [upcoming movie] Crazy Rich Asians in KL, and I really missed filming there. So when the producer called me [to act in Gifted, which was also filmed in KL], I said, ‘Okay, let’s do it!’ And also ’cos he was the same producer that did [2004 Ch 8 drama] The Champion, which was the one drama that people always remember me for. So when he called, I had to say yes. And thirdly, ’cos it was a challenging role in that it was the first very ambitious businesswoman role I’ve played. I thought it was a very good juxtaposition after playing the funny and seductive Kitty Pong in Crazy Rich Asians, and it would [showcase] a very different side of me. It was also my first time murdering someone and getting my hands bloodied onscreen. (Laughs) In the name of love, of course. So it was exciting. And any chance to go back to KL and eat cheap food? Count me in! [The cast] ate supper at Jalan Alor every night during filming. A lot was gained on the show, especially weight. (Laughs) There’s a long-running rumour that there was an actor who put on 8kg when he went up to KL to film years ago. Thankfully, none of us gained 8kg! (Laughs)
How does it feel being back on Ch 8 after a decade? 
It was very nostalgic ’cos I [got to act alongside] different generations of actors — Michelle Chia who was a child actress, Chen Xiuhuan who was like the “Yi Jie” of Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (which Mediacorp was known by back in the day), and Elvin [Ng] whom I scouted on the variety show Hey Gorgeous. I’m also very good friends with [Zhang] Yaodong. Everyone is very easy-going, so it was very seamless [working with them]. I miss that team spirit ’cos when I’m doing my own business or stuff, there isn’t so much time spent with the same group of people for an extended period of time. I also miss understanding emotions and knowing human nature [through acting]. When you go through scripts and play different characters, you think a lot about how it applies to human nature and psychology, and you tend to be more open-minded to understand more people. After acting, I feel like I’ve led many lives and I understand human nature more intensely. 

What was the greatest challenge about acting in this drama?
Definitely memorising the lines. I had to write out my entire script in hanyu pinyin. And I spent a lot of time in my hotel room going through my lines. Also, ’cos I’m a very animated person, so trying to be still while filming is quite an accomplishment for me. But acting’s just like riding a bicycle — if it’s in you, it’s in you. So I think you don’t choose acting — acting chooses you. (Laughs) 

Your character winds up killing for love. What’s the greatest length you’ve gone in the name of love?
So many things. I think you love without questioning, and if you truly love, there’s never like a boundary. But maybe it’d be putting my career in cold storage for love, or making decisions putting others before myself. 
Share with us one of your secret gifts or talents.
Disappearing! (Guffaws) I’m just kidding! I don’t know. That I have empathy, I suppose. I’m a very, very ‘soft’ person. I have a lot of empathy for people — although I might not look it. (Laughs) I always look like the fashionista. But I love feeling for people and understanding them. I love giving my time to friends and those who really need it, especially in the wake of so many things happening in our world — and our world is so unstable and full of uncertainties and hate, especially in the US. My cousin who passed on from cancer taught me a lot to appreciate every single thing and moment. So I feel like having compassion and empathy for others, and spending time off your phone and appreciating people around you are so important right now. It’s more important than being successful or gifted. (Laughs) 

debuts July 9, on Ch 8, 9pm.