Former Ch 8 actress Ann Kok is back on TV, this time taking on her first English-speaking role in new Ch 5 drama Missing.
8 DAYS: What is it like acting in English for the first time in your 25-year career?
ANN KOK: I was quite stressed initially. I’m more comfortable speaking in Mandarin obviously, and I’ve always acted in Ch 8 shows, so having to speak in English for a drama was a little daunting. However, I felt a lot more relaxed when we started filming in Thailand ’cos the Thai actors aren’t that fluent in English either! (Laughs)
In the show, you play a mum who loses her child in Bangkok while on a holiday. That sounds absolutely traumatising. So what was it like taking on such a character?
Role-wise, it wasn’t that different compared to the characters I’ve played in Ch 8 dramas so it was fine. The challenge was having to speak in the same tone as my co-stars [Ed: the drama also stars
and Pierre Png] and not sound too different from them. I had to find that balance between speaking English like a Singaporean without any weird accent, and not using Singlish at the same time. I practised a lot more at home in terms of my grammar and vocab. I’d look at the script and think carefully about how I was going to read each line out to make it sound smoother.
Why did you take on this role even though speaking in English on screen isn’t your forte?
A few production houses have approached me to act in English dramas before this, but the roles were too heavy. There were many lines and I was worried that I’d feel too stressed from having to perform well in my role and speak English fluently at the same time. For Missing, I was only involved in two episodes so I felt that it’s do-able. I’ll treat this show as a stepping stone to other English dramas in the future.
You filmed in Thailand for 10 days. What was it like working with a Thai crew?
The Thais work quite differently from us. For example, when we film a scene in Singapore, if the camera is on someone else, I can rest if I’m not required to be in the same frame. But in Thailand, everyone is involved in every single scene so that means even if we’re not in the frame, we would have to act over and over again. The good thing about such a filming method is that there’s continuation and it’s easier for us to emote. But of course, it’s a lot more time-consuming, so we filmed the whole thing in a rush! (Laughs)
Which aspect of working in Thailand stood out most for you?
We had a cook on set who followed us to all our locations and prepared all our meals! I like how we got to eat delicious hot meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day (chuckles). Oh, and we had a really clean, air-conditioned mobile toilet so we didn’t have to worry about looking for a clean toilet when we were filming in rural areas. To have such amenities while filming is a huge bonus.
The last time we saw you on TV was in Toggle series Trapped Minds in 2016. What entices you to take on an acting project these days?
For me, the right timing is very important. I also want to make sure that the role isn’t one-dimensional, there has to be some depth to it. And of course, the price has to be right. If we can’t come to an agreement on my fee, I have no choice too right? (Laughs)
You opened a castella cake shop Harmony Bakery in Johor Bahru four months ago. So do you spend a lot of your time in JB now?
I don’t go there frequently but when I do go, I choose a time when there’s no traffic jam. Also, I try to do so in secret to prevent getting spotted by my fans. I feel bad ’cos I don’t want to have to reject taking photos with them, but if I don’t do so, time might overrun and I might end up being stuck in the jam when I return to Singapore.
Besides your business, what else are you busy with when you’re not filming?
I’m basically a maid at home now (guffaws). I clean my home, do household chores, wash the clothes... My parents are old now, and they did all this for me when I was younger, so it’s my turn to do the same for them. Do you know that doing household chores can be very time-consuming? Before you know it, the whole day is gone. When people ask me what I’ve been up to and I tell them I’ve been busy with housework, they don’t believe me. It’s true, though! (Laughs)
Missing airs every Mon to Thurs, 10pm on Ch 5.