Wait, there is a link between us and Wonder Woman? Whether you’ve seen the movie or just the trailer, maybe this scene below will help explain things. See that Amazon warrior making that Cirque de Soleil jump from the cliff? (Note: This story was revised on 8 Jun 2017.)
She’s our connection, and here are a few things you should know about her…
1. That character is named Orana and she’s played by Mayling Ng.
2. Ng was born in the UK; her father is Chinese-Singaporean, and her mum, British. Her pop opened a Chinese restaurant in Liverpool called Mandarin. She later moved to Tenerife, Spain’s Canary Islands off the West Africa.
3. Ng, who has five brothers, studied martial arts when she was eight. While in her 20s, she took up taekwondo in Singapore while staying with a relative.
4. She once worked as a personal trainer and a nutritionist.
5. She also dabbled in acting. She has appeared in 2016’s Lady Bloodfight, a US-Hongkong thriller where she’s one of several pugilists showing off her fists (and kicks) of fury in an underground tournament, and has wrapped on Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids, a horror-actioner where she plays a Filipino vampire. Wonder Woman is the most high-profile project she’s been in so far.
We ask Ng, via e-mail, about her experience working on Wonder Woman, which opened here last week at No. 1. (The movie also set the biggest US opening - at US$100.5 million - by a female director, beating the previous US$85.2 million set by Fifty Shades of Grey's Sam Taylor-Johnson.)
8 DAYS: In Wonder Woman, you play Amazon warrior Orana. What did your audition entail?
MAYLING NG: I was really, really lucky with regards to Wonder Woman. I was contacted on social media that they were looking for women who not only have the physicality and weapons skills, but also looked somewhat Amazonian! But I had to be Amazon warrior-ready in only six days! Just before arriving in London, I was informed that I was being considered to play a specific character, Orana, a fearless Amazonian who you can see in the trailer jumping off the cliff to face the Germans. That was exciting and just one day before I got on the plane, I got the confirmation that [director] Patty [Jenkins] loved the combination of my mixed ethnicity, look and my strong physique and I got to play the role.
Can you take us through your training regimen to be an Amazon warrior?
Thankfully, I am always training heavy compound lifting and various martial art weapons, so my fitness level is always pretty good. All I had to do was to tweak my diet and become a little leaner than normal. I arrived at Warner Brothers Leavseden Studios in London with a just handful of the other girls and we were the last to join the other ‘Amazonians’ who all had been training for three months. We new Leavesden girls only had two weeks to catch up on [the training] before filming started in Italy.
The Amazon warriors appear in the early scenes in the paradise island of Themyscira, which were shot in Italy’s Amalfi Coast. What was the first thing you did when you arrived there and what was the first thing you shot?
Once we arrived, we checked out the set and went through rehearsals. [The first thing we shot] was the Garden of Eden scenes where the younger Diana underwent training.
How did it take to shoot that scene where you jumped off the cliff to face the German invaders?
The cliff scene took around a week but I was on the project for 10 weeks in total.
Did you keep any mementos from the shoot?
Well, the wardrobe was made by Oscar-winning designer Lindy Hemming, so I won’t dream of taking a memento from Orana’s wardrobe. Working with Lindy was a gift unto itself! She was a delight to speak to every morning. The whole experience has been amazing and even life-changing and I have director Patty Jenkins to thank for that!
You said in an interview that you grew up watching Bruce Lee. Besides him, who else do you idolised?
Angelina Jolie, for not caring what the world thinks while still caring so much for the world! Besides, she is just very cool! The people I admire most are those who stand up for what they believe in and are an inspiration to others. It's important to me to represent strong and independent women. I hope in my small way I can show Singaporean girls that they can be who they want to be if they want it enough and work for it.
Have you been in a real fight?
Yes, unfortunately. I have had to defend myself from physical and sexual assaults a couple of times. Thankfully, I was able to defend myself and didn't get hurt. But people have to realise real violence is nothing like the movies, and it should be avoided at all times. Thankfully, Singapore is one of the safest places in the world. But I’d advise all women to learn to defend themselves. If nothing else, it will at least give you confidence. And if you ever are in a bad situation, hopefully self-defense will prevent you getting really hurt.
How do you want to be seen as: a martial artist who acts or an actor who also knows how to fight?
Definitely an actor who can do my own fights. I’m trying to branch out and not be typecast as the warrior or assassin even though…. how cool is that!
I do pinch myself sometimes, as I’m very blessed to be doing what I love, but in terms of future goals, I’m studying more and working with agents for more emotional — ‘normal’ — roles, and less physical ones. Whatever you do, it's important to keep learning and evolving.
You were back in Singapore in March. Do you plan to work in Asia?
I am very pleased to see that Singapore film and TV production is growing and becoming more international. The fact that companies — like Lucasfilm, Netflix and HBO Asia — are based here and that upcoming Hollywood productions like Crazy Rich Asians is being shot here. Being half-Singaporean, I am very proud that Singapore is becoming a base for these companies in Asia, and that the local industry is growing as well. I feel that it’s very important for me to still be part of the industry here. I might be away a lot of the time, but I still have a lot of friends here and want to support them. On a more personal note, I love being here, Singapore is part of who I am and after a very busy year shooting around the world, it's great to come back and recharge.
What’s next for you?
[Early this year,] I met with a major US studio and pitched my reality show. For Asia, I'm in talks with Sunny Pang on working on an action film project together. There’s also a Hollywood action assassin movie that’s going to start filming in Thailand later this year with a personal favourite action star of mine.
Let's rock out to the Wonder Woman theme, featuring Tina Guo on cello.
Wonder Woman (PG) is in cinemas now.