It’s been more than a year since we’ve seen Joanne Peh in a Ch 8 drama, but that doesn’t mean that the 34-year-old star has been slacking off. In fact, she’s been busier than ever, having spent the past year developing a creative children’s enrichment programme, which launched in February. The programme, called The Dimple Loft, helps children tell stories in creative ways through different mediums such as painting, writing, acting, singing, dancing and more.
Joanne took a break from acting last April after giving birth to her second child, affectionately known on Instagram as #qididi. She will be returning to our screens in new Ch 8 drama Say Cheese, where she plays a stubborn and feisty woman who works in a photography studio owned by her bossy dad (Richard Low). The drama, which airs in August, also stars Chen Liping and Romeo Tan. The actress is enthusiastic about her new passion personal project, and told us at the recent lensing ceremony of Say Cheese: “I got into the business of storytelling as I wanted children to develop an interest in different subjects through ways that are more fun, be it watching cartoons, YouTube videos or more. I want to create a programme for them to learn new skills in ways that they enjoy most. That’s because when you enjoy something, you will go at it without having people breathe down your neck.”
The working mum, who also has a two-and-a-half year-old daughter (known as #Babyqi) with her China-based actor-husband Qi Yuwu, adds: “For example, we all love watching movies, so why not make use of movies or cartoons to let children learn Science or Math? In that way, they can be equipped with the vocabulary to project their thoughts, and also have the ability to remember the details of stories and tell them.”
8 DAYS: Great to see you back! How different is going back to work this time round, now that you’re a mother of two?
JOANNE PEH: It’s different because in my last drama Dream Coder, I was pregnant and had to deal with morning sickness and all. This time round, I feel a lot more energetic, both mentally and physically, and I feel very ready to be back.
It must be challenging to balance your hectic filming schedule, a business and two kids.
I don’t think we will ever be experienced enough to know how to handle taking care of kids because it’s always different. I’ve never had two kids before, so I don’t really know what it’s going to be like. I can only make the best of the situation and be positive about all the choices I’ve decided to make. In fact, going to work is like taking a break from all the stuff I have to do at home. It’s a lot simpler and I’m not faced with the realities of what needs to be completed at home. I’m focused on one thing, which is just to act. At home, sometimes I juggle with so many things all at once that it can get very exhausting.
Yuwu is in China most of the time. Do you ever nag at him to come home more often?
No! I’m happy that he’s going overseas to work. It’s very difficult for us of course, we miss each other and the kids need him around. I’m always envious when I see families going to the beach on weekends or even just going to the malls. Going to the malls is a huge luxury for us now. We don’t get to do that at all ’cos there’s just no time. However, at the same time, he needs to be happy, he needs to feel motivated and inspired and the only way for him to do that is if he gets to work with people who are better than him in an environment that’s more challenging. That stimulates him and it’s very important for him. I’d never ever ask him to stay here to look after the children because I don’t want his talent to go to waste.
Do your kids get clingy when you have to leave home for work?
They’ve never been clingy. I’ve trained them since they were young to deal with that. A lot of it has to do with the energy I’m projecting. I do know that there are many mums who can’t bear to leave their children, and when you have that kind of energy, your children can feel it. For me, I tell myself that I need to go out and work, because it enriches my life and it gives me the opportunity to learn more and see more, and I can come back and share these experiences with my children. When I use this mentality, it makes me a lot less guilty and it makes the separation a lot easier. When I first started leaving home for work, obviously my daughter cried. However, I was still honest with her, and would tell her that I’m going to work and I’d be home by a certain time. If I had secretly snuck out when she wasn’t paying attention, she would have felt cheated. I think we need to be honest with our kids if we want them to be honest with us in the long run (smiles).
You sound like you’ve become more patient after becoming a mum.
It takes a lot of coaxing, patience and persistence to let kids see things from our point of view. In the long run, I want them to understand why we are doing things in a certain way, instead of taking the easy way out. As a person, I think I’ve also learned to consider different perspectives on things, whereas in the past, I’d have shut people off. I always keep an open mind now as I want my children to grow up listening to what others have to say, and not become closed off.
People have different takes on allowing their kids to use electronic devices. What’s your stand on that?
I do allow my kids to use them. My daughter is old enough now to understand, so I give it to her on my terms. In other words, the phone or iPad is never used as a form of distraction or to buy me more time. I always give the phone to her when there’s a purpose, like speaking to her father through video calls. I also use it to explain things in a more thorough manner. For example, if we are reading a book on animals, I’d go to YouTube and search for the animals so that she can see them in action. This provides her with a well-rounded learning experience, which also ties in with my business of storytelling. It’s the way I work with my children, and I want to explore this cross-curricular learning with more children so that we can stimulate their interest in learning.
Say Cheese premieres on Aug 6, 9pm on Ch 8.