Photos: Dang Hui Ling & Joanna Goh
Video: Vina Chia & Lye Yuk Sing
After years and months of suspense and guessing – with Hong Kong thespian Tony Leung, at one point in time, suspected to be playing the revered founding father of Singapore – there is finally an answer to the whole ‘who will play Lee Kuan Yew’ mystery. And that is none other than veteran actor Lim Kay Tong, who is best remembered for his role as Charlie Tay in Channel 5’s TV series Growing Up.
The big ‘Lee Kuan Yew’ reveal was finally made known to the media at the press conference held at Sheraton Towers this morning, and alongside with it, the line-up of 1965’s remaining cast members was also unveiled.
Another surprise installed was the announcement of Joanne Peh’s participation in the film as Zhou Jun, a feisty coffee shop owner, following the first wave of promotions which confirmed her husband-then boyfriend Qi Yuwu and Malaysian actress Deanna Yusoff’s involvement in this SG50 project, in early September.
While Kay Tong had reservations saying ‘yes’ to the role due to his own “cowardice” playing a real-life person, for Joanne, that was not so much the case. In the roundtable interview, the actress likened her involvement in this movie to that of a courtship process between the movie’s director Randy Ang and her – one which started as early as last year.
It all began when Randy sent her the first draft of the movie’s script for perusal, she recalled. “I felt that there were some things lacking in the character and the dynamics between her character and Seng’s character (James Seah). At that time, I wouldn’t have agreed if that was the final script,” she added, emphasising that her decision to be part of this movie was in no part related to Yuwu’s role in it.
According to Joanne, Randy paid heed to her comments and feedback about the character and got back to her with subsequent drafts, which eventually led to her going on board the project.
“He put in the changes and I thought, ‘Ok, that’s making sense’ and they got serious about casting me. That’s why I agreed to do it. It’s about the story and character. It has got to be meaningful, if not I wouldn’t do it,” she added.
While it’s not known if the newly-married couple would have any scenes together (we got to ask Randy about it, she says), we know for sure that they’d be linked via the second degree as James plays Yuwu’s younger brother, Seng, and her character’s love interest.
Set to hold his own against more experienced actors like Joanne and Yuwu, the 24-year-old actor shared that he’s not too worried about their first-time collaboration together. “We’re all professionals,” he replied, when asked if he was stressed about romancing Joanne in 1965. “It’s more a form of good pressure, where I can learn things from them and improve my craft.”
“I’m excited to be able to partner her, an established actress, I mean – woah, in a movie some more,” he later added.
While Joanne was mostly tight-lipped about details of her hush-hush wedding to Yuwu on September 9, preferring to “talk about it at a later date,” she did, however, share a few insights about her milestones in life and approaching this character as a married woman.
Read on for more!
You just got married. Will it help you bring anything different to the movie?
I’m not quite sure if it has got anything to do with being married but I have always wanted to focus on the craft all these while. I think the last interview I did with 8 DAYS, [I said] it’s really all about the craft and everything else is just part of life. If you ask me – life has taken me to a different stage. I’d have a lot more experience that could help, but who knows – it could also be a stumbling block because you know too much… I just want to focus on being in that moment and not knowing too much about what’s going to happen next and then react to that. That’d be the most real and genuine performance I can give this movie.
How similar are you with your character?
I’d say, the most similar thing about the two of us is we just want to do the right thing. We’re not championing any cause; we’re just following our hearts – what is the right thing to do. You’d see that in the film as well. She has aspirations, like I do. You want to make a good living, I want to make a good film – so there’s the similarity.
Now that you’re entering your 30s, what’s most important to you as an actress and as a married woman?
Time is essence as an actor. When you do a drama or movie, it takes up a lot of energy and emotions. For me, to do a project it has got to mean a lot to me. Every project I do is part of life, part of living. Going through emotions and experiences that I … it’s important now that every project I do means something and I’d have come out of it understanding myself better. Life is so much more important than work or anything else.
Speaking of milestones - for yourself, getting married is in itself a milestone. Have you thought about your next milestone? Like having a baby?
I forgot to mention the similarities. The other similarity is the fact that we don’t know what’s going to happen next – just like Zhou Jun. Is she going to get married, is she going to have children? Is she going to stay in Singapore or return to China? She doesn’t know. She wants to have a family, wants to make a good living. Is it going to happen? She doesn’t know. It’s the same for me right now – a lot of things sort of take its natural course. Do I want a baby? Yes, when is it going to happen? I don’t know.
On the note of courtship – how did he [Yuwu] win your hand?
With sincerity, of course – like what Randy did with the script (smiles).
One last bit on the marriage – now that you guys are registered, when would the banquet be held and are you guys planning for it now?
Like I’ve said with the baby – I don’t know. It [the marriage] just kind of happened; it’s a natural course. Right now, I think I have a movie to worry about, I’m also going to be part of rehearsals till end of the month and I’m also going to do Code of Law 3. We have got quite a bit on our plate, so I think that’s going to be the focus for now, for this year at least. We never know what’s going to happen next year so…
It feels as though you’re more about living life on a whim right now – doing what your heart tells you to do versus what you should do.
I think now, it’s more about what my heart tells me to do, and not so much about what I should do. Because sometimes you end up doing what you should do and you’re not happy. I think it’s more important to be happy. Life is so short, time flies and gosh before you know it – I’m a year older and a year older. I’ve come to realise I got to make time mean something to me. If not what have I done when I’m going to look back? It’s really about staying true to your heart, what makes you happy, what is most meaningful to you and so I want to focus on that. I wouldn’t call it living on a whim – it’s not an irresponsible way of living, but really being responsible to yourself – which mean different things to different people.
So are you happy right now?
Of course. What can I ask for? I’m part of an important movie for Singapore [and] it’s going to happen next year with the opening of Capitol. There’s really nothing else I can ask for. Being able to sink my teeth into this role that we can have a discussion, can talk about and create chemistry with – I think any actress would jump into this.
Who are you most excited to work with amongst the cast of 1965?
Well I’m not particularly excited about working with any one person. I’m sort of just taking it easy and quite c’est la vie about it. I mean, you can’t – the things you hold on the hardest to you don’t do a good job out of it, and you lose it in fact. And sometimes the best things happen when you least expect it. I like to stick to that and let the best things happen.
A dramatic thriller set to premiere next year, 1965 is supported both by the Media Development Authority (MDA) and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) as one of the SG50 films for 2015. It is presented by blue3 Pictures and mm2 Entertainment, produced by Daniel Yun and co-written by director Randy Ang and Andrew Ngin Chiang Meng.