If it weren’t for Mediacorp, Anthony Chen wouldn’t have discovered Koh Jia Ler…again.
When the London-based Singaporean filmmaker started work on Wet Season, the follow-up to his Cannes-feted debut Ilo Ilo, he wanted to cast a 16-year-old lad. He’d spent a year searching for a suitable candidate, but to no avail.
Then he came across an Instagram snapshot of someone he hasn’t seen for a while — Koh Jia Ler, the same kid he'd worked with on Ilo Ilo. It was a photo of Jia Ler in school uniform from the set of Mediacorp’s long-form drama Life – Fear Not.
Shortly after Jia Ler was cast, Yeo Yann Yann, another Ilo Ilo alum, entered the picture. In Wet Season, Yeo plays Ling, a Chinese language teacher with personal issues at home who has an illicit affair with her student Weilun (Jia Ler).
The film, which opened here last week, also stars Christopher Lee as Ling’s estranged husband and stage veteran Yang Shi Bing as her bed-ridden father-in-law. The film was nominated for six Golden Horse Awards, with Yeo taking home the Best Actress statuette.
If you think Yeo and Jia Ler playing lovers is weird, you aren’t the first to think that. Even the director thought so at first. “But Anthony felt we now look nothing like our characters in Ilo Ilo,” Jia Ler tells 8days.sg.
“I’ve grown up and Yann Yann isn’t pregnant and she wore a wig so that she didn’t look like my mum in Ilo Ilo. That’s why Anthony was okay with it,” says Jia Ler, who whose father runs a transport business and mother is an accountant.
We sit down with Jia Ler, who turned 19 last month (Nov 11, to be exact) at the Golden Village office at Suntec City, and ask him to take us through the most challenging — and easiest — parts of making Wet Season.
1/51/5Chilling out: Koh Jia Ler at the Gold Class lounge at GV Suntec.
2/52/5A long way from 'Ilo Ilo': Jia Ler with Yeo Yann Yann in 'Wet Season'.
3/53/5Man of wushu: Jia Ler shows off his moves in 'Wet Season'.
4/54/5Back in the day: Jia Ler with his 'parents' Yeo Yann Yann and Chen Tianwen in 'Ilo Ilo'.
5/55/5Army days: Jia Ler will be enlisted for his NS next month.