The Ch 5 legal drama Code of Law will always have a special place in Oon Shu An’s heart: It’s her first major role on the channel. The drama, a spin-off of the Rebecca Lim-led The Pupil, debuted in 2012, with Joanne Peh and Keagan Kang as litigators.
In Season 3, however, Peh left the show. Enter Oon, as Stephanie Szeto, whom the production notes described as "a sexy and outspoken lawyer who practices martial arts in her spare time”. (Yes, she belongs to that rare breed of lawyers — the TV kind — who has spare time.)
“The series has got such a long history, so when I came on board, I was really joining the family who’ve been working together for so long,” Oon, 31, tells us over the phone. As much as she enjoyed her legal tour of duty, she had to wait for another three years before she could reunite with her extended family. Here, she lets us in on her return to the show, the unlikely chances of her working overseas, and her dream holiday. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
8 DAYS: The last season of Code of Law was three years ago. Were you surprised to get called back for Season 4?
OON SHU AN: Totally! I thought it was never going to happen again (laughs). It’s been so long, but I was really happy. I think we were all really very happy when we heard it was coming back.
Were you hoping for it to come back?
I think over here, many things don’t really get renewed. Also, for me, once a project is over, it’s over. If it happens again, it’s okay, but I also kind of move on to other things relatively fast (laughs). At the end of Season 3, we were wondering if Season 4 will ever happen, but [when nothing came of it, we stopped] talking about it.
Did it take long for you to get back into lawyer Stephanie Szeto’s headspace and recreate the chemistry with co-star Keagan Kang?
Actually, I didn’t really think about it that much. I did, but I didn’t, you know what I mean? When we got on set, it wasn’t very difficult for the chemistry to come back. Once you get into the suits and stand in front of the courthouse, it just happens. This season, Stephanie undergoes some changes. She’s a lot more open and vulnerable in some ways. She used to be pretty feisty and hard-nosed, and she always wanted things done a certain way. This season, she’s just a lot more open to stuff. So I was like, okay, it’s been three years, let’s take it that she’s grown during that time. I tried to keep some elements of her toughness, but also played with the idea that she had done a bit of reflecting and growing.
Desmond Tan plays her boyfriend, a banker, who happens to be a serial killer.
I think she’s reached a stage in her life where she wants to settle down. She just wants to find someone and maybe she thinks that she’s been too guarded. So she decides that maybe this time she should go for [a relationship], and when she goes for it, it’s with the wrong person. Quite sad, right? (laughs)
You’re also on How to be a Good Girl, a pilot vying to be picked up as a series on HOOQ. You play an ex-convict who used to be a socialite.
I had a great time working on that show. What is great about the story is that it explores the idea of second chances in Singapore. My character comes out of prison and effectively enters into another prison, which is something a lot of ex-convicts go through. I was also very excited about the fact that she comes from relative privilege, and for her to return to society with all her privileges revoked is a very interesting premise.
Did working on Netflix’s Marco Polo open doors for you in the US?
I have a manager there. But I think it’s also very difficult [to break into Hollywood] if you’re not based there. It’s difficult anyway, because the market is massive and competition is intense. So if you’re not there, it’s tough to do things. I love Singapore very much and I cannot imagine relocating. But I’d be happy to travel for work. If I get a job that sends me overseas, I’ll be more than happy to go. But to move there, I’m not sure because I’d miss my family and friends. Deep down, I am really a home person; I need to be with my family and friends or I’d be very sad (laughs). For myself, I don’t even like travelling that much. All my friends think I’m weird because I don’t travel for holidays — I travel for work, and I like travelling for work. The idea of packing up and moving somewhere for a really long period of time is terrifying to me (laughs).
You won’t consider working in China?
Terrifying! Again, if I got a job that got me there, I’d be more than happy to go. But if I’m going there to look for jobs, I’m not sure.
Wait, you don’t like to travel but you're now working on Season 2 of the travelogue, You Deserve a Break.
Isn’t that funny? I’m much happier to travel for work. Because I know what I’m going there for. I know that when I get there, I need to do this, I need to do that. The trip must be purpose-driven. I’m a bit of a workaholic.
Is there a place you’d love to visit for leisure?
I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights. But that is the only place I really want to go (laughs)! Actually, you know what? I’m a bit scared of flying. For work, I can get over a lot of things. If you ask me to do something I’m really scared of, if it’s for work, I’ll be like, “Okay, let’s do it.” But if you ask me to do it for myself, that might be something I would struggle with. But I will make an exception for the Northern Lights.