As Rebecca Lim prepares to take on her most challenging role yet in the Asian remake of gritty Scandi crime drama, The Bridge, we discover a new side to this homegrown talent
"Top, pants and shoes, all from Ralph & Russo."
The Asian remake of The Bridge has thrown up plenty of surprises since it was announced that streaming service Viu would be recreating the SwedishDanish crime thriller, and this includes casting actress Rebecca Lim in its leading role. The princess of Singapore TV, Rebecca rarely chooses roles that require her to be anything other than the relatable girl-next-door. Her turn as Detective Serena Teo is taking the actress into unchartered waters as the character requires her to be blunt, straight-talking and socially awkward.
“In recent years, I’ve been playing very likeable characters and TJ Lee [the co-director] thought this role would be a challenge for me since she’s quite difficult to like,” explains the 32-year-old star. “He said there was a very fine line between being annoying and having poor communication skills and if I played it wrong I would come across as irritating rather than someone who is actually quite nice but who has a low emotional quotient.”
It’s a strange choice for an actress who has thrived on being personable on screen. But it is exactly what spurred the actress to take up the role when she first heard about it. “The character was different from the characters I’ve played but a mantra that I’ve set for myself is ‘always try something new’. I don’t want to always be stuck in roles that I’m comfortable in,” she confesses.
“So, when people say ‘Oh, this is going to be an easy job for you’, it makes me think, ‘What’s the point then?’ The more I know that it’s going to be hard and the more I know that the role will be a stretch for me, the more I want to do it. Serena doesn’t smile at all, which is such a departure from my own personality!”
In the original TV series which aired in 2011, Swedish actress Sofia Helin plays the compelling Saga Norén, who is not your typical run-of-themill cop. Saga bucks social conventions and blazes her own trail in her quest to solve the crimes at hand. The first season was such a hit it garnered an audience in over 170 countries, and spawned three remakes, including one in the US, which stars Diane Kruger.
“I watched only a bit of the original version: The first episode, the trailers and some behindthe-scenes clips. I didn’t want to watch too much because I didn’t want to be influenced by what I saw. Ours is an Asian remake, so the local lingo and certain aspects of their culture were things we couldn’t replicate, and we didn’t want to anyway,” she reveals.
“Because of that, I stopped myself from watching much of the original version so it wouldn’t mould my performance. Besides, the original actress set such a high bar with her take on this noir thriller that it’s pretty daunting to try to replicate what she has done. So, I’ve tried my best every day on set and hopefully that will be enough.”
Playing Detective Serena Teo required much more than just character development on Rebecca’s part. She also had to get physical to contend with all the action scenes written into the script. “I did all the stunts myself, 100 per cent me,” she proudly declares. “I’m not very fit to be honest, I would love to be more fit but taking on this project allowed me to start that healthy phase of my life.”
“Any time I could squeeze in some exercise in-between takes, I would do it, and before my fight scenes I would always take time to stretch because I know my body and its limits. So, I didn’t want to injure myself. My co-star [Malaysian actor Bront Palarae] even poked fun at me saying, ‘You’re such an auntie’, but the joke’s on him because he ended up being the one who pulled a muscle on set! The cast and crew had a good time laughing at him for making fun of me.”
Another “character” that deserves mention in the series is the Causeway Bridge that links Singapore with its northern neighbour, Malaysia. Its presence in the series is a reminder that the remake is a co-production between the two countries, with scenes shot on location both here and in Kuala Lumpur.
“Filming took about two months for a 10-episode drama, which is pretty long but we had so much to film and it was between both countries so it had to be that way. The Singapore leg took about two days, so most of it was shot in Malaysia,” shares Rebecca.
“Actually, being the only Singaporean on set helped me get into character in a way because Serena is always on her own and she doesn’t like to mix around with other people,” says Rebecca, who auditioned for the role. “I remember the first week, I was so focused about staying in character that Bront thought I was actually like Serena and difficult to talk to!”
The Bridge will find its home on HBO Asia, allowing Rebecca more exposure for her work. She confesses she signed on to the drama before she knew that the network had picked it up for regional distribution. “At the time, HBO Asia wasn’t tied to the project, it was just VIU Malaysia, so people questioned why I wanted to be part of a show Singaporeans weren’t going to watch. I just wanted to do something different for a change and I’m excited that it will now reach a wider audience,” she reveals.
“I think it’s every actor’s dream to have their work seen by more people, especially if it’s something that you’re proud of. For people who have already watched the original, I hope you’ll give the Asian remake a chance. It’s a very intelligent drama series and I think viewers are hungry for intelligent scripts that are not only action-packed but also raise social issues that people can relate to, like abusive partners, corrupt corporations and inequality.”
Up next, fans can expect more roles that will challenge their notion of who exactly Rebecca Lim is. She’ll start filming Chinese drama, The Good Fight, in December, that will feature her in a more physical role as well.
“It’s more martial arts based as opposed to the combat fighting that you’ll see in The Bridge,” she says, before adding, “Zheng Geping, the executive producer, told me he wants me to do all the stunts myself and has challenged me to be able to perform a split by the end of the year. So, I’m stretching every day because practice makes perfect.”
*The Bridge premieres on November 26 on HBO Asia (Starhub Channel 601).
"The more I know it’s going to be hard and the more I know that the role will be a stretch for me, the more I want to do it!"
Dress from Giorgio Armani.
Rebecca’s Fave Makan Spots in KL
Having been there for two months to film The Bridge, it was natural Rebecca found some new food haunt faves…
Village Park Nasi Lemak
“Super famous, I ate there eight times over a two-month period!”
"They’ve got delicious Chinese home-cooked food.”
Brother John Burgers
“The wait at this food truck can take up to three hours!”
Hokkien Mee in Uptown, Petaling Jaya
“There are two stalls next to each other that are always super packed.”
FASHION DIRECTION: JANICE PIDDUCK / PHOTOS: JOEL LOW, ASSISTED BY ALFIE PAN / STYLING: SHAUN CHEN / HAIR: DEXTER NG, USING KEVIN MURPHY / MAKEUP: SAM ONG, USING DIOR / LOCATION: PASIR PANJANG POWER STATION