When Crazy Rich Asians hit theatres worldwide a couple of months ago, Singapore was thrust into the Hollywood spotlight. CLEO checks in with the Singaporean actresses on what the experience was like.
She plays… Celine Lim, aka Radio One Asia, the gossip girl among the crazy rich crowd.
What was it like to work in a Hollywood production?
It was a super big scale production (30 million US dollars!) so everything was just like… multiplied by 10. There are two people looking after you for makeup. So if your sweat drips, somebody will clean it up right away.
You’ve said before that you’re very different from Celine IRL, so what was it like for you to play her?
I guess [my RBF] helped me because I have this stern face when I’m not smiling! To prepare for the role, I watched Mean Girls (laughs). [Watching it] was how I got Celine’s side-eye. I practised in front of a mirror, because if you show too much of your eye whites, you just look like you’re in a horror movie.
Can you channel Celine right now and tell us some gossip that went on behind the scenes?
Everybody swoons when Henry [Golding, who plays Nicholas Young] takes his shirt off. Even the PAs were like, “OMG, Henry is so handsome, so cute!” One of the Malaysian PAs was literally shaking me and going, “Constance, he’s really very cute!” and I was like, “Yah, I know!!” (Laughs) Henry is such a nice person too, which made [everyone’s crush] even worse. He’s very sweet, really genuine. And most of the time, he wasn’t wearing his shirt.
You’ve been slaying all your red carpet looks for the premieres, starting with the one in LA. Tell us more about that look you wore for the ﬁrst red carpet.
I didn’t think I was going up to LA at ﬁrst. So when I found out I could go, I thought, how do I make this work? Since the ﬁlm centres around Singapore, I thought it would work if I used local talents. So I got the help of my hair and makeup team, who doubled as stylists as well. They found the dress and a local jeweller for me. I actually texted the designer, saying, “Hey, I’m going up for the premiere… can I borrow a dress?” She said yes and I was like, “Whoa, really?” because I’m a nobody, right? I was very surprised by the support they have given me.
Growing up, did you ever think you’d be an actress in a Hollywood ﬁlm?
I wasn’t that expressive or vocal when I was young… I was a crybaby! Whenever I had to perform, I would always cry ﬁrst. (Laughs) I never thought I would be in front of the camera now. I would get so affected whenever people say things about me, especially because of my forehead.
I really hated my forehead back then. I had to tie my hair back in school, and people would hit my forehead and run away. Because of that, I became insecure, so whenever people picked on me, I would just start crying. But over the years, I’ve realised that it’s just stuff that kids do to one another. Thankfully, my parents were very, very, supportive, so whenever I cried, they’d inform the teachers of the bullying.
Constance’s Stunning Red Carpet Outﬁt
Dress: Time Taken To Make a Dress
Jewellery: LA PUTRI
Shoes: CHARLES & KEITH
She plays… Kitty Pong, a social-climbing starlet from Hong Kong who dates (and dumps) one of the Crazy Rich Asians for another Crazy Rich Asian.
How has life been after Crazy Rich Asians?
It’s been so overwhelming, surprising, and heartwarming. Everyone is stoked and excited for the sequel. And everyone around the world wants to come visit Singapore and see all the amazing locations for themselves, like Gardens by the Bay and Newton Food Centre and Marina Bay Sands. What a love letter to Singapore.
What’s the craziest feedback you’ve heard regarding your role?
That a very famous male Hollywood celebrity would’ve loved to play my role. (Laughs) But of course, it needs to remain a secret as to who!
What’s your personal highlight from this whole experience?
That I’m a part of this historical milestone in Hollywood, breaking boundaries with a ﬁlm that upholds diversity, allowing more Asian-centric stories to be told, and creating a box ofﬁce number one winner for three consecutive weeks and counting! This is completely phenomenal!
Did you know…
That after the movie, tour operators and travel agents in the US saw an increase in enquiries and bookings for Singapore? Here are more numbers:
3x more organic search interest in Singapore from the US, based on data from Google
110 percent increase in searches for Singapore on travel website Orbitz compared to the same time period last year
41 percent jump in searches for Singapore on travel website Kayak, compared to the same time period last year
“We do expect the exposure from the movie to help bring greater global awareness of our destination, and this could potentially attract more visitors over time.”
– Lynette Pang, Assistant Chief Executive, Marketing Group, Singapore Tourism Board.
TAN KHENG HUA
She plays… Kerry Chu, Rachel Chu’s immigrant mother who raised her single-handedly in America.
What feedback did you get after the movie premiered?
They’ve all been so heart-warming and lovely – mostly about how my character reminds them of their own mums, the hardships of immigrant life and the bonds between mothers and daughters. I get so much great feedback every day, from the people I meet on the street to the comments on my Instagram.
What’s your highlight from the entire experience?
That I got to play such a fantastic role in such a game-changing movie project.
Seeing you and Pierre Png in the movie had a lot of Singaporeans reminiscing about the time when the both of you were on Phua Chu Kang. How does it feel to be reunited again, on the big screen in a Hollywood production no less?
Pierre and I have always loved each other and been such great supporters of each other. We also have great fun together and even now, 20 odd years later, the sort of chemistry we have with each other is the same. I only wish the best for him, and vice versa. Being together on this ride reminds me how lovely it is to work with great people who become your friends, so much so that we can enjoy each other professionally and personally.
She plays… Felicity Leong, mother of our new girl crush Astrid Leong. The oldest daughter of Shang Su Yi, this means she’s also the aunty of Nick Young.
How has life been after the ﬂurry around Crazy Rich Asians?
I’m in the midst of rehearsing for my next theatre production The Reuniﬁcation of the Two Koreas by Theatreworks, which opens this November, and also busy supporting my younger son who’s about to take his PSLE exams. It couldn’t be more normal.
What’s the craziest feedback you’ve heard regarding your role?
That I must have been 10 years old when I gave birth to Astrid. I play her mother in the movie.
What’s your highlight from this whole experience?
For me, it was the opportunity to work with and get to know some of the best Asian talent in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera. It’s also a privilege to be part of a movie that grew to be a landmark movement in the US for diversity and inclusivity.
Images Warner Bros., Singapore Tou
Additional Reporting Sophie Hong