What was shooting Crazy Rich Asians like?
Very fun and a real eye-opener. It’s a rom-com with a great story, and it’s Hollywood’s second and only all-Asian cast, so just watch it for what it’s worth. If you’re a fan of the book, you’ll love it; even if you’re not, it showcases a lot of things about Singapore.
As you said, this is the second all-Asian cast in Hollywood history.
It’s different from Joy Luck Club; only the privileged knew what it felt like to be Asian then, so it provided answers to all the curiosity about filial piety and how we positioned ourselves. This time round, people will get to see how we’re all on an equal plane. How we’re no longer colonised immigrants, but a good mix of talent, cultures and beliefs. It’s different eras of being Asian. Most of the cast are younger than me, but we’re all Asian actors who’ve paid our dues and we’re excited to be in a Hollywood movie.
With almost two decades in the industry, how do you define success as an actor?
Being totally comfortable and… I wouldn’t say satisfied, because an actor is never truly satisfied. But to watch [your work] being screened and to have people talk to you about it, whether it brings a smile to their faces or tears to their eyes, they remember it. And only you know what effort you put into it or what it meant to do that scene. So it goes full circle, and what satisfies me in a role is the knowledge that I’ve made an impact or evoked some kind of feelings for the viewers. There’s more that satisfies me now than when I first started, where I hated everything I did. I’ve learnt to let go, accept my shortsightedness; right now I’m just zen, taking things with a pinch of salt and living for the moment.
What does your Hollywood debut mean to you?
I won’t know till I see it, but I laugh and joke that it’s not that I went to Hollywood, but Hollywood came to me. Literally, because it’s about Singaporeans and what better debut for me than to portray a Singaporean.
Check out the other interviews of Men’s Folio 20 Men including photographer Anton Lim, DJ MYRNE and more in our 20th anniversary October issue, available now.