Ris­ing To The Chal­lenge

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

Singapore Women's Weekly (Singapore) - - CONTENTS - BY NA­TALYA MOLOK

Girl-next-door Re­becca Lim un­veils her tough-girl side

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!”

CHAR­AC­TER DEVEL­OP­MENT

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.”

CAUSE­WAY FRIEND­SHIP

“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!”

RE­GIONAL RECOG­NI­TION

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).

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