Photos: Camelia Ting, Dion Tang, Zara Zhuang
Videos: Charlene Chong, Zhang Jiahao
What’s the fastest way to get to know your co-stars … intimately? Rather than spend time reading lines or chatting over coffee, Julie Tan took a more direct approach.
“We compare the size of our assets — mine are the smallest — we have a ranking too,” said the actress, who plays one of six sisters in the upcoming longform drama Peace and Prosperity.
“And I’ll tell you, I’ve touched everyone’s bosom.”
Being part of an all-female group on set has offered the actresses — Belinda Lee, Tong Bingyu, Dawn Yeoh, Tracy Lee, Julie and relative newcomer Michelle Wong — an unusual means of bonding and developing their chemistry as onscreen sisters.
“One time during filming, I suddenly noticed my clothes didn’t fit right, and I realised Belinda had unclasped my undergarment,” Julie said. “That started a trend among the six of us: We went around unhooking one another’s bras.”
The cast of Peace and Prosperity held the soft launch for the show on the set of the longform drama yesterday. The series will replace Life — Fear Not, currently airing on Channel 8, on April 4.
At the heart of the series is the Huang family, whose patriarch (played by Zhang Wei) runs a traditional Chinese medicine practice with his daughter-in-law (played by Xiang Yun) aided by a couple of her six daughters.
The actors themselves aren’t spared from the confusion that comes with being part of a 22-member cast. This is the first time Xiang Yun plays a mother with so many children, she said. “I’m the worst with names so I mix up the characters — I’ll look at one daughter and call her by the name of another,” the actress said.
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Dawn said she too had the toughest time with the six Mandarin names, which all start with the same Chinese character, Zi. And Belinda even came up with a new name for Julie’s character once, calling her Zi Xiong instead of Zi Hong, Julie said.
“I told her there’s no one in our family called that — she had gotten it mixed up with Ying Xiong (played by Desmond Tan),” she said. “So I told her, ‘Sis, I’m Zi Hao!’”
At this Julie and Tracy burst out laughing, because Zi Hao is their cousin in the drama, played by Shane Pow.
The merriment doesn’t stop there for this riotous onscreen family. Bingyu, who plays the bitter, aloof second sister, had to maintain her composure no matter what jokes came up on set. Holding in her laughter made her face twitch, which caused everyone else to fall about, leading to numerous bloopers, Michelle said.
“I’m not cool at all,” Bingyu said. “I just got here from my role in House of Fortune (as a woman with a mean tongue) so I keep wanting to add in snarky dialogue, but I can’t. I have to stay serious — it’s a pain.”
The actresses also gang up on their onscreen grandfather, though they mean it respectfully, Bingyu said. “We bully Grandpa and say to him, ‘Ah gong, tiam la! (Grandpa, be quiet!)’” she said.
Xiang Yun, though, stays a true parent on set, maintaining a grave mien in front of her rambunctious brood. “They don’t dare to make mischief around me,” she said. “Even at home, Edmund (Chen, her husband) will run riot with our children but stop when he sees me, so these kids know their mother is serious.”
To Michelle, currently seen in Project W on Channel U, Zhang Wei and Xiang Yun are the loving elders on set. “They really treat me as the youngest in the family,” she said.
Bingyu replied, “So in future you try saying, ‘Ah gong, tiam la!’”
Peace and Prosperity debuts April 4, 7.30 pm on Channel 8.