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The Asian remake of The Bridge has thrown up plenty of surprises since it was announced that streaming service Viu would be recreating the Swedish-Danish crime thriller, and this includes casting actress Rebecca Lim in its leading role.
The princess of local television, Rebecca, rarely chooses roles that require her to be anything less 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 Rebecca. “He said that 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.”
“I don’t want to always be stuck in roles that I’m comfortable in.”
It’s a strange choice for an actress who has thrived on being personable on-screen. Though that 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 before but a standard 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 series, modern television saw one of its most compelling characters in Saga Norén who was not your typical run of the mill cop. Played sensitively by Swedish actress Sofia Helin, the character bucked social conventions and blazed her own trail in her quest to solve the crimes at hand.
Surprisingly, viewers around the globe loved her and by the end of its first season, the series found an audience in over 170 countries. It even spawned three remakes, the American version of which – starring Diana Kruger – transposed the action from the Nordics to the US-American border instead.
“I watched only a bit of the original version: The first episode, the trailers and some behind-the-scenes clips. I didn’t want to watch too much though because I didn’t want to be influenced by the acting. 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 because we wanted ours to stand out on its own,” she says.
“Because of that, I stopped myself from watching much of the original version so than 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 did, so I just tried my best every day on set and hopefully it was enough.”
Playing Detective Serena Teo required much more than just character development on Rebecca’s part, however, because 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 jokes on him because he ended up being the one who pulled a muscle on set and 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 locations 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,” says Rebecca.
“Actually, being one of the only Singaporeans on set helped me get into character in a way because Serena is always by herself and she doesn’t like to mix around with other people. I remember the first week, I was so focused about staying in character that Bront through I was like Serena and found it difficult to talk to me but two weeks later after spending more time getting to know me, he said ‘You’re a little bit crazy, not like Serena at all’.”
Rebecca fondly remembers other instances where the cast and crew would bond over their shared experiences filming The Bridge. “The entire series brought us pretty close together because we were always in a confined space so everybody’s always feeling stuffy and sweaty together. We kind of stank together as well because we all wore jackets to look cooler even though the weather’s so hot,” she recalls.
“Of course, the script infuses certain scenes with lots of tiny jokes between Bront and me. We’re each representing our own countries so there’s friendly banter about which side has the better chilli crab and things like that to give the show more of a local flavour.”
Speaking of flavour, the co-stars may not have traded any acting tips with each other but they did share something better: Makan places, which Rebecca says is a “very Singaporean-Malaysian thing to do lah!” She added that her Singaporean pride stopped her from trying the chilli crab up north because “ours is the best so no point trying.”
The Bridge will find its home on HBO Asia, allowing Rebecca more exposure for her work on the series. She confesses that 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 the show since Singaporeans weren’t going to watch it. I just wanted to do something different for a change but I’m excited that it will now reach a wider audience,” she reveals.
“I think viewers are hungry for intelligent dramas that raise social issues people can relate to.”
“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 coincidentally features 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 that, “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 26 November 2018 on HBO Asia (Starhub Channel 601).
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
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