Posted: 08 Jul 2011 03:23 AM PDT
Astro Hua Hee Dai entertains with a plethora of local Hokkien entertainment.
ENTERING its fourth year, the nation's first and only Hokkien TV channel, Astro Hua Hee Dai (Ch 333), is going from strength to strength.
From spreading the joy of karaoke singing (Hua Hee Karaoke), introducing traditional Hokkien food recipes (Hua Hee Makan) to connecting the suburban Hokkien-speaking community (Hua Hee Together) and tracing one's ancestry (Hua Hee Roots), the channel has lots to offer.
In a campaign called Hua Hee Nation, a plethora of Hokkien entertainment shows will grace your TV screen for the remaining half of the year.
Recently, the station rolled out its first Hokkien sitcom Hua Hee Everyday, featuring in-house personalities like Hua Hee Together hosts Freddie Ng and Allysa Law, singer-actress Vicky Tan, as well as Astro Classic Golden Melody Singing Competition (ACGM) alumni Ooi Sooi Hak, Chew Swee Lee and Choo Ah Tan.
Chiu Keng Guan, the bankable director behind two bestselling local flicks, Great Day and Woohoo!, serves as executive producer.
"The idea of making a sitcom in Hokkien had long been brewing. We are all Hokkiens and think that it'd be interesting to make a sitcom of our own after watching so many imported shows. The time is ripe for this," explained Chiu at a press conference in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, recently.
The colourful sitcom centres on a kind-hearted taukeh, Tan Kim Chui, and the everyday life events surrounding his family, his grocery store and the neighbourhood.
Ng, arguably the most recognisable face in the local Hokkien entertainment scene, plays Kim Chui, who happens to share the same name as his character in Woohoo!, last year's Lunar New Year hit movie.
"The producer really loves the name," Ng quipped, explaining that chui means water in Hokkien, which symbolises wealth in Chinese culture.
The popular host added: "Chiu rarely calls me, but when he does, that means good things are on the way."
True enough, following that phone call, he scored that meaty role – as a bespectacled, red clogs-shod everyman, juggling his business, family (comprising a domineering wife, three adorable sons, his forgetful mother and fashionable mother-in-law) and his relationships with the neighbours.
"The character is very relatable and it is fun playing him. Still, it's quite a challenge to strike a balance between being funny and being over-the-top. Luckily, they picked the right cast," he said with a laugh.
Tan, according to other the cast members, is playing herself here as Kim Chui's loud, penny-pinching wife Chin Bee Hong.
"It's my first attempt at acting and I'm glad that I have been given such a great opportunity to discover the real me (laughs)! My character might look very fierce, but she's just being very straightforward when it comes to expressing her feelings towards her loved ones," she said.
The shooting was not short of fun and laughter, according to the cast.
"On the second or third day of shooting, we just tossed aside the scripts and went for impromptu performances. The outcome was very real as we incorporated what we've experienced and heard before into the scenes," said Tan.
It helps that most of the cast are ka ki lang ("one of us" in Hokkien). Ng said: "Most of us are Hokkien, so it's easy to communicate. The good chemistry between us just translates to humour on screen. We try our best to make every scene funny and portray the Hokkien culture, along with positive messages."
One of the few non-Hokkien cast members is Chew, who speaks Cantonese. However, the winner of ACGM 2009 is far from being left out on the set.
"Though I don't speak the dialect, strangely, I understood every word they said. So they had been careful not to badmouth me," she joked, adding that she is honoured to play Ng's childhood sweetheart in the sitcom.
So far 12 episodes have been shot, but that would not be all you see of Kim Chui & Co. The channel, known for its close connection with its target audience, hopes to get more inspiration from viewers who are willing to share their stories.
Apart from a brand new sitcom, a string of new shows featuring the channel's best talents are in the pipeline. Among them is Hua Hee Pasar Malam, which will see familiar faces from Astro such as Phoebe Yap, Jentzen Lim, Eng Yee Men, Law and Ng hitting six locations in Johor to visit the local night markets and set up their own stalls there. Besides local personalities, two artistes from Taiwan, the land of Min Nan dramas, will join in the fun.
The month-long event will start off in Kluang on July 18, followed by Skudai (July 24), Batu Pahat (Aug 2), Johor Jaya (Aug 3), Kulai (Aug 8) and Muar (Aug 13) in Johor.
Astro Hua Hee Dai senior channel manager Terry Lian Kok Leong gave an insight into the show's inception: "Whatever we do, we aim to connect with our audiences. Hua Hee Pasar Malam is a platform where we try to interact more with our viewers. It's an expansion of what we are already doing.
"Being Chinese, pasar malam is part of our culture and something we grow up with. We chose Johor, as it is primarily a Hokkien-speaking state. It's also a rather unexplored market for us. So we are bringing it to the ground and letting them experience what we have to offer, giving away food and having fun with the locals.
"It'll be a starting point. Eventually, we will go to other places and even Sabah and Sarawak."
Also in the works is an anniversary drama series scheduled for November. The 30-episode drama will look at the lives of the first batch of Hokkiens who came to Malaysia from China back in the 1930s as they braved hardships and cultural differences to start their families here.
"It'll be very much in line with our station's concept. It'll be all about family ties, with the story spanning a few decades and showcasing the different cultures and values," said Lian.
"We will try to rope in every artiste. After all, we view this as another platform for our artistes to get exposure and try out different things," said Lian, adding that the series will begin shooting next month.
Hua Hee Karaoke will return to make waves across the country, including Sabah and Sarawak.
Next month, Hua Hee Album, featuring in-house hosts and the top three winners of last year's Hua Hee Karaoke, will be released. Also, the 10 winners of the singing competition will vie for international recognition as they compete against overseas contestants at the World Min Nan Idol Singing competition to be held in December.
With so many things on the cards, the local production budget of the channel has doubled compared to last year, revealed Lian.
"When we started the channel, we wanted it to belong to the Hokkien community. We are trying to create a family here, not just coming up with a channel.
"I'm a Hokkien and my parents and relatives serve as my references when we think of rolling out something new. Their opinions are usually sought before I make any decisions," he said.Get Full RSS, sponsored by USA Best Price.
Posted: 08 Jul 2011 03:09 AM PDT
The hardest part filming Nikita
"I have to speak nine languages in the show this season. Have you ever spoken Russian? It's so hard you just want to kill yourself! I didn't realise how stressed I was about (learning languages). My Russian teacher has become a really good friend because I speak so much Russian on the show now."
Her cast members
I've done movies where I've not liked the people on it and it's tough because it drains your energy. But with the cast on Nikita, I've been really lucky because they all get it – they know what they want and work really hard."
Not having a workout regimen
"The reality is that the show is so all-consuming that I can't have a regimen. I don't have the time. I mean, if I can sleep nine hours a day, then I win."
The original Nikita TV show starring Peta Wilson
"I never saw that show. I know that from the beginning, rightfully so, there were people who were sceptical of the new Nikita because of the remake burn out (on television). I'm sure there are still people out there who are diehard fans of the original show but across the board, people have been nice about the new Nikita."
Jackie Chan, her mentor
"We are still in touch but I haven't seen him in a couple of years. He's restructuring – he's now based out of China instead of Hong Kong. He's really busy and I've been stuck in Toronto, so I haven't really seen anyone."Full Feed Generated by Get Full RSS, sponsored by USA Best Price.
Posted: 07 Jul 2011 06:58 PM PDT
LYNDSY Fonseca learnt about the reality of the TV industry the hard way. You see, the 24-year-old actress, who is starring opposite Maggie Q in Nikita, started her acting career at the age of 13 in the daytime soap The Young And The Restless. After her three-year contract ended, Fonseca decided to try for the big league (read: prime time television).
It came as a shock to her that TV execs were not interested even though she came with experience. "It was as though my years on (daytime) TV didn't matter. I had to literally start from scratch," Fonseca explained.
Slowly and steadily, however, Fonseca rebuilt her career. Eagle-eyed TV audience would have spotted the actress in How I Met Your Mother in which she has a recurring role as Ted Moseby's future daughter.
But it wasn't until 2007 that her career went into full swing. Fonseca joined the women of Wisteria Lane in Desperate Housewives. In the hit TV series, she played the role of Dylan Mayfair, daughter to Dana Delany's Katherine Mayfair. Her one-season stint opened doors for her in Hollywood.
"That show definitely helped catapult me to a different level," Fonseca offered. "Doing that for a year, I feel like people kind of took me more seriously. I'm very appreciative of that."
The role of Dylan led to more high-profile projects, including the hit movie Kick-Ass and Nikita.
For Fonseca, Nikita is more than just a job. She says that she finally feels a sense of belonging.
"Desperate Housewives was always very strange for me because it was never my show, you know, I came in on the fourth season, it was obviously a very tight family. So even though I was a regular for a season, I never really felt like I got the swing of things. But Nikita is very much my family. I was able to create it from the very beginning."
In the high-octane action drama Nikita, Fonseca plays Alex who has been recruited by the shady government organisation Division. Alex is then trained to be an assassin. Unbeknownst to Division, Alex is a mole who Nikita (Maggie Q) is using in her effort to destroy the organisation.
Playing the role of Alex is entirely new to Fonseca as the part is physically demanding, which is why the actress is grateful for Q's presence and guidance.
"It's very calming because I know that I'll be taken care of," she said of Q's involvement in most action scenes. "When we went out to do the first season, Maggie invited me to train with her because she wanted me to have an idea of what I was getting myself into. I've been a dancer my whole life so I am flexible and in tune with my body. I feel like I have a bit of a head start but I needed to learn a lot as far as how to sell it to the camera."
So, Fonseca immersed herself in preparing for the crucial action scenes. As for the dialogue, it was easy for the actress because of her background in daytime soap. "In The Young And The Restless, I had to memorise a 60-page script for a day's worth of shoot. So, it is a walk in the park memorising the script on Nikita; which is good because I can concentrate on learning the choreography for the action scenes," she said.
Like Q, Fonseca is fearless. She insists on doing most of her own stunts ... much to the director's dismay. "I'm probably really annoying because I show up on set, see a cool stunt and tell the director, 'You know I'm going to do that right?'. I think they would rather that we didn't do everything but Maggie and I prefer to do it ourselves because it looks better."
While the show is mostly dark and gloomy (it is a show where someone gets killed every week), the environment on set is quite the opposite. Fonseca let in that after finishing an intense scene with Melinda Clarke (who plays the Division's master manipulator Amanda), both she and Clarke usually break into a song-and-dance routine. "Once they shout 'Cut!', we're likely be dancing together," she laughed describing a typical day on set. "Melinda's pretty theatrical. She's very unaffected by being an actress, she's just full of life."
A TV junkie herself, Fonseca loves watching Modern Family, Castle, Breaking Bad and Glee. Her last interest grates on Q.
"Maggie and I get into discussions about Glee. She's like, 'I just don't get it. People just start breaking out into song walking down the hall?', I'm like, 'It's fine!'"
It is this kind of repartee between female cast members that Fonseca enjoys. She also feels Nikita helps promote healthy relationships between female characters. Too often, she finds, TV shows portraying female characters that are at odds with one another.
"I think it is rare that you have two strong women on a show who have a healthy friendship, who love each other," Fonseca said of the relationship between her character Alex and Nikita. "It's kind of nice to see female characters who are not being bitchy or catty to one another." – Gordon Kho
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