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Part 3 of 3: Yeo Yann Yann

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Yeo Yann Yann, known endearingly to local fans of box office hit movie “881” as ‘Da Mu Gua’, the elder of the Papaya Sisters, answers our questions straight up in a quick, candid banter.

yann.jpgStar of one of Singapore’s first HD telemovie 18 Grams of Love, catch Yann Yann in all her glory in the film at the upcoming Singapore International Film Festival right here at Sinema Old School!

AW: Do you recall the initial reasons that made you chose to venture into acting?

YY: I wanted to be a star! Haha, but hey, its definitely fame.

AW: Yes, and you have a lot of talent for it.

YY: I should say that I realised that acting is my passion only five years ago. I was just going with the flow – if there was a job I’d just do it, and I didn’t really know if acting was my thing until about five years ago.

I was already doing it for five, six or seven years; and I was studying. I even studied acting for three years, and while I was doing that I didn’t really know if that was my passion. It actually took me some time to realise that this is what I love.

AW: And now you know that you’re on the right track?

YY: Yes, now I know this is what I want to do, till I’m old!

AW: Ok, so after such extensive experiences in the local film and theatre industry, do you notice changing trends?

YY: Trends as in, with filmmaking, theatre or myself?

AW: With the whole industry.

YY: Theatre has grown so much – it has come to a point where you can be a professional actor and live a proper life as an actor… not really comfortably, but you have to know this: if you can teach to support your lifestyle then go ahead and teach. If you want to host or if you can sing to earn some money, go ahead and do it so you can lead the lifestyle that you want. If you decide on what’s comfortable for you then just do it.

AW: Speaking of which, you used to teach right? Any advice for the next generation of actors? Can you share with us your teaching experience?

YY: I think in terms of acting, it has to be something that you want to explore – you need to explore all the time. You need to learn and unlearn all the time.

There are always things to learn, nothing is definite, nothing definitely works or definitely doesn’t. So you try and you experience it for yourself, and then you learn from that experience. Then you might find that you need to unlearn the experience, and then you have to go ahead and unlearn it.

Don’t be afraid of getting out of your comfort zone – that is very important.

AW: So how has starring in a successful box office hit like 881 changed anything for you?

YY: I get a lot more interviews! Haha! Which I do enjoy; sharing my experiences with people. And I also get to help more people, especially the charity show that I was able to do to help raise money to help others. I didn’t think about it until I actually did the show and I realised that hey, this is one of my biggest gains – to have the ability to help more people.

AW: And to ask something besides your acting career – I understand that it was while shooting 881 that your Fish Therapy business idea came about, and this is something you started together with your make-up artiste Dollei, how exactly did this happen?

YY: Its actually because of the boots that we were wearing, and I was so not used to wearing them. But we wore them so often that my feet were blue and the skin became so ugly – with the blisters and peeling.

It’s by chance – what 881 brought me was friends, and it also brought me people who gave me ideas. And when this idea came about we decided to try it, and after we did, we realised that it works! So it helped me, and from our research it also helped others, and since it helps we decided to just do it. What I’m glad about is that the heart to help others never change over the years, it manifests and I can now help more and more people. So we decided: “Wow let’s do it man, let’s find people who want to support us and let’s do it!”

AW: And would you say that the ability to help others through your career, and what it has given you, is something you always thought of doing, or is it something you stumbled upon?

YY: Actually I stumbled upon it and I realised that hey, I can! Suddenly I have more power to help, and even before that I helped others, but I never thought I could have so much power to help people. Suddenly my position changed and I have more power to help and it feels great.

This is probably why so many actors want to do charity work – its compassion. When you want to portray a character, even if it’s the worst character, you need to compassion towards the character, so I think compassion is a natural thing coming from actors.

AW: How do you improve your craft, and do you have any ideas on how you’d like to improve, or are there any areas that you wish to develop?

YY: There are always, always things that I want to learn. Every time I am on a job I learn, like for example, I’ve only done one musical, and I know one problem is my singing, so I went for vocal classes, and this is one thing which I want to learn. Also to improve myself, I read, and I need to be with friends so I lead a balanced life.

All these are what I need to do now, so what I need to learn is how to strike a balance. For so many years there was no balance for me, it was just work and my life was only about work.

AW: That’s good actually, at least you have a lot of work.

YY: Yes, but when you have a lot of work, you’re not happy because there’s no balance. You have work, but no one to share it with. Although yes, you have friends that you can share with, or colleagues, but you forget about your family, you forget about going home, or about calling your friends – you old friends especially.

Your ‘group’ changes all the time, you finish one project and the next one comes in and you forget all about the last batch of friends. Now that I have more time I just want to catch up with my friends, and I put out the message and friends start calling up. People would call up and say, “Hey I’m working in Singapore for this period of time, let’s catch up,” and I wasn’t even the one who called. Plus I have a friend’s wedding, and everyone who has gone overseas has came back. Suddenly my life has a balance again, and I’m still trying to strike the right one.

AW: Back to singing – I’ve actually heard you sing previously, with Mindee Ong (Little Papaya) on a live performance, so are you interested in venturing as an artiste on a multi-disciplinary level?

YY: I’d love to. I always like to challenge myself and I always like to have new things to do and have different types of work and different types of characters. Why should I limit myself? I am an actor, whether is it in musicals, while hosting, in a film, on a television programme or in the theatre – it is still acting. I will not limit myself to being a ‘theatre actor’ or a ‘tv actor’ or a ‘film actor’. Even though all these three roles are different in terms of the skills and areas you need to take care of, they are all still within the scope of acting.

AW: Do you have any plans to expand your career overseas?

YY: The idea is brewing, the seed is planted, but only when I want to take action and execute it will I say that the seed is growing. But Singapore is growing so fast now and I thought “I’d love to grow with Singapore.” I really would love to grow with the film industry here because it is exciting, it’s very exciting to grow with a growing scene.

AW: And for my favourite question… what is your dream role?

YY: What is my dream role? I never actually thought of that question. Any role that comes I will consider. My biggest consideration is how much it challenges me. I will ask myself: How is the script? Do I like the script? Do I want to do it? Does it enrich me? So my ‘dream role’ is when that role is already in my hands.

Catch Yeo Yann Yann in 18 Grams of Love at Sinema Old School as part of the 21st Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF) Singapore Panorama programme. Tickets are available from Sistic.

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