Local Actress Janice Koh Opens Up About Her ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Experience

From Caldecott to Hollywood!

Janice Koh

Photo: Getty

The whole world is going crazy over Crazy Rich Asians! The Warner Bros film based on a bestselling novel by Kevin Kwan, directed by Jon M. Chu hits the cinemas this week and just from the buzz alone, we know this film will be in incredible success. Set in Singapore, it’s amazing to see local artists grace the big screen, making the movie and cast all the authentic. Singaporean characters played by actual Singaporean! Who would’ve thought that Hollywood would come this far!

Janice Koh, who plays the character ‘Felicity Leong’ in Crazy Rich Asians, will be a familiar face to catch on the big screen. Most known for her role ‘Angela Ang’ on Mediacorp’s critically acclaimed legal drama The Pupil, the Mediacorp actress has also work on over 50 theatre productions on top her television work. This just might be her biggest role yet, playing as Eleanor Young’s (Michelle Yeoh) sister in Crazy Rich Asian.

BAZAAR chats with Janice, unpacking this new and epic experience for her as well as her thoughts on the portrayal of our sunny little Singapore through the eyes of Hollywood.

As a Singaporean actress, how does it feel to be in Hollywood?

It was my first Hollywood premiere, and a dream come true to walk the red carpet.

Did you ever envision that being in Hollywood would be your next big thing after coming this far in your career? 

Honestly, I never saw being in Hollywood as a personal benchmark for career success. As an actor who’s not based in LA or the US, it never crossed my mind as something which was within my reach. So, being in ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ was a real bonus and a privilege.

What was your favourite look when you shot the film? 

I loved all the clothes I wore in the movie. Going to wardrobe to be fitted for my outfits and shoes was super fun.

Related article: All The Best Red Carpet Looks From The ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Premiere

If you could only wear one piece of clothing for the rest of your life what would it be?

A jumpsuit! It always looks put together, yet endlessly comfortable. Preferably an Ong-Shunmugam or STOLEN jumpsuit for a bit of glam!

As an advocate for local talent, are there any local designers you like and would like to highlight?

There are too many! I’m a big fan of Ong-Shunmugam by Priscilla Shunmugam, DZOJCHEN by Chelsea Scott Blackhall, Max Tan, STOLEN by Elyn Wong, MATTER, and I Want the Missing Piece. For accessories, I love the work of CarrieK by Carolyn Kan, Choo Yilin and Ling Wu bags.

If you could play one other character (apart from your own) from the movie who would it be and why?

Eleanor Young. A strong, complex, female protagonist who has to lock horns with another in order to protect what she has is always interesting. Michelle Yeoh slays it, of course!

Can you draw out one similarity and one major difference between the character you play and your real self?

Felicity has my sensible, assertive, no-nonsense approach, and like me, she doesn’t suffer fools easily and gives a mean side eye! However, despite being married to the world’s third richest man, she’s frugal with her spending. She would rather walk four blocks in the rain than pay for a taxi! I’m afraid I’m not as thrifty as she is!

What was your favourite scene from the movie to shoot and why?

One of my favourite scenes is the one where the Young family gathers around the dinner table to make dumplings. The jokes, the scolding in Cantonese, and easy repartee around the table captures the importance of tradition, food and eating together in many Asian families. As it was an intimate scene, it was also a great opportunity for me, as an an actor, to watch Lisa Lu and Michelle Yeoh at work.

What was it like to film locally and see these local locations from a Hollywood cinematic point of view versus how you saw it previously?

I have to admit I teared up when the Singapore cityscape first appeared in the movie. I felt so proud to see our city look so beautiful on screen. They captured it well, especially the hawker scenes.

Related article: Meet The Real Family That Inspired ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

If you had just as much money as the “Youngs” from the movie, would you rather…

a) Destination or local wedding reception?

Local. I want all my friends and family to be able to attend.

b) Araminta Lee’s wedding dress from ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ or Meghan Markle’s Givenchy wedding dress?

Meghan Markle’s dress. Although Sonoya Mizuno looks absolutely stunning in Araminta’s dress, I don’t think I have what it takes to carry off the tights!

c) Elaborate wedding train or a short wedding dress?

Long wedding train, of course! I’m all for glamour!

d) Hop on a private jet and elope to a private island honeymoon destination or have an elaborate and grand wedding reception?

Personally, I would go with private jet and private island, but I would hear no end of it from my relatives! So, it would have to be grand wedding reception because I’m a good Chinese girl!

Related article: How Amy Cheng Got Ready for the ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Premiere in Los Angeles

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