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Interview: Crazy Rich Asians’ Pierre Png

by Leora Heilbronn

Pierre Png steals so many scenes in the hit movie Crazy Rich Asians, which we’ve been excited about since the book adaptation was first announced. He plays Michael Teo, the insecure husband of Gemma Chan, and though he gives a mesmerizing performance in the film, you may remember him most for his glistening abs (which are on full, glorious display in the movie). Though this marks the Hollywood film debut of the Singaporean actor, expect to see much more of the charmer in the near future.

The following is a condensed and edited version of our email correspondence with the delightful Pierre Png.

Brief Take: What did you learn from your experience making and promoting Crazy Rich Asians?

Pierre Png: What a whirlwind of emotions it was! Working with such a talented bunch of actors and crew from across the hemisphere was an eye opening experience, and it left me with so much to take away from. As more and more people are watching the movie, there are more and more comments about how much they love the movie and what it represents – diversity and the need for more representation in Hollywood movies.

BT: What did you like best about working with director Jon M. Chu?

PP: He’s the first Hollywood director I’ve ever worked with! He allowed us the freedom of acting out our roles the way we saw fit, and tweaked things whenever necessary and gave specific motivations. He does not get in your way and doesn’t tire out the actor by doing too many master shots. Jon is filled with so much energy it is unbelievable and CONTAGIOUS!

BT: The film is such a barrier breaking project for many reasons. What does it mean to you to be a part of such a revolutionary movie (in terms of it being the first studio film since The Joy Luck Club with an all Asian cast, the first mainstream romantic comedy where both leads are Asian, the first studio film where the Asian men aren’t stereotyped villains or action stars but full fledged real, relatable people)? 

PP: How refreshing is that, right?! The very fact that none of us were portrayed as kung fu masters, or the villainous triad boss! It sheds light on an Asian community that is affluent, held down jobs that are dignified, and loved with hearts just like any other! I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of Crazy Rich Asians. I still pinch myself every day and I can’t wait for more Asians to be cast in roles that are substantially relevant.

BT: Can you talk a little about your experience working with your on-screen wife Gemma Chan and what your favourite part of working with her was?

PP: Perhaps I’ll start with the scariest part – our first scene together was of me getting out of the shower and into bed with her – now that was nerve-wracking, but what a way to break the ice! Gemma is a very giving actor full of class and grace, it is an honour playing her screen husband.

BT: You’re a role model now for so many young Asian men who, after watching this movie, can finally see themselves on screen in a very real, relatable way in a studio film. Who are some of your role models?

PP: My dad is someone whom I’ve always looked up to. He worked really hard, remains up till this day the most humble man you’ll ever know, and always makes sure to let people know that he appreciates them and what they do for him. I’ve learnt that in life it’s important to remain grounded and know where you came from. There’s a Chinese idiom 饮水思源. Literally translated, it means that when you’re drinking water, you have to be grateful for the source that maintains life.

BT: Who are some of your dream collaborators, in terms of actors and directors that you’d still like to work with?

PP: I’d love to work on an action flick with Asian director Tsui Hark or Hollywood’s Quentin Tarantino, both have made some remarkable movies!  A drama with a lot heart with Kathryn Bigelow (how amazing was The Hurt Locker?!!) and American actors Robert Downey Jr., Edward Norton, Viggo Mortensen and Natalie Portman.

BT: What do you hope people take away from the film?

PP: That as much as this film is one of modern day Asians, most Asians still hold onto their values and traditions very strongly. Food plays such an important role by gathering families together, and that family ties mean everything –  regardless of your socio-economic status!

 

Crazy Rich Asians is available on Blu-ray combo pack, 4K Ultra HD, and DVD on November 20

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