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Sunday September 22, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday September 22, 2013 MYT 9:16:57 AM
by desiree tresa gasper
To provide an authentic feel, elaborate sets were erected at the Infinite Studios in Batam, Indonesia.
Take a trip down memory lane in the detective noir series Serangoon Road.
A new HBO Asia series entitled Serangoon Road will present viewers a peek into Singapore’s colourful past where gangsters, triads and secret societies roamed its streets.
The show, which premieres tonight on HBO, is essentially a detective noir series set in the 1960s just as the British colonial rule ended.
Helming the lead roles are Australian actor Don Hany, who is famed for his role in the Australian series White Collar Blue, Indonesian rising star Ario Bayu, and American actress Joan Chen, renowned for her captivating role in the 1987 Academy Award-winning film The Last Emperor.
The show starts with Sam Callaghan (Hany) reluctantly agreeing to take over the private detective agency of his neighbour, Patricia (Chen), after her husband dies mysteriously.
Throughout the series, viewers follow Patricia as she tries to unearth the truth of her husband’s death. Meanwhile, Patricia and Sam work together to solve cases their agency has been hired to do.
At a press conference in Singapore earlier this year, Chen said that her love for old-fashioned detective stories was the reason why she accepted the role of Patricia in Serangoon Road.
“The story itself is quite exciting as I play a widow who is suddenly forced to take over her husband’s detective agency.
“Of course, when Patricia’s character was first presented to me, she was somewhat bland but as I got more involved, I tried to expand on her character to make her more interesting,” Chen said.
She added that Patricia starts off as a vulnerable character but evolves throughout the show. “Viewers will be able to journey with Patricia and other characters with each new episode.”
Chen also said that it is refreshing to see how there is currently more interest in Asian-related materials and how the stereotypical Asian character has evolved with time.
“It is heartening to see many Asian actors being featured in Hollywood, and this basically proves that there is a greater interest in Asian culture and our stories,” she said.
The 51-year-old actress added that another highlight for those who watch Serangoon Road would be the 1960s fashion and music.
“If our production ever goes over-budget, I think it could be because of all the hairspray we used,” she laughed referring to the beehive do spotted on the show.
Besides the intriguing content, painstaking effort was taken to recreate the sets, costumes and overall atmosphere to emulate the colourful 1960s era.
HBO Asia programming vice-president Erika North said that it was important to provide an authentic backdrop to accompany the story.
“Today, Serangoon Road is a hub of activity with Singapore’s very own Little India located there.
“The road however extends beyond Little India and is in fact one of the oldest roads which links the city to the far north-east corner of the island,” she said adding that in the 1960s the road travelled through the settlements of the Malay, Chinese, Indian and expatriate communities.
“In fact, this is why the series was named after the road because we wanted something that would signify the multiracial people who probably used this road at the time,” North explained.
To provide an authentic feel, elaborate sets were erected at the Infinite Studios in Batam, Indonesia for majority of the scenes.
“We needed a set where we could not only mirror the 1960s era but also a set for us to shoot some of the action sequences which involve explosions and gunfire,” she said during a special media tour of the set.
“Every detail was painstakingly researched ... so when you walk into the set, it will feel as if time has turned back,” she said adding that details such as retro signage, photographs, carts, bicycles and even cars from the era were incorporated into the scenes to “keep it real”.
“Serangoon Road has the right mix of mystery, romance, action and politics and I believe that this groundbreaking show will pave the way for more local content on TV,” North concluded.
Serangoon Road premieres tonight at 9pm on HBO (Astro Ch 411 / HD Ch 421). Log on to www.thestar.com.my/Lifestyle/Entertainment to read our interview with rising Indonesian actor Ario Bayu.
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Entertainment, Serangoon Road, Joan Chen, TV, HBO, Chin Han
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