Actress Jojo Goh takes on her most challenging role yet – a deaf girl – in Pianissimo.
JOJO Goh is a talker. From the rise and fall of her bold, charismatic voice to her wild, passionate hand gestures – as if performing some kind of hand acrobatic stunt – Goh oozed confidence during an exclusive interview recently.
Naturally, being a part-time emcee and TV host as well as an actress, the 30-year-old beauty had quite a lot to say.
“I got to stop talking this time,” Goh said of her role as a deaf girl in Pianissimo, before letting out a boisterous laugh.
“I think I was given the role because in the past, I like to alter my lines a lot, and perhaps I’ve been doing that too often that they finally decided to mute me,” she added jokingly.
The preparation that laid ahead was no laughing matter. Goh immersed herself completely into learning sign language, from enrolling into an intensive two-month sign language course to watching countless episodes of US television series Switched At Birth (which features multiple deaf characters).
“Although I just picked up the language, I had to practise over and over again until it looked like I’ve been signing for 10 years,” she said. While nailing the language is one thing, mastering the emotional aspect of her character is another.
Goh shared that she tried to perform simple, everyday tasks like driving and ordering food in a restaurant without her sense of hearing, blasting her earphones with music.
“That wasn’t such a good idea, it made me dizzy for that entire day,” she said lightheartedly, adding that it was a challenge to communicate at first but reflected that she felt “less disturbances from the environment and more focus on the things at hand”.
Ntv7’s Pianissimo revolves around the life of Ke Min, who as a child suffered discrimination from her own family members for being deaf. She eventually finds refuge in gang member Zheng Nan (Huang Qi Ming), but when his dangerous lifestyle catches up with him, he mysteriously disappears.
Ke Min later meets the compassionate Dong Zhe (Seah Song Fan), who learns of her difficulties in life and wants to take care of her. Fast forward 10 years later: Just as Dong Zhe and Ke Min have grown closer to each other, in walks Zheng Nan.
Goh said she can identify with Ke Min, as she, too, was bullied during her childhood. “I stayed in Kuala Lumpur until I was five and then I moved to Alor Star, Kedah, where I grew up.
“So knowing that I was a city kid, the other kids would always tease, ‘what’s so special about you?’ Just small things like that but it can leave quite an impact on your childhood,” she revealed. While billed as a romance-action drama, Goh believes there is more to the 25-episode Mandarin series than simply a who-will-she-choose love triangle.
She hopes it will ultimately offer viewers an insight into the lives of those with sensory disabilities.
“For example, people may ask, ‘how come she (Ke Min) has a phone? I thought she cannot talk’. But actually, she can still text or go on Facetime. So we put a lot of effort in making sure that every detail on the show reflects what the deaf community go through in real life,” the actress said.
“We tend to think of them as people who have to face a lot of difficulties in life. But they don’t see themselves as handicapped, they are just not hearing. They are people who speak a different language.”
Goh believes that challenging herself expands her acting capabilities.
“It’s not just about doing a lot of work or the need to keep appearing on TV. That’s not the true measure of success. The opportunity is a chance of a lifetime for me to test my boundaries and get exposed to different cultures,” she offered.
True enough, Goh’s acting chops must be improving, as she landed a role in a Hong Kong-China production helmed by renowned Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle a few months back. However, the rising star has no intention of joining the many Malaysian exports in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. Not yet, anyway.
“I want to be stationed locally, but if I earn roles overseas, and especially in award-winning productions, hopefully it will present me to the world outside.”
Pianissimo airs every Monday to Thursday at 9.30pm on ntv7 (Astro Ch 107 / HyppTV Ch 107).