Having already missed a chance to work in an international film before, actress Bella Rahim didn’t place too much hope on an audition she did for a South Korean action film.
“It was already a month after the audition and I didn’t hear anything from the casting agent. So I thought I didn’t get the part. But I was out eating a steamboat meal with my friends one Sunday night, when the agent called, asking for my measurements.”
It was then that she learned she got a small role in the zombie thriller Peninsula.
“My line is in English, but I play a Malaysian in it, ” said Ipoh-born Bella, whose full name is Siti Robela Abdul Rahim.
“I am so proud to have done this film representing Malaysia, ” added Bella, who at the time of this interview had yet to watch Peninsula. “I hope my scene makes it to the final cut!”
Also read: ‘Peninsula' review: Mad to the max, but not where it counts
Peninsula, headlined by Gang Dong-won and Lee Jung-hyung, is set four years after the events that unfolded in Train To Busan where a virus infects and kills passengers on a train from Seoul to Busan. In Peninsula, the Korean Peninsula is filled with zombies.
According to Bella, who turns 46 this year, her scenes were filmed at two locations in September last year.
“I first went to Daejeon where we shot in a movie studio. Then, we went to Incheon, near the airport area, to shoot some outdoor scenes for half a day.
“I was in South Korea for less than a week, and filmed for only two days.”
Understandably, as a fan of K-drama – “Gong Yoo is my favourite actor!” – Bella was excited to get a chance to mingle with some of the Korean stars she’s seen on films and movies.
“I did have many fan moments. The first was when I went to the cafeteria after arriving on set and seeing director Yeon Sang-ho and actress Lee Jung-hyun at a table nearby.
“I was eating and peeping at them, ” shared Bella with a laugh. “Believe it or not, after finishing their meal, they came over to where I was, bowed to me and the director tried to introduce himself to me in English. I stood up, bowed to them and said annyeonghaseyo.
“You always see these people on TV shows and in movies, but you are not quite ready for how humble and nice they are in person.”
She continued: “On set, actor Gang Dong-won, who could speak English, struck a conversation with me! He asked me about the time I studied in France. He did his homework!”
And since Bella was familiar with his work and the fact that he went to Hollywood to make a film, the actress had a short chat with him.
“I do watch a lot of K-dramas. My sleeping habits are disrupted because of that as I end up binge-watching from night time to early morning.”
Another Peninsula cast member Bella was impressed with was young actress Lee Re, whom Bella watched in the series Memories Of Alhambra.
“She is so talented. She’s totally in character when filming. But after she’s done, she becomes a teenager again, ” Bella said.
Bella started her career in showbiz as a fashion show producer, and a plus-size model. While she still does both jobs, she’s focusing more on her acting career these days.
The graduate of Ecole Philippe Gaulier college in France (where Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen also studied) has done a number of plays on stage like Into The Woods (directed by Nell Ng) and The Good Body (by Susan Lankester). She’s also appeared in TV shows Devoted and Sshhh Rahsia.
Most recently too, she learned that she was named the Best Supporting Actress for an international category for short film at the Cosmo Film Festival in India, for the movie Ikhwan.
“I was supposed to go for this year’s Norwegian Spring Theatre Festival to do a three-person show titled Didn’t Know That About You, alongside one Norwegian and one British actor.
“Hopefully, we can do that next year and do a tour of the show as well. I hope to bring this show to KL, ” she added.
For now, Bella said she can’t wait to watch Peninsula. “I am extremely excited. Nervous as well. I hope I did a good job and do Malaysia proud.”