How does an actor bring to life a loopy character?
By going all-in, of course... which is exactly what actress Diana Danielle did for her role in the new series She Was Pretty, the Malaysian remake of the popular 2015 K-drama of the same name.
“It was tiring to bring that level of energy and be hyper like that all day on set,” shares Diana, explaining that her character is often all over the place without rhyme or reason.
“I had to maintain that chaotic persona throughout the shoot to understand the character better and to figure out why she behaves the way she does.”
Laughing, the Gol & Gincu Vol. 2 star adds: “When I kept up the persona 24/7, people on set actually asked me if I was like that in real life.”
At the same time, the American-born Malaysian knows only too well she has to dial down on certain traits to make her character relatable and not a caricature.
“Comedy is all about timing and chemistry. It’s not easy,” the 30-year-old star says.
Despite the hurdles, Diana tells the press that it was a pleasure to be part of this Viu Original series.
“I had wanted to get back to the romantic comedy genre for some time now because I had been getting antagonist roles lately.
“So, it was nice to be doing light-hearted scenes for a change. And being on this set was so much fun.
“I’m very lucky to be a part of this amazing team and this amazing line-up. I hope viewers will enjoy the series as much as we enjoyed making it.”
She Was Pretty is a 16-episode rom-com, directed by Datuk Yusry Abdul Halim, which touches on the theme of self-worth and illustrates that beauty is subjective and there’s no need to hide who we really are.
It centres on Nadia (Diana) and Haniff (Aiman Hakim Ridza), who were good friends as children that meet again as adults.
In those years apart, things have changed drastically for both of them especially in the looks department.
They are the opposite of their younger selves – the once-beautiful Nadia is now fashion-challenged, while Haniff – who was bullied for his plump appearance – presently looks like a model who belongs on a billboard.
When Haniff reaches out to Nadia for a reunion, the latter sends her gorgeous best friend Kejora (Daniella Sya) in her place as she feels she’s no longer the elegant girl Haniff remembers.
But their meeting is inevitable as Haniff turns up as her new boss at the fashion magazine where Nadia works.
The “unpretty” Nadia now has to walk on eggshells around Haniff to keep her identity a secret.
However, Nadia’s colleague Ashraf (Alvin Chong) sees something in her that she does not – her kindness, inner strength and loyalty far outshine her physical appearance and clumsy mannerism.
According to Steven Lim – Viu Malaysia’s associate director, development – the local series closely follows the original K-drama starring Hwang Jung-eum and Park Seo-joon, with some tweaks to make it more Malaysian-centric.
“I believe a story about unrequited love, being insecure, and emotions changing over time will resonate with the audience in any setting,” he says.
“It’s a challenge to take on such iconic roles from such a beloved series, but all our cast and crew members rose to that challenge.
“The actors weren’t only able to take on these characters, they were able to make these characters their own.”
The cast members agree that while they made some references to the original show, they brought their own interpretation to their respective characters in the remake.
Sya, for example, recalls that her Korean counterpart had a short hairstyle, and she wondered if she would sport the same hairstyle as well.
“I was looking forward to cutting my hair short, but the production team had a different vision for Kejora, and I didn’t get to cut my hair.
“Nonetheless, I hope I did justice to the character.”
Chong concurs that he only watched the show briefly to get an idea of who his character is in the Korean version.
But for Diana, she decided to play her character close to the Korean version as there are many fan-favourite moments recreated for Malaysia’s She Was Pretty.
“But we did change some things so that there’s more of a (Malaysian) flavour to the character and the story,” clarifies Diana.
Scriptwriter Rafidah Abdullah (Instabul Aku Datang) elaborates: “Anytime we adapt any story, we have to be sensitive of our culture and think about what we can and cannot do in Malaysia.
“In K-dramas, the characters drink a lot and the outcome of their intoxication is them drunk-dialling someone.
“Nadia does not consume alcohol. So, I had to find a different way whereby Nadia makes that (inebriated) confession to Haniff without the influence of an alcohol in order to push the story forward.
“The challenge lies in conveying the same emotions that is in the original series, but in a manner that is respectful to Malaysian values.”
That sense is also present in the production of the series.
Producer Zurina Ramli says that she had set a goal to make a show that’s either similar to the standard of the Korean production or one that’s even better.
Zurina notes: “The costume department watched the series again and again to study the clothes.
“Not only do they make the characters look good, they have to do it in a way that’s suitable to our weather. They wanted to do nothing less that what the Koreans have done.”
She concludes: “We set out to produce a series of international level. And the end product is something we can all be proud of.”
She Was Pretty is available on Viu.