Additional photos: Channel 5
Video: Tan Shi Qi
Popular radio DJ-host Rosalyn Lee (Rozz) recently made her acting debut in new Channel 5 series Premonition that is slated for broadcast next April.
Toggle caught up with Rozz on the set of the drama at Old Beach Road Police Station, where the 36-year-old and her co-stars, including Taiwanese actor Johnny Lu, local artistes Ezann Lee and Timothy Nga, were scheduled to shoot several action-packed scenes that day.
Scoring a female lead role for her maiden acting gig, Rozz admitted that she was “still trying to come to terms with it”. In fact, she had gone for the audition just because director Gavin Lim (Fighting Spiders) is a friend of hers and they had previously worked together on a variety show.
“I didn’t go to the audition thinking that I was going to get the job. I had to do an interrogation scene and I think I aced that,” the DJ-turned-actress said.
In Premonition, Rozz plays Belinda Tan, a police officer who is hungry to prove her worth by going after big cases to be promoted. “Belinda is ballsy and loud, but she also has a tender side as well as a very sad past. I am a lot like her in this aspect,” she let on.
Determined not to be the weakest link among her cast members, Rozz was driven to “tap somewhere deep inside and find a connection” – the similarity between Belinda and herself lies in the loss of their fathers.
Rozz’s dad left the family when she was 11 and has not re-entered their lives since.
“I thrive on roles which are a bit dark because that is something I can relate to. I don’t think I am skilled as an actor, so I don’t know how to apply techniques or whatever. The only place I can go to is my past, draw from there and apply to the art. I guess it’s like a therapy; it is cathartic in a sense,” the actress candidly added.
It certainly helped that Rozz’s counterpart Johnny, who previously participated in Ch5’s Sayang Sayang (2008) and ChU’s The Will (2009), was able to “give her what she needed” to get into character effortlessly.
“Johnny is a darn good co-actor because he is so experienced. Without his acting, I wouldn’t be able to deliver on my end, especially those emotionally heavy scenes. And we have a lot of those. His presence helps me emote as well,” she explained. “Sometimes tears just flow even before the camera went on. He helps me stay as Belinda, so that’s good. He didn’t judge me even after he found out that I have never acted before. He’s very helpful. I love him.”
Read on to find out Rozz and Johnny’s thoughts on supernatural abilities as well as an update on their love lives.
Toggle: Tell us more about your debut acting experience.
Rozz: We are filming the entire series in a month and that’s quite a feat. Some days, it hits 18 working hours per day. I had this mindset that acting is fake and that it is telling a lie. I had to get around that mentally. When I finally did, I found myself believing that I am Belinda. That’s quite a slippery slope. At some point, I really did emote. I felt very emotional (choked back her tears). I just think being emotionally vulnerable is second nature to me now. This experience has opened that door for me.
How would you compare between being a DJ and an actress?
Radio will always been my first love. I’ve been doing it for a decade and it’s my favourite part of the day. [As for] acting, I surprised myself with this gig. And I was lucky that my first production is with a director who creates and thinks – someone who is kind and patient – and inspiring co-stars. This sets the bar really high.
Would you take up another acting job?
You know what. Channel 8 actually called me up. It’s very weird. I told them: “Why not you watch my Ch5 one first when it comes out?”
I recently appeared on ChU’s programme Mars vs Venus and I got the call even before the show was aired. (Apparently, many people were impressed by your Mandarin.) I’m Chinese, of course I speak Chinese. I don’t know why they were so impressed. Plus I was speaking English 80% of the time!
Johnny’s character in the drama, Jonah Lee, has a special power of foreseeing fatal accidents which could alter destinies. What would you do with such a supernatural ability?
It’s a curse. I don’t think I will do anything with it. As a person, I hate knowing the future. I think I will just live with that curse and let people go about with spotless minds.
Speaking of premonitions, have you ever had a gut feeling about something and it came true?
Always. Usually about people. Like I have a gut feeling about whether a person is nice or not, and I’m usually never wrong. Bad feeling about an event? I usually have it but I will ignore it.
So, you don’t talk about the future with your boyfriend (Justin Vanderstraaten)?
It applies to everything in my life. I don’t like to limit myself that way. Even with work, when people ask what my five-year plans are, the only thing I know for sure is I want to be happy, I craft my life around that. Whatever happens along the way just happens. He does [talk about the future], but I’ll be like: “Hey, things can change. Let’s focus on the now.”
How has your May-December romance been like?
It’s been good, very fun. He keeps me young and relevant. It’s like a normal relationship. Nothing’s different from it, you know, except that our age gap is 12 years. I gotta say though, we quarrel very well. There are no explosive arguments; we sort everything out within a few days. He’s not like a regular 23-year-old, so it helps a lot. I don’t go for younger guys for the sake of it.
Toggle: It’s been six years since you last worked with MediaCorp. What made you take up Premonition?
Johnny: Singapore is very good to me. Every time I come, it has been very pleasant. I love the sun, food and energy, so much so that I once said I want to move here in future. I got a call [about the project] and Gavin went to Taiwan to meet me. I saw the script, one that I have never come across before. It has suspense, sci-fi, romance, action and drama – all the elements in one script. That is very rare. Every performance that I have in Singapore are very close to the real me. I am most comfortable in [speaking] English, so I get to inject a lot of myself into the role.
How has working with your co-stars been?
I told the director that I’m surrounded by three beautiful ladies: Rosalyn Lee, Narelle Kheng and Ezann Lee. I had so much fun working with Rozz. She has very good instincts as an actress. She surprised me on several occasions, to the point where I was shocked [by her performance]. She brings it, definitely.
I used to breakdance and Narelle knows how to dance, so we have good rhythm. During fight scenes, [our moves] are in sync.
What would you do if you possess the special power that Jonah has?
I don’t want it. It’s a curse, trust me.
Have you ever had a gut feeling about something and it came true?
Let’s put it this way. Every production that I have been on, including this one, I would have these random scenes that I experience déjà vu, like “I’ve done this before” or “I’ve been here at this spot”. I was doing a driving scene [for Premonition]. I saw a row of HDB flats, but that was something which I’ve seen before I came to Singapore, in my dream or whatever you call it.
Are you the type to plan for the future?
I used to, when I was younger but not anymore. (Why not?) Because there’s no point. There are a lot of things that are out of your control. You just do what you gotta do and the rest will take care of themselves.
According to Taiwanese reports, you’ve been together with your girlfriend for 23 years. How do you maintain such a long-running relationship?
We are both very career-focused. She’s doing her thing and I’m doing my thing. We respect each other’s space and what we want individually, and that’s what makes it work. It’s not easy but it works. Every couple has a secret on how to make things work. At the end of the day, it’s love. If you love a person, you will find a way. (Do you have plans to settle down?) Yes, of course. Everybody does. It’s a normal path of life.
Catch Premonition when it premieres in April 2016 on Ch5.
Ezann Lee returns to TV after 6 years