Photos: Dion Tang & Joanna Goh
Videos: Vina Chia
“You can call her an aunty in a young girl’s body.”
These were the words Rui En had for her character, Shen Chunyi, in upcoming Channel 8 drama, Life is Beautiful, where she plays a kidney patient who is given a second chance at life after undergoing a successful kidney transplant operation.
A tad more health conscious because of circumstances, Chunyi is like a living calorie counter who can be seen rattling off calorie-related figures quite frequently in the drama. Call it “nagging” if you may, it left such a deep impression on Rui En’s co-star Cavin Soh so much that he admitted to becoming more wary about the type of food he consumes these days, at the drama’s press conference on Friday afternoon.
While the lines and numbers were in itself a challenge to remember, nothing was more difficult than having to embrace her role of a nagger, said Rui En. “When I read the script, I thought: ‘She’s so naggy! How is the audience going to take to her? Are they going to be irritated with her?’”
But that’s the beauty of Chunyi too. “She nags at people but that’s how she shows her love – some people are like that – my mum’s like that, a lot of mums are like that,” she chuckled.
Luckily for the 34-year-old, her ears have been given a break from the nagging in real life. “I can’t take the nagging, but thankfully, I’ve grown up. My parents absolutely won’t nag at me now. They wouldn’t dare to do so (laughs).”
Before she dived into her character of a happy-go-lucky kidney patient, Rui En had a mentally and emotionally draining time filming Against The Tide (where she plays Qiu Xueqin), a role which she recently scored a Best Actress and Favourite Female Character nomination for at the upcoming Star Awards 2015. Stepping out of the drama and character’s shadows was “a huge weight off my shoulders,” grinned Rui En in relief.
“I love Against The Tide, and I love Xueqin, but sometimes you love the things that are not easy to do. Coming from that to this was a relief,” she chuckled, “Because – YES! There was no bloody thirstiness, no revenge, no guns; it was just a simple girl nagging at people, a simple girl who gets kidney disease. So yes, it was nice.”
According to co-star Tracy Lee, Rui En was a bubbly person on set when they were filming this drama. Aileen Tan, who plays her onscreen mother in the show, also had a ball of time collaborating with Rui En for the first time. The mother-daughter pairing shared plenty of laughs together which also resulted in a fair bit of physical – but friendly –“hits” between them.
Calling Aileen a very “special woman” who speaks her mind and has “no sensor button” in her speech, Rui En admitted sheepishly, “Anyone who makes me laugh would often get hit by me (guffaws). She’s very comical and when she makes me laugh, I’d hit her in return.”
Erupting into laughter, she added in disbelief, “She told me that if I were to get married next time, she’d want to check my husband’s body because he might have a lot of blue blacks on him because I told her (that) I'd only hit the people I like.”
While it was a joy to work on this drama, Life was also an equally sobering experience for the cast, especially the actors who had to portray ill-stricken characters. For Rui En, visiting the NKF dialysis center and speaking to kidney patients as part of her preparation for the role was an eye-opener for the actress in so many ways.
“I talked to this uncle and he’s been doing it for years but he has accepted it. He’s very positive and happy, and I think that acceptance is a huge part of living life. So I was very inspired by it,” she quipped.
And the most enjoyable – and meaningful aspect of working on a projects like Life and C.L.I.F., says Rui En, would be the career reaffirmation she gets from educating the public via her roles. “To me that makes my job mean something – where it’s not just about my vanity, or what award or nomination I’m going to get this year,” she said.
So what would Rui En do if – like her character – she is given a second chance in life? “I’d be less selfish and I’d try my best every day to be a better person.”
Catch Life is Beautiful when it premieres March 5 on weekday nights at 9pm on Channel 8.