Video: Tan Shi Qi
Hong Kong-based actress Bernice Liu, who is set to call this island-state ‘home’ for the next three months, is more local than the average Singaporean on the street. And we don’t mean she speaks better colloquial English (or Singlish) than you or me. For starters, she is very in-tuned with what our little isle has to offer, for someone who has just started her temporary resident stint (two weeks ago, to be exact) in our country.
So far she has gone on the treetop walk at MacRitchie Reservoir, been to the quaint and scenic Little Guilin in Bukit Gombak, attended a bookbinding class for charity at the Arts House, been to the Little Prince exhibition… and we foresee this avid hiker’s humble list of been-there-done-that activities growing with each passing week.
Currently filming a brand new Channel 5 TV series called Lion Moms which is produced by Ochre Pictures, Bernice is clearly enjoying what we’d loosely term her “working holiday”, immersing herself as much as possible in the local culture. Prior to taking on this project, she was in Malaysia filming Hollywood Sci-Fi film, Lost in the Pacific, which is directed by Vincent Zhou and written by Peter Cameron and Vincent.
Meet the three main protagonists of the drama and the 'Lion Moms', Durrani (played by Nurul Aini), Jennifer Wong (played by Bernice) and Mei Yi (played by Vanessa Vanderstraaten).
The 36-year-old reportedly turned down an offer in China to take on this local project and confirmed this piece of news during her on-set interview with Toggle, on Wednesday.
“I’ve been in China for the past few years doing a variety of dramas from historical dramas to period shows… and I’ve never done anything like this (Lion Moms) in my TV roles or even in movies. And I thought, it’s time for Bernice to mature a little bit [by playing a mother].”
In Lion Moms, she plays Jennifer, a happily married mother with two children, but Bernice’s character is not your ordinary SAHM (stay-at-home-mum). Jennifer’s stylish, perfect, immaculate and funny, she also has a tough but “loving” side to her and shares characteristics seen in most ‘tiger mums’.
Bernice took to the role like fish to water, no thanks to her personal upbringing, she said. “I started dancing when I was 3 years old, taekwondo since 8, kick-boxing in university, was in piano and musical theatre, so I know a little of how that feels as a child. And being a mother, I can just picture my own mother at the same time (chuckles).”
The overlapping similarities between her mother and Jennifer meant that Bernice could easily identify with her character. Just as how her love for dancing was inculcated at a young age when her mum sent her for dancing classes, similarly, Bernice believes Jennifer wants to give her child the best and expose them to extra-curricular activities she didn’t get a chance to do while growing up - like what Bernice’s mother did for her and her older sister.
For someone born and bred in Canada and had to learn how to speak Mandarin and Cantonese from scratch when she first joined showbiz, speaking in her mother tongue language (English) was also a great source of comfort. Although the actress admitted that it felt slightly surreal and weird in the beginning, since she has never done an English drama before.
The avid hiker found time to check out the TreeTop Walk (left) and Little Guilin (right). (Picture: Bernice Liu's Instagram)
Save for our melting pot culture, the fresh air, clean tap water, beautiful hiking trails and great food, another perk of working in Singapore for Bernice is being able to “walk down the street in shorts and slippers” and - we guess - without making tabloid headlines for doing so.
“And they take really nice pictures too,” she gushed of fans. “So it’s really cool.”
So has her acting stint as a mother of two brought out her maternal instincts?
“I love kids! Everyone knows that and I’m practicing with my seven dogs,” the workaholic chuckled, “But you gotta wait –and through this drama I think it’s important to have a good partner, a perfect partner. To have a child is not easy at all [because] it takes a lot of dedication, love, a lot of sweat and blood… to be a mother.”
Bernice joked in reply, when asked if she has found the right partner in life, “What do you think? I’m here filming a show called Lion Moms to prepare myself…
“But I think after this drama, people are gonna be scared of this ‘lion mom’. (Ed: Maybe the right one will come along in Singapore?) Maybe? But I hope he accepts this ‘lion mom’ thing because I’m kinda crazy [in this show].”
Lion Moms, starring Bernice Liu, Nurul Aini, Vanessa Vanderstraaten, Max Loong, Russell Ong and Firdaus Rahman, debuts Sep 7 (Mon), 10pm on Channel 5.
WATCH: Bernice tells us more about her role in Lion Moms