Joanne and her 'Last Madame' co-star, Taiwanese model Jeff Chou.
What do you do if you want to make it pour when the sun is out in full force?
Well, for the team behind Toggle Originals series Last Madame, it involved a water truck, powerful hoses, and some “gloomifying” post-production magic.
We got to see - and feel - the water truck and hoses part when we were invited to visit one of the filming sites somewhere along the Pandan River a couple of weeks ago. For a couple of hours, the secluded and frankly unremarkable spot served as the setting for a pivotal rain scene, where young prostitute Siu Lan (played by Crazy Rich Asians and Lion Mums 3 actress Constance Lau) is found crying at the run-down jetty.
Making it rain (literally) with a water truck and powerful hoses.
If you did a double take at the word “prostitute”, then you probably haven’t heard much about the drama. Last Madame, as its title suggests, is about brothel boss Fung Lan (played by Joanne Peh, who should wear a cheongsam all the time) in 1930s Singapore, whose story is slowly uncovered by her great-granddaughter (played by Fiona Fussi) in the present day.
While it was originally reported to be Toggle’s first M18-rated production, it has been clarified that a rating has actually not yet been given. That said, audiences can still expect doses of titillating action (it is set in a bordello after all), but don’t expect anything near the graphic levels of some American TV blockbusters.
Perhaps this is why Qi Yuwu doesn’t seem too bothered by his missus and the mother of his children taking on her most risqué role to date - or at least, that’s what Joanne seems to believe anyway (she told us to ask him directly for his thoughts). The 36-year-old actress has two steamy bed scenes with co-stars Jeff Chou and Brandon Wong (not at the same time, mind you) in the show.
“When I got home after filming the bed scene, my husband asked me how it was, and I said, ‘[It was] okay. Like that lor.’ Then when he asked me to describe it, I said, ‘Kiss, kiss, kiss; do, do, do. Like that lor!’ (Laughs)” - it sounds better in Mandarin, by the way - “I did tell him I would have bed scenes, but I think he’s also like, ‘Aiyah, how far could it possibly go?’ So I don’t think he minds.”
Joanne and Jeff getting hot and heavy for 'Last Madame'. (Still: Ochre Pictures)
But did she find the raunchy reel-life romps awkward to film?
“Not really, actually,” she shrugged. “The production team was very protective of me and kept asking if everything was okay, but I was getting into character so I didn’t want to have to worry about other things.”
“I mean, we’ve done the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and we also communicated about the scene beforehand, so we had a very good understanding and strong trust between us as professionals,” she continued. “Once you get past that, the next thing you want to do is focus on your emotions, which you can’t really do if you’re being concerned about this and that showing half the time.”
Her natural chemistry with Jeff, a Taiwanese model, helped a lot too. “It’s so comfortable working with him, it’s almost strange!” she chuckled. “Our energies and thoughts are very compatible, so I think that made it very easy for the both of us.”
Joanne with her husband Qi Yuwu (left) and their two kids. (Photos: Instagram/Joanne Peh)
Of course, two people who will not be getting to watch Last Madame anytime soon are Joanne’s kids, two-year-old son “Qi Didi” and daughter “Baby Qi”, who turns four today (happy birthday!).
“I won’t even let them visit me on set because they still don’t quite get what is acting, so they may find some scenes very weird,” she explained, adding that they might also find it “confusing” to see their mother getting intimate with someone who is not their dad. “If there’s a rating, obviously they’ll have to wait until that age to watch it, and I think by then, they will be mature enough to understand what it’s all about.”
Touching on love-making scenes and little ones led us to our next question: has Joanne already thought about when she intends to have “the talk” with her children about “the birds and the bees” (in other words, the revelation that babies are not delivered by the stork)?
“Actually, I probably have to talk to them about that before they go into Primary 1,” she shared in a matter-of-fact way. “I haven’t thought about how my husband and I are going to go about it yet, but I think we’re very organic parents and our methods are very natural, so when the time comes, we’ll kinda know.”
Last Madame premieres in September on Toggle.