Step into a different time in HBO Asia's new series, "Grisse".
Back in May, Cinema Online had the pleasure of stepping foot on the calm and charming island of Batam to visit the set of HBO Asia's latest series, "Grisse".
The eight-part hour-long brand new historical period drama is scheduled to premiere later this year on HBO Asia's on-air, online and on-demand platforms.
Here's what we saw and learned during the trip on the set of "Grisse".
What is "Grisse" about?
Set in the 1800s within the colonial period of Dutch East Indies, "Grisse" follows an unlikely group of people who lead a rebellion against a brutal governor and suddenly find themselves in control of the eponymous town. Keeping the freedom soon becomes a heavy price to pay as they have to decide whether to continue working with each other or turn on one another.
The idea for the series came about when producer Mike Wiluan, who is also one of the directors, decided to expand on the universe he's created for his movie "Buffalo Boys". Despite being set in the same universe, "Grisse" focuses on its own sets of characters and storyline.
Since it is inspired by Indonesian history and based on a real Indonesian town called Gersik, it is only fitting that the filming location is also set in Indonesia, namely at Infinite Studios located in Batam, which is a short ferry journey away from Singapore.
The titular town is built on the outdoor set at Infinite Studios.
Who are the cast and directors of "Grisse"?
The cast is made up of talented actors based in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and Europe. The showrunner is Wiluan himself.
Adinia Wirasti leads the cast as Kalia.
"Grisse" cast is made up of Adinia Wirasti (HBO Asia's "Halfworlds Season 1"), Joanne Kam ("Kopitiam"), Hossan Leong ("The Forbidden City"), Jamie Aditya ("Sync or Swim"), Toshiji Takeshima (HBO's "True Blood"), Ully Triani ("Stay With Me"), Marthino Lio ("Sayang You Can Dance"), Jimmy T ("Robocop 3"), Michael Wahr ("City Homicide"), Edward Akbar ("Air Terjun Pengantin"), Zack Lee ("The Raid 2"), Tom Dejong ("Medisch Centrum West"), Rick Paul Van Mulligen ("A'dam E.V.A.") and Alexandra Gottardo ("Tanah Air").
Adinia leads the cast as Kalia, a brave and skilful young woman leading the rebellion in the Dutch garrison town.
Wiluan admitted to Cinema Online that he wrote the script with the actress in mind, as he wanted someone who can be both physically and emotionally strong in her portrayal, and Adinia was perfect for the part.
"Grisse" showrunner Mike Wiluan calls the series a "mee goreng" Western (a play on 'Spaghetti Western'),
as it is an East-meet-West type of Western drama.
As mentioned, Wiluan directs the series, along with Australian director Tony Tilse and Singapore's Jiyuan Ler.
A good thing about having three directors, according to Ully and Marthino, is that each director has his own style of directing and they could learn three times more than what they would if it were just one helmer handling the series.
The "Grisse" set transported us to a different time
The set was split into two: the indoor set and the outdoor set. We didn't get to see any filming on the indoor set on the day of our visit but we did manage to watch one for a bit (Adinia Wirasti and Toshiji Takeshima were part of it) on the outdoor set. This being a historical drama, both aforementioned sets bore a periodical vintage touch that made us feel transported back to a different time.
Can you imagine spending even a day in these barren prison cells?
A tent built on the indoor set.
We first walked through the indoor set where there were several buildings and smaller sets (some only halfway done) built inside the big warehouse-style building. We walked through a couple of them, the first one being the realistically recreated tunnel (claustrophobics probably won't enjoy a walk through it) and the other was the prison, where each cell was furnished with strewn hay and even a tin pail (in lieu of a chamber pot), complete with a desolate execution area at the back of the prison.
A brief walk-though of the tunnel.
Down one of the alleys on the outdoor set.
The outdoor set also housed the gallows.
After a walk-through of the indoor set, we proceeded to the outdoor set, located on the lot directly behind it. With no roof to shelter us from the scorching sun, the change in climate was immediately apparent. Where the indoor set had cool air-conditioning, the outdoor set only had the heat and humidity from the sun. Even actor Toshiji Takeshima was thankful that his costume (which he had some input in terms of its designs) was quite airy since the heat could reach an unbearable point and the cast would actually faint from it. Still, the heat was more welcome than the rain, because that would halt any filming being done on the outdoor set, causing delays.
Toshiji in his samurai costume.
Talking to the cast of "Grisse"
We previously shared our interview with Malaysian comedian Joanne Kam. She and Singapore's Hossan Leong were quite a funny pair to talk to. They were the first but not the only ones we spoke to on that day. We also sat down with Jamie Aditya and Jimmy T as well as Ully Triani and Marthino Lio for some fun "Grisse" titbits.
That South African accent, also Jimmy T "cracked open" Toshiji's nose
The ever goofy Jamie making funny poses even as Jimmy posed coolly next to him.
Joanne and Hossan said that apart from themselves, there was another actor who had to be constantly reminded to tone down his funny side. Former MTV VJ Jamie Aditya was the guilty party (even Marthino and Ully picked him as the funniest guy on set), who seemed to enjoy playing his role so much he even did his interview with us in character. Yes, that means speaking to us almost all the time in a South African accent as was required for his character, Kurt. At one point he tried making Jimmy T do the interview in his character, the ronin Tanaka, but the American actor just stared at him and guffawed.
More laughter erupted when Jamie remarked "[Jimmy] cracked open Toshiji's nose". Jimmy looked flustered when we brought up that Toshiji indeed mentioned the scar on his nose but didn't divulge further to avoid spoilers. Jamie joked, "Toshiji asked me if he should sue. I said sure, Jimmy will understand, he's American". To which Jimmy laughingly replied, "Toshiji actually grew up in New York, there are a lot of lawyers there."
"I almost burned down our chalet!" – Ully Triani
Ully Triani has Marthino Lio to thank for saving her chalet from being burned down to the ground.
After expressing their joy over getting the chance to work with Jamie, who they grew up watching on TV, the duo shared a story which highlighted how the close the cast had become after spending months together on set and to what length they'd go to help each other out (nothing to do with Jamie though). It all started when Marthino noticed smoke coming out of Ully's chalet one day. He raced to the rescue, fire extinguisher in hand. Ully could only repeatedly apologise, she had forgot to turn off the stove when she left the house for dinner with the other cast members. Marthino was just happy he got to show off his heroic side.
The stunts are amazing thanks to these guys
Of course, an action piece is never complete without the dedicated stunt team behind it who choreographs every move, making sure that all fight scenes are executed perfectly so as to avoid injuries on set as well as making sure that they will appear realistic on screen.
As mentioned by Joanne Kam, the stunt team behind "Grisse" is none other than a Thai-Indonesian team who's worked on the movie "Ong Bak" (solid proof of their sharp martial arts skills).
Below are a couple gifs demonstrating their stunt moves. Needless to say, we the members of the media watched in gaping awe, as will you when the action comes to your screen later this year.
Stunts with swords.
Stunts with no weapon.
Cinema Online, 30 June 2018