The cast of "The Ghost Bride": (Top L-R) Jordan Voon, Angeline Tan, Jojo Goh, Susan Leong,
Wilson Tin; (Bottom L-R) Kuang Tian, Ludi Lin, Huang Pei-Jia, Wu Kang Jen.
"The Ghost Bride", Netflix's first ever Mandarin original series from Malaysia, was shot in several locations across the country, helmed by award-winning directors Quek Shio Chuan (who directed the first three episodes) and Ho Yuhang (who directed the final three episodes).
A press conference with its directors, producer Zainir Aminullah, and cast – both international and local – were recently held at The RuMa Hotel and Residences, Kuala Lumpur.
Based on a book by Yangsze Choo, the six-episode "The Ghost Bride" is set in 1890s Colonial Malacca. A young woman, Li Lan (Huang Pei-Jia), receives a marriage proposal from Madam Lim (Angeline Tan) to become the ghost bride to the wealthy family's recently deceased son, Lim Tian Ching (Kuang Tian).
The marriage can save her father (Jordan Voon) from his mounting debts but at the same time, she still harbours feelings for her childhood sweetheart, Lim Tian Bai (Ludi Lin). When she inadvertently finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery, she enlists the help of a Heavenly Guard, Er Lang (Wu Kang Jen), to solve it.
Cinema Online sat down with the "Lim family", Ludi Lin, Angeline Tan and Kuang Tian, to talk to them about their experience filming "The Ghost Bride".
Read on for our little chat with "The Ghost Bride" star Ludi Lin when he
stopped by Kuala Lumpur to promote the series recently.
Cinema Online: Hi Ludi, how was it like filming in Malaysia? What sticks out to you about the experience?
Ludi: Well, it's great. I mean, I came here...I sort of felt like a guest in the beginning. The first time we came here was over 10 years ago, as a guest. As a traveller, a backpacker, so all through Malaysia, and then I filmed here before. I just realised I was at Pinewood doing "Marco Polo", and this time I really felt like a guest again because Malaysia is always – you come here, everyone is so hospitable. So, you feel like a guest sometimes, especially working with very experienced local actors and also Taiwanese actors.
I felt like very much out of place. I've been an outsider a lot. Because I travel so much around the world and work in many places, I always feel like I need to get used to things ever since I was small but then gradually I felt like I was brought in, like I was a part of the family. We started in Penang, then Bentong, then Ipoh and Taiping. There's so much Asian cultural heritage there, it really felt like home.
You mentioned about having a dialect, does that hinder you in any way from establishing a connection with the people here?
No, it's very easy to pick up. It's essential, if you're not going to pick up a dialect, why be an actor? Ever since I was small, I got beaten up a lot because of the dialect. I came to realise that it's not until you learn how to communicate in the dialect, you stop getting beaten up. So, you really have to be accepted and communicate to be able to be a part of something and that's why being in Malaysia, that's why filming an Asian story is so important to me because over 60% of the world is Asian. If the world can't accept our Asian culture, our dialect, in a way, then we're just gonna be beating each other up all the time.
Is it very different filming here compared to filming in Hollywood?
It is different because fundamentally, Eastern cultures and Western cultures come from a very different place. For example, you go to Hollywood and you say, "Let's go see a family film" and then in Asia, it means a very different thing. A family film, in Hollywood, it's "oh, let's see a cartoon, Pixar or Disney", when you're talking about a jia ting gu shi, as soon as you think about that, it's "oh drama, oh there's gonna be in-fighting!"
We're based on different cultures because our family's so tight knit, we're not individual society or culture. So, the stories are based differently. In "Ghost Bride", we treat burning cash, burning objects and marrying a live person to a dead son as a very real thing. That's a very acceptable part of our culture because we respect our ancestors so much and it's actually real to us. They're not just imagination, they actually represent a very real thing. So, the story's different. It's really nice, really important.
During the press conference, Angeline Tan, who plays Madam Lim in "The Ghost Bride",
joked that she had no idea who her husband was because she
never met him even once [in the series].
Angeline, did your role in "The Sensei Nyonya" help you prepare for your matriarch role in "The Ghost Bride"?
Angeline: Actually, it's two completely different characters. Because "My Sensei Nyonya", she's a grandmother, she's a very powerful lady in the family but in this story, I think my part is she's very loving but the only thing is, because of what happened in the family, they made her very emotional and sad at certain times, then she's also very stubborn because she doesn't listen to other people.
She thinks that what I want to do for my son is my will, no one can stop me. But she doesn't raise her voice except for one part - when people touch her son's room interior, that's when she got angry. She's just a lady who lives in her own world.
Kuang Tian, you're more used to working in Taiwan, how's it like to be working in a Malaysian production?
Kuang Tian: I'm surprised that there's so many talents in this industry here. Glad to work with them [Angeline, Ludi].
The three of you are in the Lim family, did you share a lot of scenes together?
Ludi: We have some scenes. Well, that's the interesting thing about the Lim family. You know, the son is in the underworld, totally other dimension, and the only way they communicate is through burning things.
When I was little, I would go back to my village and I remember how people used to live. There's this one courtyard and then there's different rooms, it's like an apartment complex. The whole family, like the Lim, everyone with the same last name would live in that family and as you can imagine, a lot of drama happens, so there's that awkwardness. You don't have to say too much but you feel the relationship, sometimes when you don't speak, you feel the tension underneath and that's what the Lim family is and that's why there's that scene where you [turns to Angeline] actually raise your voice because the tension, when it comes to a certain point, it's going to snap, right? So, we had some scenes, but the relationship is very rich.
Working in a series that revolves around the supernatural, do any of you have superstitions that you believe in?
Kuang Tian: We just know that if someone gives you some food and you don't wash the plate –
Angeline: If you wash the plate and give back, then you bring bad luck!
[Both Kuang Tian and Angeline laugh].
Ludi: Apparently, that's what they call superstition.
Kuang Tian shared a "Canadian superstition" when asked if he had any superstitious belief.
I've never heard of that...it's not a Chinese superstition?
Kuang Tian: No, it's Canadian!
Ludi: Yeah, someone told me it's Canadian. I'm not really superstitious but my ghost friends tell me "never be afraid". [Grins].
I mean, there's definitely something out there. If you imagine this, right. You would never expect an insect to understand physics because they're not equipped. No matter how hard they study, they would never understand physics. So how can you think that humans can understand everything in the universe? There is something out there that we don't understand and what is that? That is something supernatural, not superstition.
Angeline: I think certain superstitious [things], I believe. Because why? When I was shooting Malay drama, something happened in front of me. I've seen another Malay actress, she was possessed. I saw that. Actually, I don't believe all this thing, until that happened to her. The whole night we had to stop shooting.
Oh, which Malay title is this?
Angeline: We were shooting "Bencinta", the movie, in Langkawi. So, something happened to that actress. So that night, actually we had to stop the whole shoot and then they had to call the Ustaz to come in and treat her. That night, whatever happened that night it was very new to me. I was just observing and thought "this thing really does happen". Thank god, that night she didn't have to go back to my room, she went back to another hotel, because we sharing the room. So, what happened was I told myself, "Yeah, certain things we have to believe".
Ludi: I mean, superstition is just a word for people that don't believe. For people that do believe, it's not superstitious.
Kuang Tian: They have to believe it! Because it's a fact.
Ludi: It doesn't matter what you think now, if you watched "Ghost Bride" or any other supernatural movie and think it's fantasy, but if you put yourself back in the 19th century, that's science, that's a fact. You're not burning things to appease your dead son. You're not burning things to honour your ancestors because it's fun or fantasy but because they still exist, and they will help you and they will decide your fate. That's why you do that, that's why it's so important, that's why those rituals exist.
Follow the Lim family's tale in "The Ghost Bride", available for streaming on Netflix from 23 January 2020.
Cinema Online, 23 January 2020