Jessica Hsuan doesn't think she's the biggest star in Singapore M18 drama Kill Sera Sera

The Hong Kong actress plays a distraught mother trying to solve her daughter's murder, and was told by her manager to read the script before accepting the role.

Jessica Hsuan at the press conference for Kill Sera Sera on Thursday (18 Jan). (Photo: Yahoo Southeast Asia)
Jessica Hsuan at the press conference for Kill Sera Sera on Thursday (18 Jan). (Photo: Yahoo Southeast Asia)

Mediacorp’s upcoming online drama series, Kill Sera Sera, is pushing lots of boundaries. Not only is it an M18 production (which means it can’t air on Channel 8), but it also features risque scenes, and assembled a stacked cast from the region.

The show, about a distraught mother trying to solve her daughter’s murder, stars local actor Christopher Lee (a Golden Bell winner), Taiwanese actor James Wen (also a Golden Bell winner), and veteran Hong Kong actress Jessica Hsuan.

Hsuan, 53, has had an illustrious acting career. The ageless beauty was a sought after TVB leading lady who has collaborated with leading actors such as Louis Koo, Wong He, Julian Cheung, Nick Cheung, Roger Kwok, and Joe Ma.

Yet, when we suggested that she is the biggest star of the cast, she immediately denied it.

“No, no, no. No way, no way,” she insisted to Yahoo Southeast Asia during our interview on Thursday (18 Jan). She replied, “I always think I’m not good enough. I don’t know. When I watched the trailer the first time, I asked my manager, ‘Can you watch and tell me what you really think? Because when I watched it, to me, I just felt everybody did so well, except myself.

“I kind of had doubts. And he (the manager) said, ‘You’re thinking too much.’ I guess it’s always good to just keep thinking that you're not good enough in a way so that you would keep pushing yourself, hopefully to reach another level.”

Didn’t know if she could play the role

While it’s always heartening to see big stars conduct themselves with humility, it’s hard to fathom someone like Hsuan having confidence issues.

When asked what gave rise to the doubts, she confessed that she could have “done better” in some parts of her performance or “could have chosen another a different way in performing”.

She added, “The way I act, I don't use method acting… Most of the time, I have to have that feeling, and it just comes out naturally. Because I always believe if you feel it, then people who watch it will be able to feel it. If you don't feel it yourself, people can also not feel it.”

In Kill Sera Sera, Hsuan plays May Shaw, a famous artist and mother of two - Sera Sun (Chantalle Ng) and Samuel Sun (Damien Teo). As the title suggests, her daughter was murdered on the night of a leap day, and she pushes herself to the extreme trying to solve the case while her relationships with her son, and husband Allan (Christopher Lee) worsen.

The show also stars Xu Bin, Zhang Xinxiang, Kiki Lim, and features cameos by actresses such as Lina Ng and Jesseca Liu.

And, as Hsuan shared a couple times during the press conference (also held on Thursday), the role is something “I’ve never played before”.

“That created a lot of pressure,” she said, “I didn't know whether I could do it or not, but I knew I had to step out of my comfort zone and try something new to get better.”

Manager had asked her to read the script before accepting the role

Hsuan also felt that from an audience’s perspective, they would want to see her in something different after all these years. The last time she acted in a Singapore production was in 2011’s Bountiful Blessings.

“The three previous dramas that I did in Singapore, they were all comedies. So this one is just completely different,” she said, adding that her manager told her to read the script for Kill Sera Sera before accepting the role - something that was atypical of him.

The reason for that? He wasn’t sure if she wanted to do the show since it was a very dark role and something so different from what she has done.

She then asked if he thought she should accept the job, and he replied in the affirmative. In the end, she told her manager to “sign the contract” and she’ll do it.

Hsuan said, “If I read it (the script), I'll probably say no. Yeah. So I said, ‘Just sign it. And then I have no choice. And I'm stuck. And then I have to do it.’ So in the end, after he signed it, I read the script for three episodes, I almost fainted. I just thought, ‘Oh my God, what have I got myself into?’”

Finding the ‘feeling’ for the role

Despite an initial challenge of getting into the role - Hsuan doesn’t have children - which left her feeling “stressed out”, the actress eventually found the elusive ‘feeling’ when she watched a Hong Kong news report about a murder that was similar to the events in the show.

“I remember watching TV, thinking that I don't even know this person, but I felt so sad and felt the pain when I saw the mother on TV. I felt a lot of her pain. So that actually helped me a lot, and I started having more and more feelings,” she recalled.

In order to help herself stay in character, Hsuan declined to join the cast when they went out to eat during their day off.

Though the role took an emotional toll - the cast revealed that Hsuan’s character was constantly crying and her tears ran dry - the actress never allowed herself to fully decompress at the end of the day.

She said, “Every day, I would not let myself let go of that feeling 100 per cent. I would let go, say around maybe 60 per cent, because I want to keep it for the next day. And that's why I refused to see any friends right at the beginning, because I wanted to be able to concentrate and focus.

“The only thing I did, I think, it was just like going to the supermarket to get some food. Just sit in the hotel room and just listen to some music, watch some TV, play on my iPad, and that was it.”

Kill Sera Sera is available for free on meWATCH. There will be three new episodes released every Monday, starting on 15 Jan.

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