Jessica Hsuan finds strength in Michelle Yeoh's historic Oscar win

The Hong Kong actress, promoting her new drama 'Kill Sera Sera,' reflects on overcoming age-based discrimination, drawing strength from Michelle Yeoh's Oscar win

Hong Kong actress Jessica Hsuan was inspired by Michelle Yeoh’s Oscars acceptance speech. (PHOTO: Mediacorp)
Hong Kong actress Jessica Hsuan was inspired by Michelle Yeoh’s Oscars acceptance speech. (PHOTO: Mediacorp)

In a candid 2022 interview, veteran Hong Kong actress Jessica Hsuan revealed a disheartening incident from her past. A former manager she used to work with labelled her “fat” and “old”, claiming she wouldn’t get any leading roles due to her age.

Hsuan was 40 when that incident happened.

Fast forward to 2023, the silver screen witnessed an historic moment when Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh, who is one of Hong Kong’s top action stars, became the first Asian woman to win the Best Actress award at the Oscars.

Yeoh, who broke barriers at the age of 60 at the time of her win, delivered a poignant message in her acceptance speech, saying, “Ladies, don't let anybody tell you you're past your prime.”

So, when Hsuan was in town promoting the new meWATCH drama "Kill Sera Sera" on 18 Jan – she plays the lead role, by the way – we wondered if Yeoh’s iconic speech had inspired her.

The 53-year-old affirmed that Yeoh's empowering message had not only left an indelible mark but also served as a poignant reminder.

“Definitely. I remember her line very, very well – when she said it when she received the award. And of course, what happened before from my previous manager also came back in my mind, and I totally agree with what she said,” the actress remarked.

“I think women just need more support, need more examples, to reassure them. We all worry because for women, I think especially in Hong Kong, I think people are quite focused on your looks. It's not that they don't focus on acting, but it's also the looks, it's very important.

“When they watch something that you do, [they think], ‘Oh my gosh, she’s aged so much. Oh, she’s got more wrinkles.’ And I just think, oh, but it’s quite normal. I’m not in my 30s, I’m in my 50s, and it's quite normal to have a wrinkle or two, and I think I don’t look that bad.”

Singapore is expensive

In the M-18 drama "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.

This marks Hsuan’s first appearance in a local drama since 2011’s Bountiful Blessings and it’s also been quite some time since she’s visited our little red dot – prior to filming the drama in 2023.

Reflecting on her return to Singapore after several years, she shared, “Before last year, I think I hadn't been here for at least five years, six years?”

And, Hsuan expressed surprise at how expensive Singapore is, after we shared that the city-state was named the most expensive city in the world.

“Yeah? I was actually really surprised because I thought, wow, Hong Kong is expensive. But I think Singapore is actually more expensive now,” she replied.

As for what triggered that thought, Hsuan recalled, “Well, I was just going to the supermarket. So everything in the supermarket is like, oh, this looks more expensive than Hong Kong. And then, going to restaurants you need to add on the tax, and yeah, it's just the standard of living.”

The actress was also looking into properties but scrapped the idea after hearing from friends that foreigners need to pay a 60 per cent tax.

“I was like, oh god, okay, that’s off my list now. It’s too expensive,” she laughed, then clarified that she was thinking about investing in Singapore properties.

Chicken rice at Lucky Plaza

Property investments might be off the table, but Hsuan still enjoys coming to Singapore and appreciate how polite everyone is.

Hsuan recalled a heartwarming incident when a lady who served her in the basement of Takashimaya requested a photo but she turned it down politely as she was “looking so awful” and “didn’t have any make-up on”.

“People are very friendly. They're very polite, and they would not snap pictures while you're eating without asking. And so it made me feel very comfortable,” she said. “Yeah, they would let you know that they recognise you, but they respect your privacy. And I think to me, that's something that we don't find everywhere.”

Apart from privacy, there’s also good food in abundance and there’s one thing that she has to try when she’s here.

Yes, it’s the classic pandan cake.

“It’s a must,” she said. “I mean, we have it in Hong Kong, but it's just not the same. It's not the same. Yeah, they use pandan leaves to make the pandan cakes, but it's just different.”

And, she likes her Hainanese chicken rice too – another “must” for her. However, her favourite spot isn’t the famous one in Maxwell Food Centre.

She shared, “It’s always the one in Lucky Plaza? Yeah, there’s a shop. The very old one. Yeah, it’s been around for years.”

All 12 episodes of Kill Sera Sera will be available for free on meWATCH. There will be three new episodes released every Monday.

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