Joanne Kam needs no introduction to Malaysians largely due to her numerous stage comedy performances and roles in local productions. This year though will see Kam spread her wings and acting talents as she features in HBO Asia’s Grisse.
The brand new original period drama is an eight-part hour-long series that is set in the mid 1800’s within the colonial period of the Dutch East Indies. The English language series chronicles the story of a group of unlikely individuals who lead a rebellion against a brutal governor and suddenly find themselves in control of a Dutch garrison town called Grisse.
Ahead of the series’ debut on HBO Asia, we managed to speak to Kam to find out more about the series and her involvement in Grisse.
Grisse is an interesting project to be a part off, but as an actor what specifically drew you to this project?
Specifically I would say that the character that I play – Chi and the many aspects of empowering females in this series. The way the story is written is inspiredby a western meets Asian world. Not only was this written with gusto of grit and some very serious fight scenes, it is also a story about honour and fighting for something worthier than yourself.
Can you tell us more about the character you portray in Grisse?
Chi is a hard madam that owns a brothel in Grisse, she is also the head of the Chinese ‘gangsta’. She survived by doing the oldest profession in the world and leads with an iron fist in her house. Although she is tough, she is well loved and respected by her girls and her clan. Slowly as the story unfolds, you will see different facets to her character. Specifically her loyalty, honour, kindness and honesty, essentially a true leader for which her people would gladly go to arms for.
How did you adapt to the physical scenes?
The first day of rehearsal in Batam Infinite studios where we shot, I was thrown into the gym with some serious kick ass stunt masters from Indonesia and Thailand. They got me started doing kicks and punches but they were so professional that they assessed my abilities first to see what I can and cannot do. They then used my strength to heighten my fight sequence for the battle scenes. I would say it’s the most extensive work out of my life but I loved it. The stunt team made me feel so comfortable and they are always so encouraging, they are the best.
Describe the feeling working with such an extensive and talented regional cast?
Honestly it was like Chinese New Year, where all of a sudden you were introduced to a bunch of crazy cousins whom you can’t run away from because they are now your family. Everyone was so supportive of each other and it helped us develop not only our characters but also created a special bond between us that held us together. Working with [Creator and Showrunner] Mike Wiluan and his team was above and beyond. We not only learned from each other but also inspired each other.
How was the mood like generally on set with the cast and crew?
Some shoots were harder than the rest and there were days when weather and moods did get to the best of us but at the end of the week, we always made it a point to gather together for laughter, drinks and merry making. On set the crew that took care of us, especially the talent co-ordinators are such an amazing bunch, we definitely grew to love and respect them.
From the viewpoint of a TV viewer, what do you think is the appeal of Grisse. Why should audiences tune into watch it?
The appeal for Grisse is in its storytelling, besides its hard core fight scenes, it is a story with a heart. It is also a show with a lot of strong female leads, from our heroin Khalia to the rest of the women in this series, each weaving her unique story. It is also a damn kickass show breaking boundaries. Watch it – you will be surprised, yes it’s that good.
Catch Joanne Kam in Grisse as it premieres on Sunday, November 4 at 9pm exclusively on HBO (Astro Ch 411/431 HD). New episodes will debut at the same time every Sunday. The series will also be available on HBO On Demand (via Astro Go).