Greetings and salutations, fellow stargazers! This is your Showbiz Sista with some tattling tales on what happens when you put two starlets in the same show! A Tale Of Two Cities has Rui En and Joanne Peh in its starring roles: Rui En as an irresponsible heiress and Joanne as a materialistic gold-digger. And while there doesn’t seem to be any personal rivalry between the two big, beautiful names, you can bet there’ll be at least some professional tension, with both ladies nominated for the Best Actress Star Award this year.
At the press conference (Left to right): Taiwanese newcomer Kate Pang, Rui En, Hong Kong actress Mimi Choo, Joanne Peh, and Julie Tan.
A Tale Of Two Cities is about four couples and the trials and tribulations of their respective romances: Rui En + Pierre Png, Joanne + Zhang Yaodong, Yao Wenlong + Kate Pang, and Zhang Zhen Huan + Julie Tan.
The show starts off following Rui En’s character, whose parents’ death left her with a large disposable income and not enough sense to use it wisely, travelling down from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore in search of a long-lost aunt (Mimi Choo) when her fortune runs dry. She’s forced to work at her aunt’s bridal studio, where she meets Pierre Png, a photographer. Meanwhile, Joanne’s character has set her sights on rich guy Zhang Zhen Huan, but all this while, her best friend Zhang Yaodong has been carrying the torch for her.
It’s Paris Hilton meets Blair Waldorf when Rui En leaves behind her tough-as-nails, cool-as-ice image to play a giggly bimbo—but don’t for one second imagine that it was easy for this leopard to change her spots. “Unriddle (her last show, in which she played a cop) was so difficult because of all the injuries and the fact that we were always filming in outdoor locations that had no bathrooms,” Rui En said. “But I’d rather return to the forest to search for corpses than do this! Being a babe is too tiring!”
A lot of research had to be done in order for Rui En to transform herself. “There are girls like that who live very privileged lives because their parents are rich,” she said. “I went to a lot of their blogs, and I watched a lot of romantic comedies. I watched a lot of Meg Ryan—she’s really, really good at romcoms!”
Props helped, too: She got her first-ever gel manicure (“Nightmare. Luckily I don’t have an iPhone, but if I did, I wouldn’t have been able to use it”) and an arsenal of hairbands. “They had hairbands and they said you can wear them some of the time. I thought, no lah, I’ll just wear a hairband all the time. So I’ve got a million hairbands.” Did she get to keep them? “No—why would I want to?” She laughed. “But I did buy a Hello Kitty pouch, to get into character. And I still have that! I attached the Hello Kitty pouch to my bag, so my bag had a bag.”
So, what was it like working with Joanne? “Personally, me and Joanne are quite different, especially when we work,” Rui En said. “She’s very cheerful and bubbly and happy and everything. When I work, I’m more quiet, to the point of being very serious. But from what I’ve seen, the end result is very good. We actually managed to connect very girlishly on screen.”
Joanne’s side of the story? “(Working with Rui En) was very painless, I feel. I feel like she’s someone who likes to be alone and to have her own time, and the way I respect that is to give it to her. So if there’s something to talk about, we talk; if there’s nothing to talk about, we don’t. It’s very comfortable and there’s no, like, awkwardness or any pretense, like you pretend to be really good friends. I felt like it was a very fluid kind of communication: If it happened, it happened. There’s nothing deliberate about anything that we do.”
Well, so they aren’t going to be making friendship bands or braiding each other’s hair any time soon. But hey—God gave us our relatives; thank God we can choose our friends, eh?
Catch A Tale Of Two Cities starting tonight, weekdays at 9pm on MediaCorp TV Channel 8. Showbiz Sista, signing out. Live long and pop corn–and happy Valentine’s Day!