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Debbie Goh: From Hong Kong to Malaysia

Writer: Elaine Ewe


Actress Debbie Goh.

As a former Miss Malaysia Chinese International 1998 and an award-winning Hong Kong TVB artiste who is currently starring in Malaysian films, actress Debbie Goh is taking the spotlight in the entertainment industry. At an age when most Malaysians are yearning to make their fortune in other countries, Debbie's debut in her home country's entertainment industry speaks volumes about her attitude towards her career. The actress has just finished filming for "Bullets Over Petaling Street", an action comedy about an awkward movie star, Angel (Debbie Goh) who accidentally becomes a triad leader in an intense election war among the four main triads in Petaling Street. The film also stars Chen Han Wei, Irene Ang and Steve Yap.

The 34-year-old actress spoke to Cinema Online for this exclusive interview about her role in the action comedy, her first film in Malaysia, the difference in participating in a Hong Kong film and a Malaysian film, her goals for her acting career, and her restaurant business.

Cinema Online's interview with Yusry Abdul Halim was conducted on 30 August at Astro Broadcast Centre.

Hi Debbie! What project(s) are you currently working on now?
Hi! I've just finished filming "Bullets Over Petaling Street" and I've just signed a contract for another drama, which I can't tell you about because we have yet to finalize everything. The film is directed by the director of "The Game 2".

Tell us more your role in "Bullets Over Petaling Street".
"Bullets Over Petaling Street" is actually not my first Malaysian movie. My first Malaysian movie was actually "Claypot Curry Killers", and it is going to be released over Astro First Exclusive on 10 October. In "Bullets Over Petaling Street", I play Angel, a movie star who becomes a triad leader of Petaling Street by accident. In the beginning, Angel is a very naïve and materialistic girl who wants to change the image of the triad into being fashionable and well-educated, but the triad doesn't take her seriously because they are already happy being who they are. In her pursuit of pretty things and success, Angel has forgotten more important things like family and heart. I really enjoyed filming because I get to do some action stunts and wear lots of beautiful clothes!

Your role in "Bullets Over Petaling Street" is really different from your first role in "Claypot Curry Killers"! Tell us more your role in "Claypot Curry Killers".
In "Claypot Curry Killers", I play Xi Xi, the eldest sister in the family of four – me, my mother, and two other sisters. Xi Xi is actually a very complicated character. She's not just a pretty face who seduces men. She is also a murderer, but thing with Xi Xi is that she believes that the men she kills are evil and she is actually doing something to protect her family. People might call her crazy, but in her mind she doesn't see herself as crazy. So I have to put myself in that mindset where I agree with her actions. I was actually quite worried when I was given the role because director James Lee told me that he knows I can do it. Does that mean that he secretly thinks I'm crazy?


Debbie and Cinnamon Lion.

You've starred in quite a few films and television dramas. What is your favourite genre?
I love playing bad girls or crazy women. Good girls are boring because there is only so much you can do. But with bad girls, you get to pretend to be good, or you get to go all-out crazy like I did in "Curry Claypot Killers". It is also why I love my role in the movie so much.

What are your favourite movies?
I like movies that have a twisted plot like "Irreversible" and movies with strong female leads like "Monster". I really admire Charlize Theron. She's such a glamorous person in real life, but she was willing to change her look for her art in the film.

Are there any films or television dramas roles that you wished you didn't accept?
There are some films and television dramas that I feel I've not done my best, or could have done better, but I don't regret accepting the jobs. This is because I feel that every job is a valuable experience for me. There is no such thing as "oh, I have the perfect career now in acting," there is always room for improvement. You can't be too comfortable in this line of work or people will get bored.

Is there any difference in the working environment for Hong Kong films and Malaysian films?
In Hong Kong, everything is according to contract. Whatever we do we have to stick to the script, unless the director says otherwise or there are unforeseen circumstances or emergencies. However, we have a lot of room in the script to improvise in our acting. In Malaysia, there are a lot of people who want to do something different but there are a lot of limitations. We have to be mindful that what we do is not insensitive to other cultures.

What are your goals for your acting career?
I want more roles where I can showcase different sides of myself or challenge myself. I don't mind going bald for a role. It's not that big a deal. I can always grow back my hair or wear a wig. A lot of people don't believe that I can act because I used to be a beauty queen. I'm actually glad that I won the Miss Malaysia Chinese International in 1998, because it gives me a platform to get film roles. At the same time, I still want to be pretty and glamorous, just to show that I don't have to sacrifice one for the other. While it may be more challenging in Malaysia, I still believe that there is a lot of promise for talent to grow and develop. That is why in every film I'm in, I try to make sure that everything is in tip-top form, not just my acting. I'm so eager to challenge myself because I want to establish myself as a leader, not just a follower, and I hope I can inspire others to do the same.


Actress Debbie Goh.

Your sense of style is very unique. What are your favourite brands?
No brands! I encourage people to wear whatever that they are comfortable with. However, I do believe that you should try to work on your strengths and downplay your flaws. For example, if you have big hips, try wearing long skirts or jeans instead of shorts, or if you are petite, try wearing heels and wedges with sunny dresses. I'm not trying to say pretend to be what you are not, it's up to each person what they want to wear, but why not show others what's beautiful in you rather than follow the trends?

You are the co-owner of an Indonesian Restaurant IR 1968 Indochine Restaurant located in Jalan Ampang. How is business since its opening in 2010?
Business is good, but I'm thinking of closing it down in October. I'm just too busy! I really tried to balance my schedule between filming and my restaurant, but sometimes I'm required to go outstation for filming, and then I get calls from my chefs and waiters asking me things like, "Miss, the supplier tells us that there is no coconut today! What shall we do for the coconut curry?" and then I tell them "Alright, tell the customers today we won't be serving coconut curry." You'd think that's the end of it, but then they will call because a customer WANTS coconut curry and then I have to explain to them how to explain to the customer that we don't have coconut curry today and after that I'll be distracted thinking about how to get coconuts for the rest of my filming or photoshoot.

Catch Debbie Goh in "Claypot Curry Killers" on Astro First Exclusive, channel 480, on 10 October and in "Bullets Over Petaling Street" on 6 February 2014.

Cinema Online, 25 September 2013


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