Friday, 01 February 2013 15:45

Michelle Chong’s third ‘Pea’: From salesgirl to movie star

EXCLUSIVE: The search is over and this girl-next-door might be 2013’s breakout movie star

Text & Photos: Joanna Goh
Video: Teng Siew Eng
Additional footage: Huat Films


Michelle Chong poses with her lead actress Jae Liew in 3 Peas in a Pod

A raven haired girl in her early 20s greeted us with a chirpy "Hello!" when we arrived at Beets, a modern vegetarian restaurant located along Dempsey road, for our exclusive interview with Michelle Chong and her '3 Peas' lead actress yesterday.

Apart from exchanging the usual pleasantries, we paid no heed to our "greeter", whom we assumed was a member of Michelle's staff. Polite and sweet-looking, she easily resembled any other ordinary teenager found on the streets of Orchard Road. But boy, were we wrong.

Five minutes later, when Michelle strode in the room with her two-men entourage, we looked on in anticipation, half-expecting a third figure (her lead actress) to follow behind. But there was none in sight. Instead, the director looked over to the same raven haired girl and asked, "Have you met my lead actress and final 'Pea', Jae Liew?"

"Oops..." we said, now basking in embarrassment as Jae hurried across the room to greet us (again).

"That's fine. It's all good," Michelle assured us later. "This just means she looks really ordinary and very 'girl-next-door'. She's just what I'm looking for!"

Jae Liew, lead actress of 3 Peas in a Pod

Jae Liew, lead actress of 3 Peas in a Pod

Indeed. The 23-year-old embodies "Penny" (name of movie character) to perfection with her waist-long hair, blunt bangs, bright smile and sweet disposition. Sporting doe eyes and a lithe figure at 1.63m, Jae may not have a drop-dead gorgeous mien or a smoldering stare, but she's eloquent (check out our video interview), bilingual (in English and Mandarin!) and can be quite the charmer - as she was in our interview.

A salesgirl by day (she works in the fashion retail industry), the journalism graduate surprised us during the interview with her slightly American-accented English, which she picked up from her Filipino caretaker.

Born and bred in Singapore and the youngest of two children, Jae let on that acting was never on her cards but decided to give the auditions a shot because of her 2013 New Year's resolutions.

"I went there on whim and because my resolution is to do something challenging and push myself out of the box," she said. "And look at what happened. So take a chance, always take a chance!"

Jae Liew and Michelle Chong

Jae Liew and Michelle Chong

Still "floored" by Michelle's decision to cast her, Jae, who spent 1.5 years schooling in Melbourne, plans to take things "step by step" for now. She's not feeling nervy about debuting on the big screen alongside Calvin Chen from Fahrenheit and ex U-Kiss member, Alexander Lee Eusebio.

"Am I worried? Not quite. As long as I put my mind to it and do what I can right now, what matters is for me to do my best right now and I believe I'll do better," said the vivacious and likeable lass.

Michelle Chong

An optimistic go-getter, Jae's so focused on doing her best that she is undeterred by our questions of what-ifs and failure.

Come what may, she maintained, "I'll definitely be giving my all - whether or not it comes to fruition."

In a separate interview with xinmsn, Michelle shared that Jae did not leave her with much of an impression at first glance during the auditions. However, the situation turned around when she started to act, said the comedienne.

"She had no experience but she's very natural, doesn't speak funny - leave that to me -- and sounded comfortable in both English and Mandarin. Most importantly, she could act and it felt real."

Michelle also complimented her third 'Pea' for having an acting spark, "She has that quality that is very likeable, a good personality and everything else just fits... Funny thing is after Jae left the room, I joked with the crew and told them: 'Okay, it's a wrap!' (Laughs)."

It is a wrap - the auditions, we mean - for now. The main cast will gather in March when filming commences. Stay tuned to xinmsn for more updates on Michelle's second directorial project, 3 Peas in a Pod!

WATCH: Fresh face actress Jae Liew is Michelle Chong's third and final 'Pea'

Related links:
PHOTOS: Michelle Chong seeks out 'Penny' from 800 girls
Michelle Chong on the hunt for 3 Peas in a Pod's lead actress


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