Jessie Li and Michael Ning hear the "Port of Call"
Writer: Erny Suzira
Michael Ning and Jessie Li at Crowne Plaza, Causeway Bay.
Philip Yung made a bold decision by getting two newcomers to play two considerably heavy roles in his latest crime thriller, "Port of Call".
Based on a real murder event that took place in 2008, the film follows a young prostitute who gets murdered and dismembered by a truck driver that she met online.
Superstar Aaron Kwok plays a middle-aged police officer who is trying to connect the dots of the murder case.
Recently, Cinema Online got to talk with the two fresh actors about their experience in their debut feature film.
Congratulations Michael for winning Best Supporting Actor at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival on you first feature film. Would you have expected this?
Michael: Not at all. I'm very surprised that I won this award. Like literally. My friends showed me this news from Taiwan with the headline, "Michael Ning is shocked to win award" – something along those lines, and my friends even took a shocked looking picture of me. So they know that I really was surprised to win the award!
Michael Ning plays the murderer in "Port of Call".
Who would you think would win in that category?
Michael: Definitely not me! [laughs] I don't know who, but I was pretty sure that it wouldn't be me.
What about Jessie, were you disappointed that you didn't win? Or maybe you think that you couldn't win because you're a new actress?
Michael: I really hoped that Jessie could've won the Best Newcomer award!
Jessie: Not really. Because I didn't put any hope that I would win the award. I don't think that it's that easy, and like you said, this is my first feature film. Just getting nominated and getting the experience is good enough.
As newcomers, both of you have several bold scenes in the film. So, how did you prepare yourself for those scenes?
Jessie: There's nothing much to prepare actually. Because I regard Michael as my friend, so I trusted him. I feel like there is no need for me to build that line of defense because everyone is so professional, and they regard this as part of work.
Jessie Li explains about her nude scenes.
When both of you look back at your work in the film, did you get scared or disgusted by your own performance?
Michael: I didn't feel disgusted, but I do feel that there are parts that can be improved upon. Certain scenes from the film really did scare me though. I had to cover my ears and sometimes close my eyes, because I'm quite a coward and I can't stand blood.
But how did you manage with the gory scenes?
Michael: I was very terrified! Especially for the scene where I had to dismember a body. The organs were real pig and cow organs, and the blood looked and felt so real.
But those things were what helped the actors get into their roles. The other departments worked hard to make the props look realistic, and Jessie had to purposely go to Thailand to measure her body for the fake corpse.
So when I was at the scene, everything there looked super realistic, that scared me!
What about you (to Jessie)? Did your acting scare you?
Jessie: Not really. I just think that it's weird looking back at your own acting. Of course I would try to observe if there's anything that I did wrong or was there any part that I needed to improve on. I also tried to observe the acting of other cast members and learn from them. I'm not like him (referring to Michael), I don't deal with a lot of blood, so I guess I didn't get scared by own performance.
Do you think that after this, both of you would be interested to act in more films?
Michael: Even back when I was doing theatrical acting, I already had chances to act in films, but I'm a bit reluctant to do so because I'm scared of the camera lens. Also, I feel that on camera, my acting looks kind of unnatural and stiff. That's why I didn't participate or audition for film roles.
But after acting in "Port of Call", I feel that this film gave me a lot of joy and satisfaction, and the cast and crew were great. Most importantly, now I want to know more about films, meaning that I don't feel very reluctant anymore. I would love to try it again.
Of course, the main reason that I'm not reluctant anymore is because Christopher Doyle is the one in charge of the camera – it's Christopher Doyle! [laughs] He's world famous!
The three main cast and the director of "Port of Call".
Then why did you finally accept the role in this film? Was it because you know that there'll be a lot of great cast and crew?
Michael: I knew that Christopher Doyle was going to work on it! Later on I got to know that Aaron and Jessie will also be joining and it's such a surprise to know that she is such a beautiful girl. [laughs]
The reason I accepted was because, the film was delayed for quite a while and coincidentally I had an opening in my schedule, so the director called me and asked me if I wanted the role. Then I told him, "if we really shoot this film, can I have rehearsals." Because when I was in theater, we always had rehearsals. So, he agreed and said Aaron would join in as well, but not for the whole week of the rehearsal. So I am quite touched because for me, rehearsals are important. That's actually the reason why I accepted the role.
What about you Jessie, is there a reason why you accepted the role?
Jessie: I think that movie is very industrial; it is something that you have to experience as an actress. The movie that you acted in will somehow shape who you are as an actress. Previously I acted in television dramas, but it doesn't matter how many times or how many dramas I've acted in, I didn't achieve much and I feel that my acting in TV dramas is just very terrible.
I don't know how to solve this problem and I started to doubt whether I'm even suitable to be an actress. But when I started to act in this film, then only did I realize that I can look natural in a film if I want to. This gives me a tiny confidence. It's also because the film was wonderfully handled by the production and crew.
I have low self-confidence but after seeing myself through Christopher Doyle's lens, I noticed that I'm actually quite beautiful! [laughs]
Jessie Li won Best Actress at the 19th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival.
Would you like to focus your career more on movies instead of dramas now?
Cinema Online, 05 December 2015
Jessie: Maybe I'm just not suitable to act in dramas because they have their own requirement of the cast. I wouldn't say that I would focus my career solely on movies, even if I wanted to, it would be useless if the movie doesn't want me.
Sometimes it depends on whether the role suits you or not. If the role doesn't suit you, you won't get the achievement and recognition that you want. It's not worth it and you won't help the movie in any way.
After "Port of Call", did you receive a lot of other film offers?
Jessie: Actually, it is thanks to "Port of Call" that now a lot of people know who we are. Now, I have more job opportunities.
At first when I accepted the role, I never thought that this film would win an award. I didn't have any high expectations for it, I only thought of doing my best in this role and let people know about this real event. But though this film, I have learnt and received so much more and I'm truly grateful.
I've already started on another project but I'm still figuring out on how to improve myself.
Michael: Now, I'm still into theatrical acting and I'm still active with my band. If there's a chance for me to act in more films, I would love to do it. But since I am originally a theater actor and a singer, I would not give up on my other careers just so I can be in movie, I would still do what I love to do.