Boss lady: Joanne Peh on making her directorial debut and growing old in showbiz
The newly minted Singapore ambassador of Ultherapy tells CNA Lifestyle why she sees it as her duty to inject new life – and, most important, diversity – into Singapore’s entertainment scene.
It is a truism that interesting roles for older actresses are hard to come by. Singaporean actress Joanne Peh has her mind set on changing that, but that doesn’t mean it comes without its fair share of problems.
“I think there is a role for every age group,” Peh told CNA Lifestyle. “It’s only whether people can see that.”
The actress and mum of two has taken on the challenge of trying her hand at scriptwriting and directing, as part of a web series of 30-minute short films titled Fresh Takes. This special incubator Mediacorp project also sees the likes of other actors such as Priscelia Chan go behind the scenes to direct their self-penned scripts and bring it to life.
Peh set out to write a role for a “successful, confident 45-year-old-woman who seems to have it all – except for the fact that she is dealing with insecurities”. The project is currently in pre-production, with the actual shoot slated to take place in March.
The first-time director is determined to cast all new faces in her short film – that’s if she can find a fresh-faced, middle-aged woman who looks her age. “You have to cast someone [new to the industry] that is believable… and then you realise you can’t find that person!” she said. “Because they all look 35!”
“I couldn’t find an early-40s new face who had that certain kind of confidence – who also hasn’t had work done,” she shared candidly. “Everyone I saw online while I was mining for talents on Instagram… They all had something done to their face.”
The mug upgrades, said Peh, have an actual impact on performances. “In terms of expression and the range of emotions you can have on screen, it’s limited.”
STRENGTH IN DIVERSITY
A treatment like this is for prolonging our youth. But it doesn’t alter the face in an artificial way. You’ll still age – but how you age is what matters. You want to age gracefully.
That’s not to say Peh herself isn’t interested in looking youthful for as long as she can.
As the newly minted Singapore ambassador of Ultherapy – a non-invasive aesthetic treatment which uses ultrasound energy to stimulate collagen – she believes in aging gracefully.
“A treatment like this is for prolonging our youth. But it doesn’t alter the face in an artificial way,” she said. “You’ll still age – but how you age is what matters. You want to age gracefully. And even with lines. That is just part of life.”
Peh believes there is a “certain image or look” that is expected in the entertainment industry – and that it is extremely limiting.
“We all aspire to be a certain way. But I think our industry would be a lot more exciting if we had more people of all shapes and sizes, skin colours and ages,” she said. “And more importantly, it’s for everyone to be comfortable their own skin.”
This, said Peh, is exactly what she is fighting for in her directorial debut.
I want to inject more diversity into the industry. You don’t have to look a certain way – you just have to be able to do a good job of it.
“A regular person with no experience can do a good job. And hopefully from there, people will start to embrace the fact that we should include more diversity in our roles. And write more for these people,” said Peh.
“I’m at that level when I want to be able to do that. And I think I should. Because if someone who has paid her dues and has come to this stage isn’t doing it, then who is going to do it? Then what is going to happen to our industry?”
“That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. I want to inject more diversity into the industry,” she said. “You don’t have to look a certain way – you just have to be able to do a good job of it.”
Advice that should be applied to every career, really. Not just acting.