Monday, September 23, 2013

Aussie finds ‘Serangoon Road’ role a unique history lesson

(Published Sept. 20, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Australian actor Don Hany found starring in HBO’s “Serangoon Road” a unique history lesson, one that made his mostly Asian costars’ traits rub off on him.

“Without a doubt… I noticed particularly Asian politeness, or patience towards work… I really enjoyed letting Asian sensibilities affect me,” Hany said during a teleconference with journalists from the region.

The actor, 37, previously appeared in Australian shows “White Collar Blue,” “Offspring,” and “East West 101.”  He plays ex-soldier Sam Callaghan in “Serangoon Road,” a coproduction between HBO Asia and ABC TV. Set in 1960s Singapore, the 10-part series brings Sam to various historical locations, including the enigmatic Chinatown district.

Joan Chen and Don Hany
“The character really only felt at home in Chinatown,” he said. “He’s a guy on the run, from himself and from his origin. Life with him is sort of one big trap. He’s trying to avoid being pinned down to anything, whether it’s the place, religion, or the people around him.”

But Sam, Hany added, will connect more with some Asian characters, despite his attitude. “He doesn’t want to be associated with the expats. So it’s interesting that he wants to be associated only with Asians.”

Playing the character introduced him to various cultures as well: “It’s hard not to take on some of the things; I enjoyed learning a bit of Mandarin, which is pretty basic stuff. I think it’s such a beautiful language.”

Hany revealed that his costar, distinguished Chinese-American actress Joan Chen, brought a different discipline to the “Serangoon Road” set. Chen’s character Patricia runs a detective agency and works with Sam.

“Joan is cinema royalty in Australia, China and even the United States,” Hany enthused. “She brings a completely different energy and entity to the work when she comes to the set. The way she approached the job at hand… she’s much more thorough. She has a very Asian sensibility about her, which informed the way we continued to shoot in a really positive way. I can’t thank her enough for the influence on the production, on me, and on the cast.”

Hany also appreciated working at the 1960s Chinatown set in Batam, Indonesia: “We were blessed with a great designer… it’s a magical set to walk in. There were whole streets that were so specific to the period. Walking onto the set was a wonderful entry point for getting the right rhythm and getting into gear for the work every day. I just had so much fun, thinking about the wonderland that I, a Westerner, would find myself in, walking down the main street of Chinatown in Singapore in the 1960s.”

(“Serangoon Road” premieres on Sunday, 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO HD.)

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