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Anthony Chen initially did not have Yeo Yann Yann in mind for 'Wet Season'.

By Flora  /  26 Nov 2019 (Tuesday)

Even more so when he confirmed Koh Jia Ler for the role as the Wei Lun, the teenager who fosters an unlikely friendship with his teacher, Ling, played by Yeo Yann Yann. 

Last Saturday, the Malaysian actress won the coveted Best Actress title at the Golden Horse Awards with her performance in ‘Wet Season’, a performance that we can only call outstanding. 

Yeo was also awarded the ‘Inspiring Woman in Film Award’ on Thursday, presented by Swarovski at the opening of the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF). To add on to her accolades, she has already received the Fei Mu Best Actress prize at the 3rd Pingyao International Film Festival for her role in Wet Season last month. 

Wet Season garnered 6 Golden Horse nominations including Best Narrative Feature, Best Director (Anthony Chen), Best Supporting Actor (Yang Shi Bin and Koh Jia Ler), Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress (Yeo Yann Yann). 

When Chen approached her for the role of Ling, he even told her: “I feel that you are not suitable for the role, but do have a read of the script,” Chen said at the interview in Singapore last Thursday, during the film’s promotional event in Singapore. 

He continued: “She came down and we did a screen test, ran through a few scenes together and we said that we will make this character work. To be really honest, I was just really desperate. I think Yeo Yann Yann is probably one of or the best actresses of her generation in the Malaysia-Singapore region. I don't even need to vouch for her because her performance speaks for itself.”

To find the right boy for his film, Chen sought out over hundreds of boys and even went to schools to search for his actor. But as fate would have it, Koh Jia Ler’s photo landed in his lap - through an Instagram post. 

Image credit: Giraffe Pictures

“I initially wanted a fresh face, as I did for Ilo Ilo. My casting team and I went to a lot of Secondary schools and met with a few hundred teenagers. We did workshops for many months over the weekends but we couldn’t quite find someone suitable to play Wei Lun. And then I literally discovered him again on Instagram. He was wearing a school uniform and I was like, “This boy has a lot of screen charisma.” I told my team to get him in, and little did we know that the boy is actually Koh Jia Ler. I didn’t recognise him at first. We brought him in, did a few weeks of workshop and very soon we discovered that it has to be him. I couldn't’ see any other possibility.”

What Chen was looking for that he found in Jia Ler was his fearlessness in this teenager. “Most Singaporean kids are generally very self-conscious and very aware. They are sort of worried about getting it wrong or how they have been perceived. For me, I want someone who doesn’t care,” shared Chen, adding: “Fortunately or unfortunately for me, Jia Ler is someone that doesn’t care. He is gifted in a certain way because he doesn’t think too much about it. He doesn’t overanalyse his character or the situation and when he does it, it becomes so natural.” 

Wet Season opens InCinemas 28 October 2019.
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