The Life List: Taiwanese stars pick up Singlish for Hungry Souls series

The cast of Hungry Souls: From Hell, With Love, directed by Singaporean film-makers Meng Ong and Caleb Huang. PHOTO: CJ ENM HK

SINGAPORE - The Taiwanese cast of Hungry Souls: From Hell, With Love learnt to speak like Singaporeans while filming the series here.

Set during the Hungry Ghost Festival, the five-part mini-series is a supernatural romance which toggles between the present time and the 1970s.

It is directed by Singaporean film-makers Meng Ong and Caleb Huang and written by a team of scriptwriters including Malaysian director Ho Yuhang. Home-grown director Eric Khoo is the executive producer.

The show, starring Taiwanese actors Rexen Cheng, Christina Mok and Danny Lee, and local actors Richard Low, Ayden Sng, Hayley Woo and Fang Rong, is by the Hong Kong offshoot of South Korean entertainment conglomerate CJ ENM.

It is in the midst of filming and will be sold to streaming platforms when completed.

Here are four things to know about it.

Spooky story

In Hungry Souls, a female ghost named Soo Lian (Mok) has been wandering the mortal plane for 50 years in search of her true love Hock (Cheng), whom she believes is still alive. She meets Bao (Lee), a catering chef with the ability to see spirits.

With a story touching on spirits, the Hungry Ghost Festival and reincarnation, the cast keep an open mind when it comes to the supernatural.

At a press conference for the series held at York Hotel, local veteran Richard Low, 69, says: "It's not that I'm superstitious, it's that I've lived until this age and I've definitely had things that I couldn't explain happen to me."

He plays a superstitious boss of a catering company.

No fear of Covid

For Cheng, the opportunity for Hungry Souls came at just the right time. The 39-year-old Taiwanese star, who is known for his Golden Horse Award-nominated performance in mafia movie Gatao - The Last Stray (2021), arrived in Singapore fresh off another acting gig in Malaysia.

He will film his scenes for Hungry Souls in Batam, Indonesia. Cheng is unfazed about the possibility of contracting Covid-19 through his travels.

"I'm worried about it only insofar as it affects the production schedules of my projects. People catch the flu all the time. There are germs in the water we drink - we don't stop doing the things we do anyway."

The cast (clockwise from bottom left) Rexen Cheng, Fang Rong, Richard Low, Hayley Woo, Danny Lee and Christina Mok. PHOTO: CJ ENM HK

Learning to speak like a local

While the series is partially shot in Batam for its period scenes, the story is primarily set in Singapore and the Taiwanese stars had to learn to sound more local.

Lee (The Diam Diam Era, 2020), whose father is Malaysian but was raised in Taiwan, says he was corrected for not sounding Singaporean enough.

"My big homework was switching up my accent to a Singaporean one, so I spent my first seven days here just hanging out with the crew and practising how they speak, like: "Makan, makan, supper." Makan is Malay for eat.

Bold role for Ayden Sng

Key cast member Sng, who was not able to attend the press conference, says in a separate telephone interview that Hungry Souls is a "complete departure" for him.

The 28-year-old, who is part of the drama's 1970s arc, plays Kok Yew, a younger version of Low's catering company boss.

"I usually act in very upright, boy-next-door roles, but this time, I'm playing someone who's a lot more rugged. He's a gangster involved in the 1970s secret societies," he says.

And his character harbours romantic feelings towards best pal Hock. Sng says he hopes to do justice to the more-than-brothers storyline.

"He's not very aware of it at first, although he does detect his feelings over time. To him, it's more than just friendship and that struggle is what I'm looking forward to playing."

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