Charlene Choi says her sexy, challenging role in new movie has been a long time coming

There is much hype over Charlene Choi's steamy bed scenes with veteran actor Simon Yam in their new movie Sara, which topped the box office when it opened in Hong Kong last week.

The actress stresses, however, that she did not choose to bare flesh for her new movie Sara to show off her sexy side. Rather, the 32-year-old star says she signed on to the controversial project as she was moved by the story.

The film, which opens in cinemas here next week, looks at the plight of underage prostitutes. Choi plays an investigative journalist who was once sexually abused by her stepfather before she got involved in a sexual relationship with a much older, married man (Yam).

Speaking in Mandarin to Life! and other Singapore media over the telephone on Tuesday, she says: "It's important for an actress to be challenged, to put one's self out there and play all sorts of roles.

"But I did this movie because of the story and I understood that showing skin was necessary for my role. If it was a movie that was purely exploitative of sex, then I would never have agreed to it."

In any case, the actress has been getting acclaim over the role, the latest being a Special Mention at the Osaka Asian Film Festival on Sunday. She has also nabbed a Best Actress prize at the Macau International Film Festival last December, and is up for Best Actress at the Hong Kong Film Awards next month.

"The awards are not the most important to me at this point. I'm just happy that a lot of the veteran actors have praised me for the role, and I really feel more encouraged by that.

"Whether I win any more awards is beside the point. This role is still a milestone in my career, that's for sure."

The role is certainly the most adventurous yet for the star who has long had the reputation of being a goody-two-shoes.

Choi, who is one half of pop duo Twins alongside Gillian Chung, is better known for playing fluffy comedic roles in films such as The Midas Touch (2013) and My Sassy Hubby (2012).

She says: "I've been waiting for the opportunity to play this kind of serious role for a long time and I'm just really grateful to the director and producer for giving me the chance.

"I hope that this won't be the last. I definitely wish to do more of such worthy projects in the years to come."

She was reportedly cast in the role by executive producer Chapman To, an actor who is also her longtime friend and co-star in films such as Let's Go For Love (2014).

Choi says: "I haven't asked him why I was picked, but I just feel very thankful to him. A lot of times, for a good role to come your way, it also has to do with chance and good timing.

"Even if you had given me this role five years ago, I wouldn't have been able to handle it. That the time is now, for someone like me who has been in the industry for over a decade, couldn't be better."

She discloses that her actor boyfriend William Chan Wai Ting, however, has yet to watch the film. "He's busy filming a movie right now, so he hasn't had the time to see it. But anyway, he has no issues with me doing this kind of movie - he understands it's part of work."

Her mother, on the other hand, is a fan of the work. "I took my mother to see it and when it ended, her eyes were swollen. As a mother, she was moved by the story. And that makes me feel so proud."

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Sara opens in cinemas next Thursday.