Television host Quan Yifeng (below), 41, used to think cosplay was silly when she saw old men in Japan do it. She could not understand why cosplayers here dressed up and wore wigs in the hot weather, just to look like manga and anime characters.
She has since changed the way she feels about cosplay. She says in Mandarin: "Now, I admire their dedication in immersing themselves in it. In the past, I was not familiar with manga and anime."
In the new film Young & Fabulous, she plays a mother who initially objects to her son's (Aloysius Pang) interest in cosplay and costume designing but later grows to accept it.
Quan and co-star Gurmit Singh were among the cast at the film's Start-Of-Principal Photography press conference yesterday.
It is Singapore's first cosplay-themed film and is directed by Kelvin Sng, whose debut film Taxi! Taxi! (2013) grossed $1.43 million.
The new film also stars veteran Henry Thia, and young talents Pang, Joshua Tan and Joyce Chu, better known as Malaysia Cha Bor from the YouTube video she made of herself that went viral.
The film is a coming-of-age story of a group of teenage friends who do cosplay activities together and overcome obstacles to fulfil their dreams. Principal photography starts on April 15 and costumes tailored by actual cosplayers will be featured in the film, which has a production budget of $1.2 million and is targeted to be released in November.
This is the first film in which Quan has a major role since playing a China bride in local director Eric Khoo's 12 Storeys (1997). She says she "had a shock" when she heard about her role and adds: "I'm much more comfortable with hosting."
She says: "As a host and actress, I hone my craft by observing the man on the street. While hosts emulate a person's outward gestures, actors think of the deeper reasons behind those actions. I'm going to need my director's guidance."
Funnyman Singh, 50, plays Mr Boo, a discipline master who appears strict but really cares for his students - a first for him. The father of three says: "It's definitely a challenge as I'm a fun-loving father in real life. But that's why I like the role, as it allows audiences to see me in a different light."
On cosplay, he says: "It allows people to be someone they wouldn't necessarily be in real life and not be judged for it. If my children want to go into cosplay, I'd be a hypocrite to say no." After all, one of his first jobs involved donning a costume to portray a mythological figure at Haw Par Villa.
His eldest daughter, Gabrielle, 18, studies at the School of the Arts, and his son, Elliot, 14, is enrolled at the School of Science and Technology. He also has a two-year-old daughter, Mikaela.
How would he feel if they wanted to join show business too? He says: "They can take up any career, as long as they're happy doing it."
Quan agrees. Her daughter, Eleanor, 16, recently appeared in a commercial for Apple China. She says: "If someone recognises her talent, why not? But I wouldn't want her to try so hard for a role. She loves fashion design. I hope she won't give up on her dream to have her own clothes label one day."
Referring to the young in Singapore, Singh says the notion of an easily bruised "strawberry generation" may not be accurate or fair. "Although our youth may not have to do hard manual labour like their forefathers, our society is more labour- intensive in terms of the mind. For example, Singapore is becoming an arts and IT hub," he says.
"I've met some young people and they are okay. There are bad eggs in every generation. It's just that their wrongdoings are amplified on social media today."
On 16-year-old Amos Yee, who was charged in court for attacking Christianity and making offensive remarks about the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew in an online video, Singh says: "When a child goes wayward, I think of how his upbringing was like and if his parents were there to impart the right values."
This article was first published on April 2, 2015.
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