TV review: Hakka sister strikes a chord

TV review: Hakka sister strikes a chord

Hong Kong drama series Hakka Sisters is airing two years after it was first produced, but its themes could not be more relevant to the times.

In the light of the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, where residents have been concerned about losing their identity to China, the show about the cultural clash between the two places have struck a chord in local audiences since its premiere there a few weeks ago. Much praise has been heaped on the show in the city, where viewers say it "speaks our mind".

Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung Ho Yee, 45, who plays one of the leads in the show, certainly understands its appeal, despite her initial concerns.

"I was a bit nervous about how audiences would respond to the show before it aired because it has been a long time since it was filmed.

"But I've heard news of the good response and I'm really happy about it. I think audiences can identify with my character in the show because she is a really typical Hong Kong girl. Viewers probably have friends like her in real life or are just like her themselves, so when they watch the show, they really enjoy it," she tells Life! over the telephone in Mandarin.

In the series, she plays a Hong Kong public relations consultant who, in one episode, bristles at the fact that the restaurant's menu is written in simplified Chinese instead of traditional, signifying that it has changed in order to cash in on the Chinese tourist dollar.

She then has to collaborate with her estranged big sister (played by Prudence Liew) from their hometown of Dongguan, China, on a big project, which brings out all of their cultural differences.

Critics have pointed out that despite the show's thorny issues, it never takes sides, merely reflecting real issues.

Says Cheung: "I was drawn to the script because all of the characters are so true to life and authentic. The show reflects all of the impressions and some would say, misconceptions, that Hong Kong people have about the mainland Chinese, and vice versa.

"So, more than it being just a really compelling story, I liked how the show has some important messages behind it too. As soon as I read the script, I knew I wanted to take on the role."

In Hong Kong, the series is available on the Internet viewing service by TV station HKTV. It was originally meant for broadcast on the goggle box as part of a planned free-to-air channel, but the government denied the station a licence.

Cheung, a freelancer who was formerly signed to Hong Kong's main broadcaster TVB, still sees value in the show even though it is available only online there.

"When the show is on the Internet, viewers can catch it any time, anywhere. They are not limited by a scheduled time slot.

"So I actually quite like this viewing option. I'm not concerned about things like the pressure of viewership ratings. I just hope audiences can enjoy the show."

For all of her character's prejudices about mainland China, the actress is certainly more than open about working up north, which reportedly pays better and offers better working conditions than in Hong Kong.

Last year, she starred in China period drama Legend Of Lu Zhen alongside popular Chinese actress Zanilia Zhao. This year, she appeared in China drama Sound Of The Desert with China A-lister Cecilia Liu Shishi.

She says: "I will be splitting my time between Hong Kong and China and might even want to spend more time in China. There are just so many more opportunities there right now and I hope to work with many more wonderful actors from China."

Would the bachelorette consider dating a man from China too?

She laughs and says: "I don't know, I haven't really thought about that. Love has no geographical boundaries."

yipwy@sph.com.sg

Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter@STyipwaiyee

Hakka Sisters airs on cHK On Demand (SingTel mio TV Channel 511).


This article was first published on Dec 31, 2014.
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