Hong Kong actress Janice Man says latest role 'emotionally exhausting'

For Hong Kong cinema's rising star Janice Man, playing a victim of kidnap, rape and domestic violence in psychological crime thriller Nessun Dorma threw up unprecedented challenges in the acting department.

The 27-year-old, who scored a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her performance in action flick Helios (2015) at the Hong Kong Film Awards in April, told M that Nessun Dorma "is the most emotionally exhausting role" she has taken on.

"Before we started filming, I read the script and there were times when I doubted myself," said Man in Mandarin.

"I didn't feel confident enough to handle all the emotional nuances of my character."

She sent her answers in an audio recording for our interview.

In Nessun Dorma, which is showing here, Man plays Simin, who develops second thoughts about her arranged marriage to wealthy bachelor Weichen (Lam Ka Tung).

Simin is secretly in love with math prodigy Muzhe (Andy Hui).

Photo: Shaw Organisation

On her way home one night, Simin is attacked and knocked unconscious by a masked stranger.

When she wakes up, she finds herself trapped in a room, nude and tied to a bed.

Is Nessun Dorma the most challenging movie you have done so far?

Yes, definitely. I've acted in other crime thrillers, but Nessun Dorma takes the cake when it comes to emotional heft.

Throughout filming, I felt like I was on an emotional roller-coaster ride. Most of the time, I was feeling so sad and depressed that I hardly interacted with anyone on set.

Which were the most memorable scenes, and why?

The scene where my on-screen husband physically assaulted me was unforgettable. We did it in one take and gosh, it felt so real.

Before the shoot, Ka Tung had expressed concern that he'd hurt me. I told him, "Don't worry, hit me hard, I can take it".

When he landed blows on me, I was stunned. I didn't expect it to be so painful. I remembered I cried and cried, even after the cameras stopped rolling.

Another memorable scene would be the one where I was kidnapped, raped and left in a room.

For that, my emotional state was rather complicated. I felt fear. And because I wasn't wearing anything, I felt really vulnerable. We finished the scene in two days and after that, I was more relieved than anything.

There is a lot of media hype in Hong Kong about your nude scene.

It's natural that people will pay attention to (nudity), but to be honest, my biggest worry when I accepted the role of Simin was how I'd fare with the emotional scenes. What if I couldn't convey the right emotions? To me, that's more stressful.

As for the nude scene, of course it was very challenging too.

I hadn't done something like that prior to Nessun Dorma. The nudity is necessary and crucial to the story, which made me okay with doing it.

I used to think I have a "bottom line" when it comes to acting and that no matter what, I'd never cross the line.

Well, after Nessun Dorma, I've realised that depending on the movie scripts I receive, I am willing to lower my "bottom line". (Laughs)


This article was first published on Nov 9, 2016.
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