Knock, knock, knockin' on Karen's door

Actress-singer Karen Mok, who stars as a police detective in her latest film Man of Tai Chi, says she will not give up her singing career and music fans for a full-time acting career. Now that she has a "role as somebody's wife", she would like to devote her time to that too and be very selective about her film opportunitites.

SINGAPORE - Exotically beautiful and fluent in English and Mandarin, Hong Kong singer-actress Karen Mok (right) could become a big Asian name in Hollywood a la Nikita star Maggie Q, who was once also based in Hong Kong. But the 43-year-old has no plans to pursue that route.

She tells Life! in English: "I've already got quite a few things on my plate. I don't want to give up my singing career in Asia or my fans here. It's not that I'm saying no to Hollywood, but I'm not sure I want to drop everything here and go there to knock on doors."

With a big laugh, she adds: "As everyone puts it, it's now the century of Asia. So if anyone has to knock on doors, it should be them knocking on ours."

It just so happens that her latest film project is one such case of Hollywood a-knockin' on her door, so to speak: The Matrix star Keanu Reeves came to Asia to make American-Chinese co-production Man Of Tai Chi, a gongfu flick set in China about the Chinese martial art of taiji.

Says the actress of Eurasian heritage, who plays a cop in the Canadian actor's directorial debut: "I was thrilled to know that someone like Keanu doing his first movie would choose to do it as a Chinese co-production and shoot it in China.

"I had heard about this project for a few years and really wanted to be a part of it. When I got the phone call and got the role, I think I squealed and jumped around a bit."

More Hollywood studios are collaborating with companies in China, which is the second-largest movie market in the world after the United States. "Keanu made a really clever choice," she says during a media junket in Shanghai.

Mention Reeves' name and she appears a little flustered and immediately starts giggling.

She is clearly fond of him. "I would give him 100 marks - 90 for directing skills and 10 for his good looks," she says, laughing. "He's so good looking and nice and gentlemanly - all of that put together is a bit much."

A little more seriously, she says that working with him was "great" because he empathises with actors.

"He would always want to try out different things and would give you a drama workout even with the simplest shots like turning your head around. I think it helps that he is an actor first. He likes working with actors and he knows how we work."

When they were not filming, she had fun playing music with Reeves, who played bass guitar for the now-defunct alternative rock band Dogstar.

She says: "When I was filming, it was just about the time I was finishing up my jazz album, so I was telling him about it and how I play the guzheng on it. He got so interested and said, 'Why don't you bring your instrument and we can jam together?'

So we did that on our day off and it was a lot of fun. There was no particular purpose to it but we jammed and tried out different sounds with me on the guzheng and him on the bass guitar. It was so cool."

The jazz album she was talking about is Somewhere I Belong, her first English-language album after 20 years as a singer.

It was released earlier this year. After movie promotions are over, she will wrap up filming for another film - "it's an intense drama-suspense thing" from China - and then it is on to preparing for her next touring concert.

As much as she would like to do more movies, she says she has to be "picky" because she has to be a dutiful wife too.

Mok, who married her high-school sweetheart, a German finance executive named Johannes, in late 2011, says: "What I have now already meets the quota I have for movies for this year. I have to be picky about the film opportunities I want to take up.

"Now that I also have a role as somebody's wife, I have to make sure I attend to that as well. I cannot keep on being a workaholic."