Following a remarkable career in film and television, acclaimed Singaporean actress Fiona Xie has made her Hollywood debut with a role in the hit romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians. Nominated for the recent 25th Screen Actors Guild Awards for the outstanding performance of the cast in a motion picture, Jon Chu’s film has been commended for its Asian-centric storyline and casting, significantly adding to the conversation around representation and inclusion in the film industry.
Fiona Xie plays the role of charming, bubbly Kitty Pong, and she does it with commitment to the story and a belief in her character’s underlying complexity. The future is certainly bright, both for Kitty, whose role expands in the upcoming sequel, and for Fiona, whose comeback is welcome and momentous and marked by spectacular red-carpet appearances, under the impeccable guidance of her Fashion Director, Zadrian Smith.
Elena Stanciu: You started working at a very young age, and then had a hiatus in your career. Now you're enjoying your Hollywood debut – what prompted your comeback? Are you here to stay?
Fiona Xie: Yes, I did take some time away, simply because I was working too much and felt like I had no life. I wanted to be a “normal” person and tried to lead more of a low-key life. It's strange how things turned out, though, because no matter how hard I tried to run away, this world keeps coming back to kidnap me. I like to think that this is how it was meant to be – entertainment runs through my veins.
No one can predict the future, there is no formula for success in this industry. There are incredibly talented people working hard to make magic happen and sometimes they hit the jackpot, as it happened with Crazy Rich Asians. No one expected it to become such a milestone in Hollywood and play a role in paving the way for more Asian-centric stories and voices to be heard. But it did and it is moments like these that make it all worthwhile.
ES: What did you learn while being away from the industry? What was the hardest part about it?
FX: It felt like a cathartic experience, as I was trying to find myself. I've led so many different lives, incessantly, through different scripts and characters. Having no call sheet and script to dictate my day was not the freedom I thought I had wanted. The difficult part was that I felt out of control, because suddenly it wasn’t planned out.
ES: Crazy Rich Asians is a beautiful, uplifting story that comes at a time when it's probably needed the most. What was it about this project that convinced you to take the role?
FX: Jon Chu, the film director, is a convincing visionary. I tried to escape but he didn't take no for an answer.
ES: Your character, the charming and perky Kitty Pong, is definitely a stand-out, although her story line leaves us thinking there's more to her than meets the eye. How do you feel about Kitty? Were there any challenges in bringing this character to life? What can you tell us about her evolution in the upcoming sequel?
FX: Kitty Pong is indeed a character; the fun-loving life of the party with Amy Winehouse hair – the higher the hair, the closer to God! I like to think of her as the "pretty woman" of our generation. She is the most vulnerable and raw character, who wears her heart on her sleeve. Her character arc is the most volatile and has significant change in Kevin Kwan's trilogy. We see her evolving into a powerful society darling in the last two volumes of the story. She is the centre of some iconic scenes, and I am truly excited to see them unfolding in the sequel.
ES: Today we witness paradigm-shifting times for cinema and television, when filmmakers and storytellers come often under scrutiny for how they handle culturally sensitive themes and stories. How do experience this, having recently re-joined the ranks?
FX: There have always been shortcomings to the industry, some more dramatic than others, but all affecting us to some degree. I am inspired by the forward-moving mindset used today to approach these issues, and I look forward to an improved world. The power of films and dialogue is central to these efforts, as stories bring us closer to each other and make us more tolerant. You can never please everyone, and there will always be people holding tight to the past, but it’s a good sign that we focus so many conversations and productions on more equality and inclusivity.
ES: What are you excited about for 2019?
FX: The Fiona revolution!