Carmen Soo gets serious with Stephanie Yap about life after marriage, giving back to society, what acting means to her and the new, exciting business that’s on everyone’s lips.
It says everything about Carmen Soo when she arrives for our interview in a plain T-shirt, black midi skirt and flip flops, her hair tied back in a loose ponytail – she’s just a regular Jane at heart. But to the outside world, the talented actress is an awe-inspiring figure and a role model. At 38, she has accomplished things that most people can only dream of – a cameo role in a Hong Kong film (Gorgeous) alongside Jackie Chan and Shu Qi, acting gigs in the Philippines that earned her international recognition, and the Most Promising Actress award at the 2006 Malaysian Film Festival for her breakthrough role in The 3rd Generation. These are only some of the pivotal moments in Carmen’s successful career.
The model turned actress recently entered another phase in life: marriage. Last October, Carmen and Benson Tan tied the knot in Bali, Indonesia. Singer Nicholas Teo, Carmen’s good friend, officiated the wedding. The newlywed reveals that she’s planning to expand her family in the near future. How else has marriage changed her? “To be honest, it’s the same as before. Just that I’m a bit more careful about taking (acting) roles that might take up too much time away from home, because the priority has shifted,” she answers.
“Back when I was younger, all I could think about was work, work and work. But now things have changed. I don’t just want to work, I want to be involved in good projects and that means turning down lots of not-so-desirable roles. I don’t mean to sound cocky, but I’ve been working for more than 20 years now and I’ve spent the past decade just trying things out. It’s time to focus on things that actually make me happy,” she says.
Giving back to society
Speaking of good projects, for the past year, Carmen has taken on a challenging but meaningful role that changed her perspective towards life. “I shot a movie last year titled Orang Itu. It’s basically a social film that centres on the plight of the homeless in Malaysia,” she enthuses. Produced and director by Low Ngai Yuen, Orang Itu is set for release by the end of â€‹the year. To provide more insight into the movie, Ngai Yuen tasked Carmen and a co-writer to author a book about the lives of the homeless. “From January to June this year, we did a series of interviews with the homeless, to tell their stories for them. Ngai Yuen thinks that there isn’t enough emphasis on them. It was quite an experience for me to interview them and to see how they live,” she says.
“My perception of why people are homeless has changed,” she expresses. How so? Carmen ponders for a bit before answering, “I had a very ignorant perception of them. I thought they are lazy and don’t want to work; that they’re content with life as long as they have a place to stay and food to eat, because soup kitchens will provide them with free meals. But there are a lot of people who don’t have a choice (about being homeless),” she says with sorrow. “For example, there is an old woman who is constantly being physically abused by her daughter, so she keeps running away from home and sleeps under the bridge. When the officers come and sapu (remove) the homeless, they will send her back to her daughter. And the cycle begins all over again,” she shares, recalling the interview that she did months ago with the victim. She cites this story as the one that touched her the most and convinced her to take on the project.
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