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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Cathy Ang, Phillipa Soo on playing Chinese characters in Over the Moon: It’s validating

Over the Moon, helmed by Oscar-winner Glen Keane is a retelling of a popular Chinese fable. Cathy Ang and Philipa Soo voice the lead characters of Fei Fei and Chang'e in the film.

Written by Priyanka Sharma | Mumbai | October 23, 2020 12:47:54 pm
over the moon netflix cathy ang phillipa soo glen keaneCathy Ang and Phillipa Soo, the lead actors of Over the Moon, talk about important of diverse representation. (Photo: Instagram/cathyang/glenkeane/phillipasoo)

In Netflix’s Over the Moon, actors Cathy Ang and Phillipa Soo found not only great characters but also an opportunity to share their reality with the world. Over the Moon is an American-Chinese animation film that retells a popular Chinese fable about the moon goddess Chang’e.

For both the women, who are half-Chinese, Over the Moon is the first time they are playing Chinese characters. Here, Cathy Ang voices 12-year-old Fei Fei, and Phillipa Soo voices Chang’e.

As the Glen Keane directorial premieres on Netflix, Cathy Ang and Phillipa Soo speak to indianexpress.com about how Over the Moon empowers them and also makes them hopeful that an all Asian cast will encourage inclusivity.

What about the script spoke to you?

Cathy Ang: It’s a gift to be able to share a part of my heritage with this story. That was really meaningful for me and also, Fei Fei is a wonderful role model for people. I hope kids look up to her and connect with her. She is incredibly smart, logical, so driven and maybe a little stubborn. But more than anything, she is motivated by love for her family. Watching these two very different characters (Fei Fei and Chang’e) just come together in the end and lift each other up, that’s so powerful. So, I fell in love with the story the first time I read the script. Maybe in like the first four pages! But I really feel the world will be happy to meet these characters.

Phillipa Soo: I was so touched by the journey that Fei Fei and Chang’e take together. I am half Chinese and this was the first time I was playing a character that was written as a Chinese. I was so proud and honoured to be a part of it.

Does being a part of a project like Over the Moon make you feel more seen not only as artistes but also as people, given you are a part of a story that’s personal to you and a part of your lived reality?

Cathy Ang: Absolutely! Like Phillipa, this is the first time I am getting to play a Chinese character and I am Chinese-Filipino and I grew up with the story of Chang’e and I learned about her in the Chinese school. Seeing these little bits and parts of my culture on screen is validating. People everywhere deserve to see themselves and feel validated on screen.

 

Phillipa Soo: I am 100 percent behind the idea of more stories from more places and people. Let’s hear them, let’s go on a journey we have never gone on before. When we open our minds to a person or a place that we may be unfamiliar with, we are stretching our ability to have empathy and to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes. It’s a practice, an exercise and we have to get better at it.

It needs more representation in front of the camera and also behind it. We are definitely seeing that trend and I am excited to be a part of this film because whatever project I work on in future, I’ll remember about this film that how dedicated everybody was to tell this story authentically, to bring everything they had to offer and to just find joy in it and be excited about to share with other people.

What I loved about Over the Moon was how these two women, one a 12-year-old girl mourning the loss of her mother and other dealing with lost love, find sisterhood in the strangest circumstances. It was empowering to see both of them freeing each other from loss and pain.

Cathy Ang: It feels these characters are so different from each other but actually we are seeing them both holding on to something that they have lost. That can put them at odds with each other but it’s only when they are challenging each other over this, the way they are dealing with their grief, that they can come together.

So, it’s interesting that in challenging each other, they learnt to take care of each other. That’s a really cool message, and very common, in at least, the women I have relationships with, my sisters and I. That’s how you grow, by coaching each other through difficult times. It’s exciting to play these headstrong women.

Phillipa: It’s a perfect example of being able to find this gift that you might be looking for in a very unexpected place and in a very unexpected person and if that’s a lesson in opening your eyes and heart to things that aren’t within your vision, to be able to reach out to somebody. It’s powerful. Maybe it’s something we all need to do a little bit more of in order to connect with each other better.

Over the Moon is streaming on Netflix.

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