Malaysian actress Serene Lim is having a good year.
After winning the Miss Astro Chinese International Pageant in 2016, the 22-year-old made her acting debut early this year as the lead on Think Big Big, a Malaysian Mandarin-language film helmed by famed OlaBola director Chiu Keng Guan.
Lim is set to star in another high-profile project, the film adaptation of Tan Twan Eng’s award-winning novel The Garden Of Evening Mists, which boasts an international cast including Japanese actor Hiroshi Abe (After The Storm), British actors John Hannah (The Mummy), David Oakes (The Borgias, Victoria) and Malaysia’s very own Lee Sinje (The Eye).
“I’m so lucky and honoured to be a part of this film. It’s only my second film and I get to work with such big-name casts,” says Lim at a press event in Kuala Lumpur to promote the film.
Directed by Tom Lin, The Garden Of Evening Mists begins with protagonist Yun Ling’s quest to build a garden in honour of her sister Yun Hong, who was a prisoner of war at a Japanese internment camp in Malaya in the 1950s.
She seeks the help of Nakamura Aritomo, once a gardener to a Japanese emperor, who passes his time tending to his garden Yugiri (which means “evening mists”) in Cameron Highlands.
“My character loves Japanese gardens and I have zero knowledge on them,” shares Lim, who poured her heart into researching for her role, Yun Hong.
“As there aren’t many books about Japanese gardens in the bookstore, I bought them online just to find that passion for gardening and understand what it’s all about. I learnt about the placement of the stones, for example. It’s fun to explore new things.”
Lim adds she has only experienced a day of filming The Garden Of Evening Mists so far.
“I was standing in a shallow river in that scene. It was a late night shoot and towards the end of the shoot, someone found out there were two snakes in the river,” she recalls with a laugh. “Luckily we were almost done shooting.”
Asked how she feels about starting her career with such high-profile projects, Lim responds: “It depends on how you see it. If you start small, you have more opportunities to improve yourself.
“If you start big, if the opportunity is here and you’re not ready for it, you have to put in extra work to reach that level.”
After completing The Garden Of Evening Mists, the actress reveals she will return to Hong Kong, where she is now based at.
Lim has signed a contract with TVB (Television Broadcasts Limited), a leading Hong Kong TV station best known for its Cantonese dramas.
She spent two weeks auditioning for TVB dramas before flying home to film The Garden Of Evening Mists.
The actress talks about taking the risk to venture abroad although her career in Malaysia is rapidly taking off.
“I think it’s a great learning path. I start slowly and learn things step by step. It’s the kind of experience where, even if I don’t succeed in Hong Kong, it will help me in my future acting roles.”
Lim, who grew up watching TVB dramas, adds: “I want to explore further and see the differences between working in Hong Kong and Malaysia.”