“A lot of people have asked me that question,” actress Jojo Goh responds when I ask her if she has thought about pursuing an international career.
It’s a valid question seeing that Goh, who got her start in showbiz after placing third on the Miss Astro Chinese International Pageant in 2006, is at the pinnacle of her acting career in Malaysia.
The porcelain-skinned actress has nabbed lead role after lead role on local Chinese TV shows.
In 2013, the 35-year-old even picked up the Most Promising Actress trophy for her performance in 29 Februari at the prestigious Malaysia Film Festival, Malaysia’s equivalent to the Oscars.
“I’ve been offered opportunities to be stationed overseas before. At the time, my career was really picking up and I wondered if I should really go.
“I’m the type of person who does whatever comes first. If I chose to go overseas, the opportunities aren’t there immediately; I’d have to wait and it can be very uncertain. Whereas here, projects were already coming my way. It didn’t make sense for me to say no (to projects here) and go abroad anyway.”
While Goh chose not to be based overseas, her acting prowess has been attracting international interest over the years.
In 2013, she acted in a Hong Kong-China production that allowed her to work closely with famed Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle. Unfortunately, the project was not released.
In 2015, Goh landed the golden opportunity to be a voice actress for Maggie Cheung’s character in the remastered version of Peter Chan Ho Sun’s Comrades: Almost A Love Story.
The film was banned in China for many years and the remastered version marked the first time it was shown there.
“They were looking for people across China, Singapore and Hong Kong for two months already. My friend told me to give it a try since I have this deep voice that resembles Maggie Cheung’s voice, and I got it.
“It was tough, you’re just watching a screen, you’re not acting with your body but you have to act like you’re in her body,” she recalls the experience.
Last year, Goh starred in Hong Kong horror film The Sleep Curse opposite Anthony Wong. She talks about what she learned from the renowned veteran actor.
“I like his straightforwardness. Sometimes, we Malaysians put friendliness first and professionalism next. So as long as you’re friendly and you smile all the time, your co-workers love you for that. But whether or not you can perform, it’s a different story.
“I appreciate straightforwardness, if you don’t like something or if something cannot be done, tell me straight away instead of beating around the bush trying to make me feel good. Then we have more time refining our craft,” Goh says. The actress shares her next international project begins in Singapore but will take her all the way to Russia.
“I’m going to start filming a Singaporean production soon. It’s an indie road series where the characters travel to faraway places in search of their identity.
“Our journey will start in Singapore. The characters will travel to Beijing, go on the Trans-Siberian Railway, pass by Mongolia and end in Russia,” she explains.
Goh will play a character caught in a love triangle with two fellow travellers. Filming – which spans about a month – will take place both on the train and at the various stops throughout their journey.
“They’ve pre-empted me that some of these places we’re going to won’t have proper hotels. And it’s going to be physically challenging because there’ll be a lot of walking and a bit of hiking. They asked me ‘can tahan (stand it) or not?’ I said ‘of course!’”
Goh’s determination comes from the fact that she’s used to taking on physically-demanding roles on TV.
For instance, she has played a cop and a private investigator for local Chinese dramas On The Brink and Persona respectively. Both shows ran for two seasons.
“Yes, actually. How come? Do I project that kind of image?” she says with a laugh when asked if she often finds herself playing these tough, action roles.
The actress adds she is athletic in real-life and performs her own stunts on set 90% of the time.
Her latest drama, My Sensei Nyonya, however, sees Goh flexing her acting muscles more.
The period drama, shot a year ago at the Pinang Peranakan Mansion (in Penang), has Goh’s character infiltrating the mansion of a wealthy family, disguising as a cook. A member of the family killed her father years ago and she plans to exact revenge.
“All her life, she’s had this responsibility to seek revenge for her family. So when she first stepped into the mansion and saw her enemy, of course, at first, she wanted to kill him.
“But naturally, she’s a kind person so she wanted to find out more about this person. When she gets to know him better, she feels drawn to him,” Goh explains her character’s motivations.
She talks about the challenges of playing the conflicted character: “So there’s a lot of turmoil going on inside but I can’t show them. My expressions have to be subtle yet noticeable.
“I have to inject the right amount of emotions. If it’s too dramatic, my character is exposed. If I give too little, my character becomes very flat.”
As for the road ahead, the actress says she has been toying with the idea of trying her luck overseas again.
“I thought of this a year ago. So whether it’s China or Hollywood, I’ll just go and document that whole process of me taking up an acting course and knocking on doors.
“I want see if it brings me to another level. If it doesn’t, I’ll come back and have these materials to share with people.”
My Sensei Nyonya airs Mondays to Thursdays at 9.30pm on 8TV.