She was first choice to play the role of a dedicated headmistress in ‘Little Big Master’ because she is now a mum.
MIRIAM Yeung was director Adrian Kwan and producer Benny Chan’s first choice to play the role of a dedicated headmistress in Little Big Master because she is now a mum.
They felt that it gave a better understanding of a character that devoted her life to the education of children, as well as establish a good rapport with the five energetic children she would be acting with.
Yeung gave birth to a boy in 2012 and took part in four movies after that year, which also saw her bagging the Best Actress title at the 32nd Hong Kong Film Awards with Love in the Buff.
But it is in Little Big Master that we see a distinct change in acting style, as it is a role very different from the usual happy-go-lucky girl she portrayed in her previous movies that were mostly comedies.
In this film, she is a quiet, serious and committed forty-something who wants to save five children from losing their right to study because of social and financial factors. Her finesse and naturalness at the role she may be unfamiliar with have impressed sceptics.
This is a far cry from the girl who won the third placing at TVB’s singing competition in 1995. With her active involvement in music and movies, and the outstanding performance that led her to multiple awards and nominations in both fields, she has been compared to the iconic Anita Mui.
The 41-year-old admits that being a mother has helped her grasp the role better. “My son was registering for exams while I took up the role. I did some research at the same time, all these gave me a better understanding of learning and teaching.
“I think I am more patient now, and can express myself better. I feel children are truly our blessings, we must strive to give them the best environment to learn and to grow up in,” she said.
She found this role challenging because it is based on a true story. “How do I portray and impart the spirit of this real person? How do I keep my rendition of this serious subject lively and not sound like I am preaching? All these required coordination among crew members. Also, film adaptation of real events is new to us as it is not a common model in Hong Kong,” she said.
This project means more than just an acting milestone to her. “Humbly, I hope this is a way for me to give back to the society, by getting more people to learn about this kind of selflessness and the real meaning of education.”
“The ‘killing of schools’ is a real problem in Hong Kong. I hope there can be a better understanding between teachers and parents after the release of this film,” she added.
Yeung also repeated several times how much she respected teachers, especially after putting herself in the headmistress’s shoes, which allowed her to really understand the meaning of “leading by example”.
She said one of the most unforgettable scenes was of Lui sending the five children to a public toilet during downpour; after which she was overwhelmed by Lui’s devotion.
The other scene was a home visit, which was shot at the actual location, and Yeung was shaken by the deplorable condition impoverished children had to put up with.
“My father is a teacher, too. He knows about this ‘school-killing’ incident and this is the first time he takes the initiative to watch my movies.”
When asked, Yeung said she gave no thought to winning awards again with this role. “What matters most is whether or not one gives her best in playing the role.”