Qi Yuwu on relating to his character in new thriller: 'I used to keep everything inside'

Jan Lee
The Straits Times
December 4, 2023

Actor Qi Yuwu plays a father and husband who keeps a tight lid on his feelings and just wants to provide for his family in Come Closer, a new 1980s-set Channel 5 thriller.

But in real life, the 47-year-old says he is expressive with his love.

The China-born, Singapore-based star is married to home-grown actress Joanne Peh, 40, and they have an eight-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son. 

He tells The Straits Times over the telephone: “I think a lot of dads in that era were like that. They love their families and want to give them what they can, but they don’t express themselves. My dad’s like that, but I’m not.

“I used to keep everything inside. It didn’t matter if I liked or disliked something – I wouldn’t say it. But over the years, possibly because of the influence of my wife and many other things, I feel it’s good to express your love. So I hug my kids, and I tell them and my wife, and even my father: ‘I love you.’”

But he understands his character’s sense of duty towards his family in Come Closer. 

In the five-part series, John, a down-on-his-luck businessman, turns to dangerous deeds to support his family.

Mei, played by actress Jeanette Aw, is his second wife and stepmother to his two children, played by actors Raynold Tan and Lim Shi-An. The family is torn apart when their driver Siva (T. Suriavelan) is accused of molesting their daughter and then murdered.

It is available on mewatch and airs on Channel 5 on Mondays at 10pm. 

Come Closer, which has dialogue in various languages including English, Mandarin and Tamil, is the Channel 5 debut for both Qi and Aw.

This is also the actress’ first drama in two years, since The Ferryman: Legends Of Nanyang (2021). Aw, previously a full-time Mediacorp artiste, left the broadcaster in 2017.  

For Qi and Aw, who were previously romantically paired in series such as The Little Nyonya (2008) and The Dream Makers (2013), Come Closer marks the ninth time they are working together. 

Mei struggles to connect with her husband and has a rocky relationship with her two stepchildren in the series.

In a separate e-mail interview, the 44-year-old star says: “There is a certain level of trust and confidence between us, and I feel there’s an unspoken understanding as well. We don’t have to discuss anything in the script, but we play off each other’s characters almost intuitively.”  

This series marks Aw and Qi’s first time working with director K. Rajagopal, who is known for his art-house film A Yellow Bird (2016).

Qi says: “He’s a very observant director, he’s aware of our microscopic expressions. His understanding of acting is quite deep and he gave me a lot of freedom to improvise during scenes. 

“He’s great at using the camera and its frame instead of dialogue or actors to tell a story. It doesn’t feel like a television series, it’s very cinematic.” 

Qi says that it feels like a fresh experiment “to get Jeanette and me in a Channel 5 series together with a director who is known for art-house movies and such a racially diverse cast”.

He adds: “Very few series are so racially diverse, be it on Channel 8 or Channel 5, or in local movies, and it features interracial romance too. It doesn’t feel forced. You don’t get the sense that the series is deliberately trying to hit a multiracial quota.”

  • Come Closer is available on mewatch and airs on Channel 5 on Mondays at 10pm. 

The Straits Times

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