With the world changing to adapt to a pandemic, the outlook on things to come appears bleak, without an end in sight. Various industries in Australia are doing it tough including small businesses, families and the arts and media industry, just to name a few. So when I mention that SBS’s upcoming mini-series “Hungry Ghosts” has finally named a premiere date -24th August, I think that is considered good news and really something for us to look forward to. The premise itself about “spirits” from past traumas coming back is already an interesting story line, but what is more important is that it is a mini-series with an almost all Vietnamese and Asian Australian cast. Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting the cast and crew of of this mini-series, as well as do various write ups on its significance and how it is a win for better representation and diversity for the Asian Australian community.
We start this series of features with a spotlight interview with Suzy Wrong. Wrong plays “Roxy” in “Hungry Ghosts”. Wrong describes “Roxy” to IF.com as “vibrant, funny and exuberant. She’s a clairvoyant who suddenly meets ghosts and she could not be happier.” Roxy is also the best friend to “May Le” – the main character in the series and played by Catherine Van-Davies. I had the opportunity to interview Wrong about her love of theatre, her career and life journey, the importance of representation and of course what it was like playing “Roxy” in “Hungry Ghosts”.
How did your training with the Singapore Armed Forces & Music Company influence your approach to art?
I entered SAF MDC at a young age, and it was an intensive experience to say the least. Looking back, it really did shape a substantial amount of my understanding of performance, of art, and of life in general. A lot of what we did, involved being thrown into the deep end, so you learn about instincts really quick, because it’s all you’ve got. You also learn that what you feel to be happening on stage, is often not what the audience sees.
What makes a theatre show pop? Are there any signs that it’ll be a great night?
There are a million things that can make a show pop. The only signs I can rely on, are to look at the combination of people involved. Theatre is almost entirely about collaboration, so the mix of talents is crucial.
What are your thoughts on representation in Australia – are we making waves or miles behind? With the recent surge of success with Asian films such as Parasite, the growth of the Asian TV/film industry, and Asian-led properties like Crazy Rich Asians and Always Be My Maybe, do you think that this state of representation will change?
There’s no question that things are improving. It appears that we are now seeing a young generation of Asian-Australians emboldened and inspired by social media (and the democratisation of so many things as a result), and for the first time, minorities are jumping into the Arts pond, in substantial numbers. It’s a new era of POC who recognise white bullshit, and are less likely to accommodate it. In matters of representation, we need to take the lead, because we simply know better, but it’s important to understand that it’s not just representation in terms of how things are cast. We need to work on hiring POC behind the scenes, that’s the next big thing.
What do you see as the challenges unique to representation in film compared to theatre?
The biggest difference between the two, is that film travels. Theatre is almost always about presenting a story at a specific location, but film can go everywhere. When making Hungry Ghosts, we were thinking a lot about the Vietnamese diaspora, even though our characters were Australian, and most of the action took place in Melbourne. We were very conscious that this story must be made to resonate with Vietnamese people all over the world.
How do you feel about your character Roxy? What are you most excited about portraying and showing? What about Roxy resonates the most with you?
As far as I know, Roxy is the very first trans character on Australian film or television, who’s not here to tell you a sob story. I couldn’t believe it, that when I was handed the script, to discover a trans woman who was really fun and happy, and not one moment do we see her defending her gender, or being apologetic or sorrowful about it. It is groundbreaking, and I cannot tell you how important it is, to have that represented on screen. We always think of LGBTQI representation as a matter that relates to a straight audience, but what I’m interested in, is how we are able to see ourselves. Trans people have had to see ourselves as sad and suffering for all of film history. We need to change this. I can’t stress how important this is.
Finally, what’s been bringing some joy into your life recently? Mind sharing what’s been making you happy, or anything you’ve really gotten into?
So truly #blessed when I think about my friendships with the people of Hungry Ghosts. In all my 26 years of living in Australia, this project was the only time I had had the opportunity to be with big numbers of Asian-Australians day in day out. I mean, I have no problems working with anybody of any colour, in fact I love the unexpected cultural differences you can encounter, but it’s just weird that it’s taken so long to have a group of people who share so much, come together and make something special. The bond is incredible. I hope you see it when the show airs.
“Hungry Ghosts” will premiere on SBS and On Demand on Monday August 24 at 9:30pm and will be a 4 night event, ending on Thursday August 27.
It is described as (via SBS): “Chilling, captivating and utterly compelling, Hungry Ghosts follows four families that find themselves haunted by ghosts from the past. Filmed and set in Melbourne during the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival, when the Vietnamese community venerate their dead, this four-part drama series event from Matchbox Pictures”.
Please do not forget and jot down the dates! We talk about the importance of seeing ourselves on Australian screens, so let’s put our money where our mouth is and watch, discuss, promote and support this upcoming drama series. I am definitely excited to see Wrong’s character “Roxy” do her thing and, so let’s support this series as much as we can. You can follow Suzy Wrong on Twitter and Instagram @suzywrong.
Cover image credit: ZHQ Creative.