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Starlight, Starbright: CERISE LEANG

Chicago-born Cerise Leang is a musician, actress and model. As fate would have it, she found her way to Thailand on a modeling assignment that later led her to her first film role in “Hi-So”. Shot by award-winning filmmaker Aditya Assarat and co-starring Thai superstar Ananda Everingham, “Hi-So” has toured international film festivals in cities such as Berlin, Pusan, Tokyo and Hong Kong. In between all that action, she still manages to find time for writing and producing her first album.

Cerise now calls Williamsburg, Brooklyn her home. She describes it as a place “still close to Manhattan but much calmer and kinda reminds me of Chicago”. On some afternoons, you might find her at Fabianes, a cafe on Bedford; with a hot chocolate and croissant – “it’s kinda Frenchy and has big windows so you can take in some sun and sip away.” On other nights, she could be at Veselka, an all-night old Polish diner in the East, and she says that “they have the real deal – pierogies and serious slices of cakes. I like that it hasn’t really changed much. It feels like a place with that old New York feel, with real characters that go there everyday. Something right out of a Woody Allen movie.”

We steal a moment with Cerise to chat.

How did you get involved in the Thai independent film “Hi-So”?

I was in Bangkok modeling a few years before and met the director (Aditya) doing a video shoot for a spa company. Then, I was interested in film and thought about going to film school. I probably mentioned that I took acting classes, so I think when he was casting for the role of Zoe in “Hi-So”, he remembered me and contacted me to see if I would be interested in trying out. His assistant director Nam was visiting New York (NYC) at that time so I did the audition for her. I thought I did badly but then I heard that he really liked it and so I was shortlisted. I got the part in the end!

What was it like shooting in Thailand?

Well the one thing I’ll never forget was when I had severe food poisoning. I’ve never experienced food poisoning so it was really hard to shoot on those days – especially when it consisted of long outdoor shoots in the crazy 110 degree sun.

Cerise Leang together with Director Aditya Assarat on the set of "Hi-So"

But really; I had lots of fond memories there. Most of the time, it was a lot of hard work; but it was fun. The thunderstorms we faced when shooting down south in Khao Lak were crazy. It would rain on the palm trees and the lizards would hide under the balcony ceilings, and I’d look out the window and see the ocean rolling away. It was so beautiful – I could have stayed there! I feel lucky to have spent so much time in Thailand and gotten to know so many people. It’s so rare to have a real close connection with another culture. I saw how happy people were just to be enjoying themselves and being with friends. It felt like all it took was a minute’s decision to leave NYC; and all the stuff that seemed important just went away.

What’s your current state of mind?

I’m in this ‘busy-busy’ work phase. My mind is like a to-do list, which isn’t the best state to be in sometimes, especially when I am getting ready for my live shows. In between, I’m dreaming of summer because NYC is still cold right now!

What’s the thing you look forward to the most every day?

Going back to sleep! Just kidding. But I do love my sleep – all my friends know this! I love drinking hydro green tea and working on my music. I enjoy watching movies at the end of the day; but sometimes – especially right after work – I face a little career hazard when I watch movies and I would be like, “oh there’s the eye line”, and “look how the camera is panning.” It takes some time for me to not notice stuff and just be entertained.

Let’s talk about your music since you’ve been working hard on your album.

Music became a large part of my life when I was 13, and it kind of took over everything. But I didn’t start making my own music until a bit later though. Once I started realizing I could, I didn’t want to do anything else. I play the guitar and sing, and it’s just something that’s really freeing and satisfying. It’s like if I don’t sing or play for a while: I go a little crazy. I’m still trying to get better – it’s like a riddle you’re always trying to solve.

I’m happy with how the recording of my album turned out – it’s dark, dreamy and experimental. Also, I have learned a lot from the process – how things change by adding new instruments; how a song sometimes asks for something obvious; or sometimes it can be more subtle and turning out to be infuriating. But the best part is seeing an idea that may have started with a few words or a random guitar part transforming into a finished song.

What are your hopes for this year?

I love to travel so I hope I get to do more this year. I’m also hoping to perform a lot of live shows. My first album’s ready and am working out the best way to release it. I hope it gets out this year so I can start working on the next one!

– Yuni Hadi

To listen to music by Cerise Leang, visit: http://www.myspace.com/cerisemusic

For more about the film “Hi-So”, visit: http://www.pop-pictures-ltd.com/?page_id=237

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