Rising star Angela Yeoh, plays Rowena Chiu in the film, “She Said,” which is based on the book by the same name from New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey.
Watch the Trailer here:
We sat down with Angela to discuss her role in the film (currently in theaters nationwide) and the important message.
When did you first learn you’d be a part of such an interesting project? How did it feel knowing the film would be highly viewed given the topic?
I definitely felt a great weight of responsibility, given the visibility, sensitivity and potential impact of this film. Coincidentally, before becoming an actor, I actually worked as a journalist. Since a young age, I’ve always been passionate about the power of storytelling to shine light in dark places, surprise people, reveal truth, and inspire change.
When I first auditioned for this project in the summer of 2021, it was highly confidential and I was given very little information – not the title, nor director, nor even the genre. A week after sending my audition tape, we heard casting really liked it – and was I willing to cut my hair? My response was: for a great project, story and character that I’m committed to serving fully, then yes, I could even cut it all off, if need be.
Having worked as a reporter and having survived abuse, I’m aware there’s still a great deal of misunderstanding around the real work of journalism and the complex experience of abuse. So as soon as I learned what the project was, I absolutely wanted to be part of illuminating these two topics, both of which are close to my heart. Also Maria Schrader is such a beautiful director, so I knew it would be fantastic collaborating with her and the rest of the stellar filmmaking team. If I were the right person to bring Rowena’s story to life, then I would totally give it my all. I later found out they had auditioned more than 200 actors for this role.
Tell us about your role and if you connected with Rowena before playing her?
I play Rowena Chiu, who worked as an assistant to Harvey Weinstein in 1998. After she was assaulted, Miramax and their lawyers pressured her into signing a nondisclosure agreement (NDA), which restricted her from speaking to anyone about it, including her own family, or even a doctor or therapist. She eventually made the difficult decision to come forward with her story.
Portraying a real-life living survivor, I felt an even greater responsibility to do my utmost in preparing for this role. I researched extensively, watched and read all Rowena’s previous interviews, drew on my own experience of abusive dynamics, and was fortunate to meet with Rowena too. It felt important to really listen and absorb what was important to understand in portraying her truthfully.
In person, I was struck by Rowena’s strength, humor, eloquence and intellect. We connected over our shared passion for the arts, experiences growing up in immigrant communities, and having to navigate challenges like racial discrimination and parental anxieties, while working hard to carve out creative careers.
I knew Rowena’s part in the film would be primarily sharing a very difficult story. I wanted to evoke her resilience and vulnerability, to capture her strength and grace, and to convey the nuance and complexity of both dealing with a traumatic experience of abuse, and choosing to finally speak up. I hope I’ve been able to honor her story within the film.
As a former journalist, what did you bring to the table knowing this story was broken first by NY Times?
I have huge respect for the New York Times. In fact, I almost worked for them back in 2011, when approaching media outlets I would be proud to work for. Both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal offered me a prized journalist visa to work out of their China bureaus as a video reporter. At the time, the Journal seemed more committed to long-form narrative and investigative work, so I joined them. But after a change in management at the Journal, their focus shifted, so I ended up interviewing again with the Times in 2013 for potential roles. Then I decided to take a break from journalism to expand my skills as a creative storyteller. This eventually led me to working as an actor: still telling stories, still seeking truth.
I still believe good journalism is more important than ever, especially with all the noise on the internet. In order for us to come together and make better decisions for our lives and our communities, we need to agree on shared sets of verifiable facts from trustworthy sources. Proper reporting requires resources and time, which this film gives audiences an insight into. Whether it’s at a major newspaper like the New York Times, or at smaller community outlets, reporters play a vital role in finding out the truth so that we can all choose better. I hope this film helps inspire more support for good journalists and public service media.
What do you hope viewers take from this film?
I trust each person will take what they need from this film. One thing I love about Rebecca Lenkiewiez’s script is how it depicts professional women, both at work and at home, in a much richer and more humanizing way than we usually get to see. I do hope the film shines light into dark places where abuse has hidden, and helps bring more compassion, empathy and empowerment for survivors. I also hope audiences will be inspired witnessing the power of collective action. Together we truly can enact enormous changes for the better.
What other roles do you have upcoming you can share?
I have a role in an upcoming Apple TV sci-fi series, again working with a fantastic creative team, and starring the wonderful Rebecca Ferguson: “Wool” is due for release in March 2023. I’ve also been auditioning for some fantastic new confidential projects. I shall share more when I can!
Any advice to our readers who are pursuing their own acting career?
Everyone’s journey is different. Really knowing why you’re doing something, as well as connecting to a bigger purpose, can really help get through the challenging times. The acting industry can be tough – there is a great deal of uncertainty and rejection along the way – and it can also be joyously creative, adventurous and collaborative. Growing up, because I never saw people who looked like me on stage or screen, it didn’t occur to me as a career to pursue. Becoming an actor has been a mysterious path for me. Of course, as it has unfolded, I always worked as hard as I could at every chance I got. And I know I’m here to tell stories and to seek truth, whether as a reporter, actor or filmmaker. Having already toughed it out to carve out a career as an international journalist (working in Australia, Brazil, France and China), I’ve definitely made more financial and social sacrifices to build a new career as an actor.
Whatever the dream, whatever we feel called to creatively bring into the world, we can find ways to carve out space for it. Each one of us is a creative being with unique gifts. Whether it’s acting, writing, song, dance or anything else, making art helps us find ourselves, understand the world, and connect with others. Creative expression is healing, and so I think it’s vital we value and access this, whether or not it eventually becomes a career.
As a storyteller, I’ve always been drawn to untold stories and underrepresented perspectives. I do hope to see more women represented in all their complexity on stage and screen, especially older women’s experiences and global majority stories. Sometimes when opportunities don’t seem to exist yet, there is always scope for us to create them ourselves and for others. I’m grateful that Rowena’s courage and activism gave me this chance to bring part of her story to the big screen.