Ronny Chieng's Singapore homecoming in Crazy Rich Asians
AUSTRALIA can lay some claim to funny man Ronny Chieng, who first found success as a stand-up comic here before his international breakthrough on The Daily Show in the US.
But the comedian and actor returns to his childhood home of Singapore in the hit film Crazy Rich Asians.
Ronny plays Eddie Cheng, the successful and very snobby cousin of central character Nick Young.
The film, based on the best-selling book of the same name, follows Nick as he introduces his unsuspecting American-Chinese girlfriend Rachel (Constance Wu) to his wealthy family including his disapproving mother (Michelle Yeoh).
"The book was on my radar before the movie was announced. I come from Singapore and my parents live there, and it's not very often a Singapore story blows up in America," Ronny says.
"One of the great things about the film is that it shows Singapore as a character in the movie the way New York is a character in a Woody Allen film. It's not just showing the very genuine wealth in Singapore, but also the more down-to-earth scene at the Newton Hawker Centre. I used to eat there as a kid.
"Usually when Hollywood does go to Asia it's because James Bond is going there, but we stay in Singapore. We show what makes it cool and such a wealthy country."
Ronny says his studies at the University of Melbourne, where he graduated with degrees in commerce and law, helped to inform his performance in the romantic comedy.
"I went to law school so I was surrounded by a lot of these Type A personalities," he says.
"These are very ambitious, materialistic people who come from very well-to-do backgrounds. It was not hard for me to tap into that. It was also a lot of fun to play.
"The character is inherently quite funny already. The tone of the story is a romantic comedy, so the comedy came very naturally. Jon (M Chu, the director) really gave us a lot of creative freedom to figure out the characters and figure out the comedic timing, and the freedom to do dialogue. There was a lot of creating magic on the day."
Ken Jeong (The Hangover), Awkwafina (Ocean's 8), Australia's Remy Hii (Marco Polo) and Nico Santos (Superstore) also provide some humour in support of romantic leads Constance Wu and Henry Golding. The film is already a success in the US, where it topped the box office in its first two weeks on cinema screens.
"Everyone played to their strengths and it feels awesome people are enjoying it," Ronny says. "Whether in Asia or Australia or the UK, I'm curious to see what everyone thinks about it."
The Malaysian-born comedian hopes the film connects with Australia's diverse population of first, second and even third-generation immigrants.
"There's something in there for people who feel out of place. Rachel visits Asia for the first time and she's reconnecting with her heritage even though her parents are not from Singapore," he says.
"Her journey is something a lot of second-generation immigrants can relate to - being born in a Western country, wanting to fit in, then getting older and rediscovering their roots. Any immigrant can relate to that feeling of not being accepted."
Crazy Rich Asians opens in cinemas today.