By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Joan Chen, who notably starred in the Oscar winning film “The Last Emperor” and the ‘90s cult classic TV series “Twin Peaks,” is making a comeback in English-language projects after spending more time in recent years making films in Asia and raising her a family.
She recently discussed by phone some of her recent TV projects that have brought her back into the spotlight in the West: “Marco Polo” and “Serangoon Road.” She also addressed the possibility of returning to the renewed “Twin Peaks” series, reprising her role as the mysterious Josie Packard.
In the historic epic TV series “Marco Polo,” she plays Chabi, empress of the Yuan dynasty. The 10 episodes of the first season delved into the famed explorer’s early years in the court of Kublai Khan. As the chief wife of Khan, she is the influence behind the throne, and the primary conduit for the Venetian explorer to her powerful husband. Though reviews of the Weinstein Co.-produced series in the U.S. were mixed, the elaborate and ambitious series scored satisfactory ratings, and has been renewed for a second season. Chen will reprise the role when the series goes back into production in Malaysia this June.
In “Serangoon Road,” a 2013 10-episode series that aired in Asia and other markets around the world, she plays another historic (though fictional) character. The Australian-Singapore production focuses on small group of individuals during an important time in the island nation’s history—the 1960s. Chen plays Patricia Cheng, the proprietor of a small detective agency, who recruits ex-pat Australian Sam Callaghan (Don Hany) to investigate the circumstances surrounding his mysterious death. Though not a detective herself, Chen’s Patricia Cheng is the calm and cool rudder that keeps engine of the agency running and the heat on the authorities to uncover the truth. The central mystery unfolds as other cases are investigated and resolved and radical political changes are taking place in the bustling international market area. Like an onion, new clues are peeled back in each episode, revealing new clues into Winston Cheng’s death.
The series was shot on location in Singapore and Indonesia in 2012. The detective series is available Tuesday, Feb. 24 on DVD. The DVD includes all 10 episodes on three discs, plus a 9-minute behind-the scenes featurette.