James Wen (fourth from right) with The World Between Us co-stars (from left) Pets Tseng, JC Lin, Chen Yu, Wu Kang-Ren, Alyssa Chia, Tracy Chou, Allison Lin and Xie Qiong-Xuan
A realistic crime drama
Jerry Donato (The Philippine Star) - March 24, 2019 - 12:00am

On his character, James says, ‘I didn’t have to look at other shows and other movies and other stories to prepare myself because I just couldn’t stop reading on. The script was really very moving.’

MANILA, Philippines — Hybrid genres are common on TV and film. They never fail to tell compelling stories — and titillate the imagination of viewers.

The World Between Us, an HBO Asia production, belongs to that mold. It is a crime drama that thrives in dramatis personae’s intersecting personal narratives and fates. The series will premiere tonight at 9 (with back-to-back episodes) on HBO GO and HBO. The other shows which will be aired soon are Food Lore, The Teenage Psychic and Dream Raider.

“It’s very realistic, it’s very modern,” said Taiwanese actor James Wen, through an interpreter, in a recent group interview, held in Hong Kong. His 10-episode starrer, along with stars Alyssa Chia and Wu Kang-Ren, is also about “how you take care of the people around you,” he shared, in protecting loved ones from harm. The latter could be in the form of crime or depression.

“I was playing (the) role of a reporter in the film. So actually, I was approached by the defending lawyer who asked me to try to understand the reason, the story behind the murder,” said James of his character named Liu Chao-Kuo, who is also the founder of an online media service, “(like) what (happened), what’s his family background in order to report it to the people so as to prevent the same tragedies from happening again in the future.”

The task to remain objective, devoid of any sign of emotional involvement, is a tough act to do for his character, whose son was among the casualties of a mass shooting a murderer single-handedly instigated.

“So it is difficult for me (my character) because I am a victim myself, my son was lost in the event, but I had to try to understand the murderer,” said James. “This is a very difficult part and very interesting part of the film.”

James as the reporter, and founder of an online media service in a scene from HBO Asia original production.

That’s where his character comes from. However, as an actor, James had “to understand the pain of a parent losing his child,” the actor said.

In the main narrative, the incident occurred two years ago but he and his wife suffer silently and try to live a normal life. They still have a daughter under their wing.

“So, I have to pretend to be strong even though I feel very painful,” James said of the internal struggles his character faces day in and day out. “I have to make sure that I will lead my family out of this grief, this very great pain. I think this is the most difficult part for me, the most challenging part.”

Every civilized society detests and sanctions any forms of crime. This is also shown in The World Between Us, where young lives have been nipped in the bud, but “the murderer’s family has also lost their son,” said James. “I think this (series) is about looking (for) or finding, exploring a way to reconcile between these different parties, how we could leave aside our pain and continue to live on, (and looking for possible) dialogues between these parties.”

Given the lifeworlds within the crime drama, James reflected on by saying that “(It) actually reminds us of the importance of having care (taking care of) about people around us, trying to be more observant and see whether there are time bombs around us, and if you see anything particular, anything special (or new), we really have to start doing counseling (and) helping situations so as to prevent this kind of tragedies from happening again.”

One of the show’s poignant scenes for James was when his character had to sleep in his son’s room. “And in that room everything is unchanged. It’s the same as he was still alive and I have to sleep in that room looking at his toys, the pictures of four people in the family, and it’s really very, very sad, and that’s the most difficult scene.”

As for becoming his character, James recalled, “I didn’t have to look at other shows and other movies and other stories to prepare myself because I just couldn’t stop reading on. The script was really very moving, very touching. I actually started to cry when I was reading the script. So I was already very into the character when I was reading through the story.”

The model-actor was grateful to be part of this creative work with HBO Asia and of the narrative set and filmed entirely in Taiwan.

“So I’m very glad that we had the opportunity because the content could be very broad, it could be very international,” he said. “...the story is about people. So it’s borderless. It’s not restricted to any country, any nations. Also, we look at it from a Taiwan perspective first but actually it’s about people. (For) as long as it is about people, it could be applied to anywhere in the world, any country. So I think the most important thing is, we have to focus on and look into these issues (being presented in the show).”

(The World Between Us will also be available on HBO On Demand.)

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