Why Over The Moon became a âpersonal identity journeyâ for Fil-Am actress Cathy Ang
The Filipino-American actress Cathy Ang is the voice of Fei Fei, the lead character in the animated film Over The Moon, which will debut on Netflix come Oct. 23.
Cathy Ang’s website
Why Over The Moon became a ‘personal identity journey’ for Fil-Am actress Cathy Ang
Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - October 17, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino-American actress Cathy Ang lends her voice to Fei Fei, the lead character in the animated musical movie Over The Moon set to world-premiere via Netflix on Oct. 23.

In the film directed by animation legend Glen Keane — best-known for the animated classics The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Tangled, among others — Fei Fei is a bright young girl who builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of the Moon Goddess from the Chinese mythology tales she heard from her mother as a child.

The production notes described how Cathy won the role as “pure kismet” because she had been originally tapped to just record a temporary demo of Rocket to the Moon, one of the film’s most important musical numbers, for an early screening. However, the producers found her rendition “so powerful and perfect” that “it not only earned her the part, but ended up being the final version that’s heard in the film.”

Photos courtesy of Netflix

In a Zoom interview with The STAR and other movie press recently, Cathy expressed how it “means the world” to her to be part of a project that champions Asian representation in film. Besides her, Over The Moon features an all-Asian voice cast of Hollywood and Broadway names, including Phillipa Soo (Chang’e), Robert G. Chiu (Chin), Ken Jeong (Gobi), John Cho (Dad), Ruthie Ann Miles (Mom), Margaret Cho (Auntie Ling), Kimiko Glenn (Auntie Mei), Artt Butler (Uncle) and Sandra Oh (Mrs. Zhong).

She said, “This is the first time that, as a Chinese Filipino-American I’m getting to play a Chinese character. So, it’s very exciting for me to be able to share my family’s culture and some of our traditions, and I feel really proud that it’s getting represented on screen and that hopefully the rest of the world will see it and get curious and celebrate it. So it means the world.”

Coming from a musical theater background, Cathy found that voice acting and stage performance are “pretty similar” in terms of fulfillment and challenges, despite not getting to work with the other actors in the same room. “For an actor, it’s so nice to be able to work with another actor. But other than that, I mean the joy of animation is that there’s no limitations. It’s an incredibly exciting new form of storytelling for me even if it is very different from the stage.”

Of course, voicing a character that has a powerful story arc that includes grieving over a loss, moving forward and (re)discovering joy, was a learning experience for Cathy. “I actually kind of learned a lot through Fei Fei. During the process, I actually lost one of my best friends. And I think that seeing Fei Fei go through her grief was actually uplifting for me and helped me understand how to let go of a loved one, but still, you know, have the memory of them fill your heart with joy. The lessons that she learns here are to first of all let herself feel the grief and then move on and find new love — that I think will speak to everyone in the world. I knew it was a big task but I just tried to imagine what I wish someone could tell me, and I think it came out in Fei Fei’s voice somehow.”

Cathy with (from top to bottom, left to right) Over The Moon director Glen Keane, producer Gennie Rim, producer Peilin Chou, voice actress Ruthie Ann Miles and voice actress Phillipa Soo during the global press event for the film.

If Fei Fei embarks on an incredible journey to the moon in the film, Cathy said that the entire process of doing Over The Moon became part of her “personal identity journey.”

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot more about who I am, and even though I’m Asian-American, you know, I’m still figuring out what that really means and how that will translate in the art that I make. But it’s been really nice because I appreciate the way that my parents, who were immigrants from the Philippines, tried to impart a lot of their culture on me as I was growing up, and I realized, more so than ever that it’s a huge gift. And so, it’s made actually the dialogue between my parents and I more exciting because we have new things to talk about.”

The New York-based actress-singer shared more of her Filipino heritage during the virtual roundtable interview. “My dad is from Ongpin (Binondo) and then my mom is from Nueva Vizcaya, she’s from a small region called Bagabag. And I just want to go there! I want to go and visit and see and just kind of live around the area for a while because there’s so much to learn about other cultures. Even if I am Filipino, I want to go there and learn.”

Cathy is a BM Musical Theater graduate from New York University but in a separate press junket, she shared that she has always been drawn to science, making her character easily relatable. “I love science so much. I grew up in a very STEM-focused high school and so I loved biology from a young age. My parents were doctors, and my partner wants to be an astronaut. So, I’m obsessed with all space exploration currently — I actually joke with him because now I’m actually the first person on the moon, so that’s kind of fun.”

As for the film’s music, which director Glen Keane said is a combination of Broadway and K-pop sensibilities, courtesy of songwriters Christopher Curtis (Outer Critics Circle nominee for Broadway’s Chaplin), Marjorie Duffield (Jonathan Larson Memorial Fellow) and Helen Park (Lucille Lortel awardee and three-time Drama Desk Award nominee, who had written the off-Broadway musical, KPOP, which Cathy also starred in).

“My favorite song to listen to is definitely Ultraluminary because Phillipa (Soo, who sings it in the film) first of all completely embodies a goddess. If you have ever imagined a goddess, Philippa should be singing for her. I mean, it’s all about this woman who’s so confident in herself. She’s powerful. She’s intelligent and she knows she’s beautiful. And I just think that’s such a fun song to dance to, and I don’t know, but you want to be her friend and you want to be her. In that way, it’s a really empowering anthem as well,” she said.

“But, of course, Rocket to the Moon is incredibly meaningful to me, but I think because I still get nervous when I have to sing it (laughs). Ultraluminary is where I can relax and just enjoy the music.”

Meanwhile, Cathy believes the timing of the release of Over The Moon couldn’t have been more fitting. “I think we’re all longing for connection right now. There’s a lot of division in the world and I think sitting down and watching a story about people learning how to love each other, you know, that’s the connection that the world needs to see. It’s an example for everyone… and so I think this is actually the perfect time for the story to come out, even though it’s a hard time for everyone, too.”

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