An adaptation of former Attorney-General Walter Woon’s novel The Devil’s Circle, This Land is Mine is a 15-episode English drama series set in post-World War II Singapore. The stars of the show are Pierre Png, 47, and Rebecca Lim, 34.
The pair have played love interests many times on screen. Most recently, they play a married couple in A Jungle Survivor (2020).
But in This Land is Mine, they play cousins who work for the same law firm. “For once we are not romantically linked,” Rebecca said in a recent livestream on Facebook.
Rebecca said her character June Chiang, a legal clerk, is one of her “favourite characters to date” as she’s “resilient, courageous and compassionate”.
“To be able to play June, a very strong character in the 1940s…that to me is a huge honour because women then weren’t given the freedom and opportunities that we have now,” she said.
“[Being part of the production] also helped me to appreciate all the hardships and the sacrifices that the people before us had to go through to let us enjoy what we have today,” Rebecca added.
As for Pierre, an avid fan of Japanese culture, playing lawyer Dennis Chiang was challenging. He not only had to put himself in the shoes of those who lived through the Japanese Occupation, but also tried to understand and portray their anti-Japanese sentiment.
Incidentally, his character in This Land is Mine also grapples with a huge dilemma, as his first case as a lawyer was to defend a Japanese war criminal – a much-hated public enemy at that time.
“Singapore’s post-war situations made war trials very challenging – food was scarce, lawyers had very little time to prepare, files went missing, witnesses were unable or unwilling to take the stand,” said Pierre in an email interview with The UrbanWire.
“The general public wanted to see the Japanese punished for helping start World War II and for the many atrocities committed during their occupation [and that proved to be challenging too],” he continued.
Acting alongside Pierre Png is Sugie Phua, 39, who plays the challenging role of Kempeitai torturer Nakamura. Charged for multiple counts of murder and torture, Nakamura oddly refuses to defend himself until his trial despite the possibility of a death sentence.
“It’s really quite hard [to channel my character]. I had to speak in English that was heavily accented with Japanese. I went through files and files of how to get the accent right,” Sugie said. As for learning to understand the mentality of a torturer, there were times when Sugie had to “take a break out of his character”. He was careful not to get too attached to his role.
The drama’s director is Lee Thean-Jeen, who’s also directed and produced other acclaimed dramas like Code of Law. He brought together “one of the biggest multiracial ensembles” to recreate Singapore in This Land Is Mine, which shows how post-war Singapore adjusted to the new normal after the “life-changing events”, said Mr Lee.
He added: “The physical nature of the hardship and trials may have been different, then and now, but what we can learn from the past is the resilience, and the spirit of perseverance that brought us forward as people.”
In her email response, Rebecca said she hopes Singaporeans will be empathetic towards each other during tough times. She added: “May the drama encourage everyone that as long as we stand together, united as one, we will get through this stronger and better.”
This Land is Mine premieres on Channel 5 on 9 August, 9:30pm. It is also available on demand on meWATCH.