HBO Asia launches production on "Halfworlds" with Indonesian director Joko Anwar at the helm
HBO Asia has embarked on its most ambitious original production yet with “Halfworlds”, an eight-part action-packed series that deals with a parallel supernatural universe of demons in present-day Jakarta.
While many details of the production are being kept under wraps, HBO Asia brought dozens of regional journalists to the Infinite Studios on Indonesia’s Batam Island to meet the producers and key cast members, and get a glimpse of the fantasy world being created for the small screen.
The series is directed and co-written by one of the leading lights of Indonesia’s film industry, Joko Anwar, who made his debut with the acclaimed 2005 drama “Joni’s Promise” and secured worldwide cult status with a string of dark thrillers, “Dead Time: Kala” (2007), “The Forbidden Door” (2009) and “Ritual” (2012). “Halfworlds” will be Anwar’s first foray into television.
“We wanted to find a director who was culturally ingrained with Indonesia but also understood the nature of international filmmaking and audiences, and knew how to push the boundaries of drama and action,” says producer Mike Wiluan, who is also the CEO of the studio complex. “Joko is the man for the job.”
“With Joko’s breadth of storytelling experience, and because he crosses multiple genres, he is able to handle a series such as ‘Halfworlds’,” adds producer Erika North, who is HBO Asia’s head of programming and production. “It’s something we think is authentic for Indonesian viewers, but it will also have regional and hopefully international resonance.”
Notably, the series will be mostly in English, with some Bahasa Indonesian, and will mark the first time for most of the actors to be working in English dialogue. All have risen admirably to the task, the producers say.
The ensemble cast is mainly Indonesian talents, among them prominent leading man Reza Rahadian. He will play Tony, a blade-wielding demon called a demit, whose weapons of choice also include a dual-pronged silver instrument with a glass orb attached for collecting blood.
It’s a very different kind of role for Rahadian, who earned accolades for his portrayal of a former Indonesian president in 2012’s “Habibie and Ainun”. It’s a “very experimental and dynamic role”, he says. “This character is playful, very authentic.”
Facing these demits is a new talent, 22-year-old artist, model and movie actress Salvita Decorte, who makes her television debut as Sarah, a homeless street artist who finds herself thrust into a centuries-old battle between demons and humans.
“I’m excited about the part when I get to kick ass,” says Decorte, who has been honing her street-fighting skills with the help of trainers. They’re showing her how not to “punch like a girl”.
Sarah is backed up by her best friend, Pinung, a tattoo artist. She’s played by Aimee Saras, an Indonesian singer and actress known for her stage work, including Anwar’s musical “Onrop”.
Saras, who admits to a lifelong fascination with tattoos despite not having any herself, researched her role by contacting friends who were tattoo artists. She also says her character will be using the tattoo needle as a weapon.
Trying to make sense of it all will be weary police detective Gusti, portrayed by veteran Malaysian actor Bront Palarae. He goes against orders and launches his own investigation of Sarah, whom he suspects is not all she appears to be.
Other cast members will include Indonesians Arifin Putra and Alex Abbad from “The Raid 2”, Adinia Wirasati, Hannah Al-Rashid, Tara Basro and Ario Bayu, and Singaporean Nathan Hartono. Eight-year-old Malaysian Puteri Balqis, best-actress winner in last year’s Asian Television Awards, will also appear.
“Halfworlds” is the fourth HBO Asia original production, following the feature film “Dead Mine” in 2012, the Australian-co-produced series “Serangoon Road” in 2012 and last year’s supernatural family drama “Grace”. Since “Serangoon Road”, Singapore-based HBO Asia has been tied up with Wiluan’s Infinite Studios, which is just a boat ride away across the Singapore Strait.
And, in terms of scope and profile, “Halfworlds” is the biggest project yet for HBO Asia, the producers say, and they believe it will attract an audience not only in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, but across all of Asia and the world.
“The ultimate vision is to create something that is truly pan-Asian,” says Wiluan. “Not just forcing Asian actors to play stereotypical roles or force them to speak English in very odd situations, we’ve created a situation that is interesting, dynamic and natural, and we’ve chosen the best actors we feel can portray these characters, so that not only Indonesians will enjoy watching, but also the rest of the region as well, and be able to identify with these characters.”
On the Web:HBOAsia.com