Comedian Ronny Chieng, who has a supporting role in newly-released Marvel film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, has likened his character Jon Jon to a Singaporean “Ah Beng”.
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The Malaysian-born actor and comedian, who spent part of his upbringing in Singapore, agreed with Channel NewsAsia that his character Jon Jon was a “bonafide Ah Beng”.
“I didn’t even connect Jon Jon to being ‘Ah Beng’ until you mentioned it, but actually you’re right, he is an ‘Ah Beng’!” he said. “If you watch the film, he’s a total ‘Ah Beng’! I can’t give away spoilers to what he does, but even his job is super ‘Ah Beng’!”
“Ah Beng” is a Singaporean stereotype of young Chinese Singaporean men who are brash, loud and even thuggish. Chieng spent his youth studying in Singapore before moving to Australia and later the United States, where he currently resides.
“You know, I was speaking Chinese in the film,” he added. “And at one point, I dropped some Bahasa Melayu in there as well. So yeah, he’s very ‘Ah Beng’!”
Chieng’s Jon Jon speaks both Mandarin and English in the film, and the actor talked about the freedom he was given in developing his on-screen accent. Chieng mentioned that his Chinese dialogue was pre-written, but he was allowed to work out the dialogue naturally.
“They didn’t know which one would play well so I just did it in both. But isn’t that exactly how we roll in Singapore, right?” he said. “We just go in and out – sometimes we speak Chinese, sometimes we speak English. We just weave in and out.”
Chieng also said that director Dustin Daniel Cretton had encouraged diversity of Chinese representation in the production. “The fact that my accent isn’t the traditional Chinese accent, Destin liked that,” he continued.
“He said he wanted this place to have an international field, not just a specific country.”
In NME’s four-star review of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Nick Levine praised it for putting “a fresh and infectious spin on the hoary old origin story.”