Most 16-year-olds would have spent their December school holidays chilling at home or hanging out with friends.
Not budding local model and actress Eleanor Lee.
The daughter of Taiwan-born Mediacorp actress-host Quan Yifeng was instead up in the mountains of Xiangshan, China, for her acting debut, in a new Chinese TV period drama, Tribes And Empires.
Eleanor, 16, plays the younger version of lead actress Karlina Zhang’s character. She will appear in the first eight episodes of the show, pocketing a six-figure sum for that.
The show tells the stories of a lonely half-human half-spirit prince, an abandoned general’s son and a fearless heir of a dying tribe, all of whom try to seek revenge for the wrongdoings against them.
Eleanor, who flew to China on Dec 3 and was there for a month, told The New Paper over the phone last week: “It was very, very cold and the temperature dipped to below zero at night. The weather was the most difficult part of the filming process.”
“Other than that, it has been smooth sailing and I haven’t faced any major difficulties,” she said.
A typical day in the past month began at 5am, when she had her make-up done.
Filming started at about 8am and ended at 6pm. If there was a night scene, her day started at 4pm and wrapped at 5am.
She said: “At first, I thought the night scenes would be very tiring due to the hours involved, but I didn’t feel tired at all as I was too engrossed in the filming process. When I was in the zone with all my emotions, I forgot about the fatigue.”
Some of the other teenage Chinese actors on set recognised her from the 90-second Apple China commercial that she starred in last year.
She reportedly earned a six-figure sum for the ad and she used her earnings to buy an Hermes Birkin bag worth over $20,000 for Quan.
“Yes, they knew who I was, but no one made a big fuss about it,” said Eleanor. “When we had free time, we hung out and practised stuff related to the drama, such as how to kneel down and greet the emperor and how to pronounce the ancient words from the script properly.”
The teen was also not intimidated when she had to act opposite prominent cast members in the show.
The series stars Chinese actors Huang Xuan, Shawn Dou, Zhou Yiwei and Hong Kong actress Janice Man.
She said: “I was a little nervous and I was worried I would make mistakes. However, everyone was so nice so it put me at ease.”
Eleanor, who was in Taiwan with Quan last Thursday, watched the New Year’s Eve fireworks at landmark skyscraper Taipei 101. They spent Christmas in Beijing, where Quan gave Eleanor a set of drawing pencils and paper as a gift.
Eleanor has a passion for art and, last November, she created two paintings, selling for $15,500 each, in collaboration with acclaimed Chinese sculptor and painter Wu Qiong.
Quan, 41, who used to cry whenever her daughter had to travel for work, is slowly getting used to it.
She told TNP: “When I met up with her in Beijing over Christmas, we hugged each other for a very long. I missed her, but I didn’t cry.”
Eleanor flew back to China last Saturday to resume filming. The international school student, whose new term starts in mid-January, will shuttle between China and Singapore to juggle her studies and the drama.
Even though her acting career is on the rise, Eleanor, who will be taking the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) exams in May, still places her studies before everything else.
When asked what her New Year’s resolution is, she said: “I want to do well in my studies and get good results. I hope I can get a mixture of As and Bs for my exams.”
This story was originally published in AsiaOne.com. For more stories like this, head to www.asiaone.com/women.