Michelle Chong picked as one of Japan TV travel show's hosts
Actress and host Michelle Chong is first non-Japanese resident to host travel show for NHK
Michelle Chong loves hamming it up as her alter egos Lulu, Leticia and Barbarella on parody TV news series The Noose.
But the 39-year-old actress-host displays a more reserved side as the first international celebrity guest reporter on NHK World TV travel series Tokyo Eye 2020.
The English-language travel infotainment show highlights the best spots for food, art and architecture in Tokyo, which is hosting the next Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.
Apart from Chong, other hosts include US TV and radio personality Chris Peppler and Swedish-American writer Lisa Wallin, who reside in Japan.
Chong told The New Paper on Thursday that reining in her famously goofy personality to match the show's straightforward reporting style came naturally to her.
"I pride myself on being versatile, so even though I'm not so animated and 'out there', my bubbly self still comes through on screen," she said.
"I can be demure and elegant too, okay?" she added with a laugh.
To appeal to Singaporean viewers, who have been travelling to Japan in greater numbers recently, Chong was chosen as the first non-Japanese resident to host Tokyo Eye 2020 due to her upbeat personality and significant social media following - she has over 92,000 followers on Instagram.
Chong's episodes, Aged Foods: A New Tokyo Trend and Must-see Tokyo Museums will air on Oct 12 and 19 respectively on NHK World TV (StarHub Ch 812/ Singtel TV Ch 157).
The travelogue, which has over 400 episodes, airs every Wednesday at 7.30am, 1.30pm and 8.30pm, and every Thursday at 1.30pm. Chong will host episodes 413 and 414.
"When I heard about this opportunity, I jumped at it and said 'Drop everything, I'm doing this,'" she said.
"NHK World is huge, you see it in every hotel around the world. And of course, who doesn't love to go to Japan?"
A self-confessed foodie, Chong was especially delighted to try exotic Japanese food like chicken sashimi, and aged foods like beef and soba on the show.
"I was surprised to hear the Japanese team tell me I was more knowledgeable about some aspects of local food than they were, such as the differences between red and black ramen soup bases," she said.
There was also laughter on set when Chong got a little over-enthusiastic during a segment on sakana (Japanese snacks that are eaten with sake).
"I thought I was supposed to drink the sake after sampling every snack, but after doing this a few times, I was told not to drink so much as viewers might think I am an alcoholic," she joked.
Although Chong has travelled to Japan several times for work, she said the experience of filming Tokyo Eye 2020 remains special to her.
"The Japanese cast and crew worked really efficiently, and were so nice and polite. The director even helped me carry my bag, if you can believe it," she said.
Chong's next major project is Lulu The Movie, which opens here on Nov 24.
Written and directed by Chong, the film sees the actress play the titular kooky mainland Chinese KTV hostess who dresses in loud outfits with sequins and leopard prints.
Said Chong: "I think if Lulu visited Japan, she would fit right in with the colourful fashion scene in Harajuku and Shinjuku. Her dress sense is quite daring.
"In fact, she would probably try to host her own fashion TV show, like (NHK World TV series) Tokyo Fashion Express."
"I pride myself on being versatile, so even though I'm not so animated and 'out there', my bubbly self still comes through on screen."
- Michelle Chong (above, as her alter ego Lulu), on her role as international celebrity guest reporter (below) on NHK World TV travel series Tokyo Eye 2020.