Despite the ongoing pandemic and travel restrictions, actress and martial artist JuJu Chan Szeto is currently on a roll, with multiple screen projects in the works across the region. She’s back in her hometown of Hong Kong now following a shoot in Bangkok for Fistful of Vengeance, a feature film version of Netflix’s Wu Assassins, to work with James Louey on a reality TV show called Fight’n Chance. But first, the 32-year-old actress and her husband Antony Szeto, had to go through a 21-day quarantine before they can roam free in the city.
We caught up with the pair during their time staying at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, to talk about their projects, coping with the pandemic, and more importantly, how they lived it up during their luxury quarantine.
Welcome back! What projects have you been working on?
Towards the end of last year, we teamed up with James Louey (of KMB Bus) to produce a reality TV show called Fight’n Chance. It follows participants who have never learnt martial arts before, as they train to prepare for their first-ever fight within a month. JuJu is the host, so we put it on hold in early January when she had to fly to Thailand to join the Netflix production on the next instalment of Wu Assassins. Titled Fistful of Vengeance, it will be a feature-length film also starring Iko Uwais (The Raid) and Lewis Tan (Mortal Kombat). Now out of quarantine, we go back to working on Fight’n Chance.
How was the process like coming back to Hong Kong and was it difficult to plan?
Fortunately, we had a company hired by Netflix that organised our flights in and out of Thailand. There is actually quite a lot of documentation required, as well as the testing requirements specific to each country. We could see from observing other people going through check-in and immigration the many pitfalls awaiting someone if they don’t have all their documentation together. We heard of people going back three or four times just trying to get their visas alone! The actual process, once we arrived in Hong Kong, was mostly well organised, although staff often gave us the wrong advice on what documents to prepare as we entered a different section of the process, getting our Covid tests done was relatively painless. Of course, we had to wait a few hours to get our test results back before being allowed to leave the airport. In terms of wait time, we expected the worse (we heard of people waiting 12 hours before leaving the airport). Overall it took us four hours from disembarking our plane to leaving the airport so it wasn’t too bad.
What was your mindset when you both entered quarantine here for 21 days?
This was our third quarantine, albeit our longest. The first one was a strict self-imposed quarantine at home for two weeks which went by much faster than expected. The second was our Bangkok quarantine. Again, it was for two weeks but we had a large room with a terrace facing a garden. Plus, we were allowed to leave our rooms for an hour each day to walk around the hotel pool, so it was a really easy two weeks. Our biggest worry for the Hong Kong 21-day quarantine was that we weren’t going to have the view and fresh air that we had in Thailand. Also in Thailand, they provided cleaning for our room every other day. In Hong Kong, we were totally isolated for the 21 days, although the hotel provided cleaning supplies to us, bed sheets and towels for us to change ourselves. We were also expecting the worse so we organised activities to keep ourselves occupied.
What are five things that you must bring into quarantine with you?
JuJu: iPhone, computer, beauty device and products, exercise equipment (bike and dumbells), wine.
Antony: iPhone, exercise equipment, wine. That’s it! … Then again, the Lush Bubble Bars products were especially appreciated for our tub.
What did you dread most?
The feeling of claustrophobia and need for space and fresh air.
And how did you overcome it?
It’s really about staying occupied so the mind doesn’t wander into dark places.
How do you pass the time in your room?
We had a routine which included our daily workout, where we try to do different types of exercises every day, as well as work that would come in through emails and phone calls, so we were constantly busy.
What new routines have you picked up?
Antony: Our routine was really specific to our situation. Because our food was delivered to a schedule, preset by us, everything we did revolve around it. We woke up when our breakfast arrived. So we started the day with breakfast and news. From there we would make sure we did a full workout before lunch would arrive, which seemed to be soon after! Normally we would only eat two meals a day, so having three meals a day seemed to take up a lot of our time eating. Especially as JuJu is quite a slow eater! After lunch, we would get work done, which would more often than not take up a lot of our time. Sometimes work would continue after dinner. Once we had everything done we got into the habit of taking a nice bubble bath to relax, and then watch Netflix. We watched Vikings from the beginning of season 4, which if you’re familiar with the show you’ll know it’s very time consuming. We watched the first three seasons three years ago after we met the lead actress, who JuJu worked with on Wu Assassins.
How did you both stay active during quarantine?
JuJu: It’s really about keeping a schedule and having the equipment to help. Landmark Mandarin Oriental supplied us with yoga mats and dumbells and we had an exercise bike delivered to us from Eliment FitlLax, which we used alongside spin class videos online. A friend of ours also sent us a Ring Fit Adventure game to play and a balance board which I’ve fallen in love with! I’m doing my weight training on the balance board to work out the entire body now. All that kept us both pretty active. Pro-tip, wear light exercise clothing that’s easy to wash and dry. We used the same exercise clothes throughout our quarantine that we easily washed and hung up to dry after each workout session.
What were the meals like at the hotel and which was your favourite?
Antony: OMG… it was like a three week long chef’s table experience! The food was excellent, and we were amazed that they managed not to repeat any of the main meals for our entire stay. I think the most memorable was the lamb rack, which was one of the best lamb racks we ever had! JuJu was so taken by the buttersquash risotto that she cheekily asked for an extra helping. I loved their steak, and a special mention goes to the burger and hotdog. Needless to say, even with all our exercise routines, we added to our waistline.
Which day was the hardest one during the whole quarantine?
Being stuck indoors over such a long period of time is difficult enough. It gets particularly difficult when there’s no sunshine coming in. So there was a period of time when it was overcast and raining, and we actually felt down. As soon as we had a sunny day we felt just that more positive. So it was towards the end of the second week that the weather was at its worse and we also felt less motivated and down. I think we watched more TV those days than any other.
What is the first thing you’ve done out of quarantine?
Walk! It was just so lovely, once we got home, to just go out and walk around the neighbourhood. And then we got our vaccine. We need to travel again so getting our vaccine as soon as possible was a big deal for us.