Jernelle Oh goes from Ah Lian to Star Awards Best Actress nominee, Latest TV News - The New Paper

Jernelle Oh goes from Ah Lian to Star Awards Best Actress nominee

Sometimes, when Mediacorp starlet Jernelle Oh is out and about, she gets approached by fans – but not for pictures or signatures.

Instead, they want the 29-year-old local actress to yell at them and say: “You’re nothing but a prostitute.” 

Way before Oh joined the broadcaster via the 2019 Star Search talent competition – she was one of 12 finalists – she was an Ah Lian. Or rather, she played one in a 2013 episode of long-running crime prevention and re-enactment series Crimewatch (1986 to present). 

The episode was about gangs and culminated in a teenage gang fight that got bloody. 

In a clip that went viral on the internet in 2021, the teenage girl Oh plays gets into a fight with her friend (actress Shanice Koh) and calls her a prostitute. Incensed, Koh’s character challenges the Ah Lian to a confrontation at Pioneer Mall the next day at 4pm.

“It’s very surreal because I still get comments on my Instagram, like, ‘Can we go to Pioneer Mall at 4pm?’ And even in the past year, I’ve had two or three encounters with fans (in person) who want me to scold them and call them a prostitute,” Oh says. 

But this Ah Lian has come a long way. She has been nominated for Best Actress at Mediacorp’s annual Star Awards for the first time, for her portrayal of a delivery worker with cerebral palsy in the drama series Cash On Delivery (2023).

Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition which affects one’s mobility.

Oh will be competing for the honour alongside more established names such as Joanne Peh, Rui En, Kym Ng and Chantalle Ng at the awards ceremony on April 21.

Oh says: “It’s a bit unbelievable. Ever since I started watching TV as a kid, I’ve been watching Mediacorp programmes like Star Search, Campus Superstar (2006 to 2013) and Star Awards. It’s my childhood and, suddenly, I’m here.”

Her performance in Cash On Delivery has been lauded – she was the Singapore national prize winner for Best Actress at 2023’s Asian Academy Creative Awards. Netizens have also praised her for her touching portrayal of a disabled person. 

Oh says she felt trepidation when she was approached for the role. 

She recalls: “I sat next to my washing machine at home and talked to my manager for an hour. I knew it was going to be challenging and I wanted to know how I could do this role in a way that was respectful and realistic.”

As the role is based on a real person – Singaporean food delivery worker Roszana Ali, who uses a motorised wheelchair on her delivery trips – Oh prepared by speaking extensively to Ms Roszana to understand her day-to-day challenges on the job.

The actress also watched YouTube and TikTok videos of people with cerebral palsy to make sure she portrayed their experience in an authentic manner.

She sought advice from her Cash On Delivery co-star Richie Koh, who won Best Actor at Star Awards in 2023 for his portrayal of an intellectually disabled man on the autism spectrum in Your World In Mine (2022).

She says: “I asked him to check how I looked sitting in the motorised wheelchair and he gave me some suggestions on how to sit, move and so on, which was helpful.”

While Koh did snag the award just last year for playing someone who is disabled, Oh says she did not anticipate getting nominated for her performance. 

“I was just really glad that people liked the character. I hope she was realistic enough for people to feel for delivery workers with disabilities and hopefully be kinder and more understanding towards them,” she says.

Oh also hosts the online short-form variety show #JustSwipeLah (2021 to present), which picked up Best Short-Form Entertainment Programme for the first time at a Star Awards gala dinner held on April 15.

She is one of three Singaporean cast members alongside Mediacorp colleagues Tyler Ten and Cheryl Chou in the Taiwanese series Love On A Shoestring, which premieres on Channel U on May 2 at 10pm  and is also available on mewatch. She has a supporting role as an office newbie in the workplace romantic comedy. 

And in a coming-full-circle moment, she starred in another episode of Crimewatch in 2023, but this time as a police officer instead of a troublemaking teenage girl.

With her career going swimmingly, Oh’s personal life is also headed for an important milestone – marriage.

Her 30-year-old engineer boyfriend of six years proposed at Oishi Park, near Mount Fuji, during a vacation to Japan in November 2023, while she was on a break from filming Love On A Shoestring. 

“We had already looked at the ring, so I knew he was going to propose. I just didn’t know when it was going to happen,” says Oh, who declined to reveal more about her fiance as he prefers to keep a low profile.

The couple met while studying at Nanyang Technological University, where Oh studied linguistics. She says she is not currently in wedding planning mode as she hopes to buy her matrimonial home first. 

While she is newly engaged, her camera-shy beau will not be attending Star Awards as her date and will support her while watching it from home. Still, he is firmly by her side.

Oh says: “He was the first person I told after I found out about my nomination (in February). He was very happy for me and he said we should go out and eat something nice, so we had Thai food at Nakhon Kitchen.”

  • Star Awards 2024 airs live on Channel 8 and Channel U on April 21 at 7pm, as well as online on mewatch and Mediacorp Entertainment’s YouTube channel.
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