Perlina Lau

Perlina Lau’s World Without Men

The star of post-apocalyptic dramedy 'Creamerie' talks the show's mandemic and what an Asian show really looks like

Perlina Lau

Courtesy of "Creamerie"

With so many remakes and retellings of stories in film and television, I’ve wondered if Hollywood had run out of fresh ideas—until I stumbled upon the Asian women-led post-apocalyptic New Zealand dramedy Creamerie.

The wild ride of a show follows three women living on a dairy farm eight years following a “mandemic,” where a virus killed all the men on Earth. While the women live in a commune under an organization called the Wellness, balance is broken when the leads stumble upon a living male, unearthing dark truths about the Wellness. The recently released season two picks up right after the season one finale where [spoiler alert!] it was revealed that the Wellness had held men captive in “man-milking” facilities to use in their own reproduction lottery.

The series becomes a fresh reimagining of the post-apocalyptic genre, with Asian women at the helm, while touching on topics of maternal grief, women’s bodily autonomy, and the politicization of the female anatomy.

The show was created by JJ Fong, Perlina Lau, Roseanne Liang, and Ally Xue, with Fong, Lau and Xue playing the three leads Jaime, Pip, and Alex, respectively.

I chatted with Lau about her journey to the iconic milk farm, her experiences as an Asian woman in the industry, her aspirations for creating nuanced Asian women in the show, and her thoughts on how although the world of Creamerie is fictional, it bares a sinister resemblance to the world we live in today.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Also, it should be noted that Creamerie is a New Zealand production that’s locally funded with cast contracted under New Zealand standard contracts and are not subject to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike.

Perlina Lau as Pip in "Creamerie."

Courtesy of "Creamerie"

Andre Lawes Menchavez: I’m curious to know about your gateway into acting and if you ever imagined that gateway would one day lead you to creating a series following a sperm-hoarding operation in a dystopian society—
Perlina Lau: I can’t say I had that on my radar! I was one of those kids that did a gazillion after-school activities including dancing, music and speech and drama so I was always on stage doing something. I asked my parents for an agent at the age of 15, but I didn’t have much luck until a theater production at age 20, where I met JJ Fong and Ally Xue. We then roped in Roseanne to be our mentor and everything else and that’s when Flat3 (a comedy web series created by Lau, Fong and Xue) was born.

ALM: Before I ask more about Creamerie, I want to hear a bit about your journey to the show, especially as an Asian actor. As an Asian woman in film and television, would you have any advice to younger Asian folks who want to be a part of the industry?
PL: Growing up in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, there just weren’t that many Asian actors on screen, and even less so in New Zealand. So from very early on it felt like something I wouldn’t be able to pursue full-time. Perhaps that’s my realistic and practical side coming through, but I just knew I had to find other things to be excited and passionate about too—and luckily I did, with news and broadcasting.

But things are changing, and in the past decade, there’s a lot more awareness and open conversation about diversity and variation, on and off screen. There’s still a long way to go, but at least we’re talking and having those conversations. My advice would be to develop skills across multiple areas and to stick with it. It can be a tough industry and there can be a lot of rejection so I think it’s important—excuse the well-worn expression—not to put all your eggs in one basket.

The showrunners of "Creamerie." From left, Ally Xue, Perlina Lau, Roseanne Liang and JJ Fong.

Courtesy of "Creamerie"

ALM: And now today, you are a part of Creamerie, this iconic television show that I am obsessed with! Two seasons in, I admire how Alex, Jaime and Pip are all distinct, nuanced, independent characters from one another—combating this monolith we typically see in the depictions of Asian women. As one of the show creators, was it an intentional thought to create a show with nuanced Asian women characters?
PL: Thank you so much! Creating three very different, nuanced, and complex characters was absolutely something we did intentionally. We spent a lot of time trying to work out, in detail, who these women were, their flaws, their quirks and being very insistent that we create 3D characters. If nothing else, it’s to mimic real life, where people are complicated and can be many things at once, and we wanted to honor this in the show. As actors, it also gives you more to play with and creates a more exciting and challenging character to depict.

ALM: Going off of that, what do you think the television and film industry needs more of when it comes to representing Asians on screen, especially Asian women? What do you think Creamerie does for Asian representation that Hollywood should do more of?
PL: I’m clearly biased, but just more. More Asian women playing characters that are both cast because they're Asian roles and cast because it’s a role that anyone can play. Just because you have more than one Asian or pan-Asian actor, it doesn’t mean it’s an Asian show. I think also having characters that are 3D is so important, and while it’s getting better in Hollywood, it’d be great to see Asian women in meaty leading roles that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the character being Asian.

Just because you have more than one Asian or pan-Asian actor, it doesn’t mean it’s an Asian show.

ALM: How did it feel to work with such a diverse cast then, especially given that a female-led and Asian-led cast is rare to come by in the industry today?
PL: This was always one of our points of difference along with being an almost all-female leading cast, Kiwi Chinese and doing comedy. We’re always very deliberate and conscious in our casting and every choice is thought out. We’re really proud of that and it’s something we try to implement on and off screen. So having a diverse range in the production team and crew as well. It also feels like I’m just working with very close friends or a bit like sisters, and we get to make cool stuff together!

ALM: That’s amazing! For your character Pip, it was so easy to laugh with and admire her—the unwavering optimism, humor, and banter she’d always have in contrast with Alex. Such a great character! Do you feel any connection to Pip in any way or resonate with her at all? And what do you think was your favorite part of playing a character like her?
PL: Thank you! I find her equal parts annoying and endearing! I often think of Pip as that person who corrects you when you’ve pronounced a word wrong, or fights to prove she’s right over something quite petty—but there’s also a deeper level of insecurity and not quite knowing who she is. I think there’s definitely a part of me that can be quite petty and smug at the same time. [Laughs] I definitely think she’s the best character to play! Playing someone who’s emotionally quite immature but also, at heart, well-meaning is my favorite part of playing the character. She’s so naive at times but also constantly pushes the boundary with everyone around her. It’s both bold and frustrating!

From top, JJ Fong, Ally Xue and Perlina Lau star in "Creamerie."

Courtesy of "Creamerie"

ALM: What are your thoughts on the connection of the show’s themes and messages to the reality of our modern day world? The show addresses the lack of autonomy over bodies, the political usage of the female anatomy, the processes of grief as a mother losing their child—I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
PL: Everything you mentioned there are absolutely things we’ve thought about and noticed in the world around us, and so while the show is dystopian, it’s certainly not too far removed from our reality. We see abuse of power everywhere, women not having control of their own bodies and this has become political and about power—I’m of course referring to the reversal of Roe v. Wade. All we’ve really done in Creamerie is flip the table. We often see women being portrayed as assets or for their reproductive organs and in our show, it’s the opposite. In our casting, we hint at power structures and inequities among women that exist today and would still exist even if you took men out of the equation.

ALM: I want to ask, as I am still on the edge of my seat after that finale, do you know if we are going to get a season three? And what do you hope to see from the show in the future for Pip?
PL: We are keeping our fingers crossed for season three! They’ve been on the run so she’s been a bit busy getting tortured—but it would be good to see Pip land somewhere where she feels accepted and like she belongs. I don’t think she’s found a place where she feels valued and that she has something to offer. I think she’s still searching for that. She’s also been in the dog box with the two other women, so they’ll need to smooth out those tensions!

Creamerie is streaming now on TVNZ+ in New Zealand, Hulu in the United States, and SBS On Demand and SBS VICELAND in Australia.

From left, JJ Fong, Perlina Lau, Ally Xue and Jay Ryan star in "Creamerie."

Courtesy of "Creamerie"

Published on November 7, 2023

Words by Andre Lawes Menchavez

Andre Lawes Menchavez (he/him) is a Filipinx, Indigenous and queer community organizer who uses journalism as a tool of activism, constantly seeking to lift up marginalized communities through his work. He received his bachelor of arts degree in law, societies and justice at the University of Washington and his master of arts in specialized journalism—with a focus in race and social justice reporting—from the University of Southern California. Find him on Instagram at @itsjustdrey.