Catalyst for Hannie May: Acclaimed Chinese Actress Stars in a New Series Now Streaming


Still of actress Hannie May in "Catalyst"

In “Catalyst,” Hannie portrays a woman struggling with the loss of her memories, meaning not only her life is buried within the deepest parts of her brain, but so is her emotional truth and awareness of self.


The new series represents a continuation of the remarkable career May has mapped out for herself, both in scale, storyline and the reach of YouTube’s billions of daily consumers and viewers.


While the pandemic has changed the way productions are made, May found the difficulties of filming advantageous to portraying a character dealing with the discombobulating realities of her day-to-day life. The character of Joanna quite literally doesn’t understand her existence and can’t remember what led to her hospitalisation, requiring May to access and showcase a raft of emotions reserved for the best actors on screen (and computer monitor).


Not only that, but filming limitations meant producers had to devise a new narrative structure.


The remarkably skilled actress beautifully showed the character’s emotions, when Joanna struggled attempting to recall her memories and how her life was before the catalyst accident.There is a scene where it can be fully appreciated Hannie submerged herself in the pain of the character and realised how her life had changed. Her gestures and facial expressions truly showed how deep into this character she was.The frustration and hopelessness of Joanna was palpable. Undoubtedly this is a remarkable scene.


“Catalyst” streams alongside other prominent series on YouTube like “Origin” and “Impulse”. “Origin” notably was produced by Left Bank Pictures, parented by Sony Pictures organization, and stars “Harry Potter” favorite Tom Felton. Such illustrious company is all in a day’s work though for May, who says her favorite thing about the filming process was finding ways to make a truthful relationship with the camera given the reduced number of scene partners.


“Catalyst” is an atypical method of storytelling due to the current situation and the way it was filmed. The film includes self-shoot techniques and background preparation by the start. Thus, demonstrate the outstanding quality of the actress by performing both tasks simultaneously: Acting and self-shooting.


Hannie May shot by Sam Marroo

As COVID-19 led to atypical filming mandates, May found herself performing extensive and detailed monologues which portrayed and refracted the character's complex emotions.


May explains the realities of COVID-19 filming mandates, “the production could not film the story regularly as it frames multiple actors in one scene at the same time.” As a result, May also narrates part of the story.


The series begins months after Joanna recovers in the hospital, followed by her journey of trying to discover the deeper truth behind the accident which put her there. [The 3rd episode of the series shifts the storytelling from Joanna to her doctor’s point of view. A video file from Joanna and her doctor’s appointment recorded a visit from her right after the accident. In the scene, Joanna has been tortured from the loss of her loved one and is emotionally at her lowest. She decides to erase her partial memories by accepting a memory-erasing surgery from the doctor. Despite the doctor’s warning about the potential risks, Joanna insists to “set herself free” from her pain.


The scene is narrated as the display of Joanna’s patient file, where Joanna convinces the doctor to approve the surgery by showing her real struggles and depression. As emotionally challenging the scene was to play, self-shooting added more obstacles to May’s work but ultimately elevated her performance. As a result, May delivered a truthful and dynamic performance. With Joanna’s monologue especially, May not only touches the invisible doctor in the scene but also the audience.


Hannie, who’s also attracted significant national attention recently with her feature on Voyage LA and Frontline Views, has impressed audiences in the past with her memorable turns in films like “Breakdown” and “Superman.”


In “Superman,” May worked with director Aryan Gupta, and shared the screen with Shane Sandler, who also appeared in the popular series “AJ and The Queen.” While the title might suggest a superhero spoof, in actuality, the story gave opportunity for a heartfelt action-drama about a rescue in the middle of a fire. The dramatic stakes gave May ample opportunity to showcase her range in a life-or-death scenario, a juicy story and part of which most actors dream.


The performance was also especially memorable because she also participated in the process of recreating the story. As the lead character, May was required to create her own version of the script based on the logline in order to adjust the self-shooting according to her scenario/ transform original duet scenes to monologues with her understanding of the character.

Hannie May behind the scenes of "Catalyst"

Exploration of complex ideas and emotions is nothing new to the actress, originally from Xinjiang (officially known as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) in China. Adding another layer to the significance and impact of the series “Catalyst,” is the way it explores the role of technology in society.


“I feel that it is necessary for all of us to have a clear consciousness before choosing to let our life be influenced by technology,” Hannie explains when asked about the film. Hannie believes that “future technology could cause negative side effects to humanity if we do not use it cautiously.”


It’s clear this actress is not only preoccupied with promoting herself, but being a part of stories that have a broader impact through story.


“Catalyst” also required self-shooting techniques and background preparation from the start. In some ways, this presented an advantage for Hannie, as she explains: “Many monologues were filmed with one take. The production was worried that with one take, the display might lose some dramatic elements without cutting back and forth with editing techniques.” As any viewer will attest, nevertheless, as a result, it really shows a stronger inner life of the character with continuous acting and reacting.