Pui Fan Lee
12th October 2023
Pui Fan Lee has been a familiar face on our screens where she presented CBeebies but also played one of our iconic childhood characters Po from the hit TV show 'Teletubbies'.
Lee is now stepping away from the nursery rhymes and colourful sets to a serious play at the Klin Theatre where she plays a bunch of characters in 'Mlima's Tale' based on the ivory trade.
Hello Pui! Congratulations on your theatre show ‘Mlima’s Tale’ at the Kiln Theatre. What can you tell us about the show?
Milma is an elephant and actually one of the last big tuskers. It’s based on true happens that is happening in Africa at the moment. The story is about the Ivory Trade which sounds all a bit downer and depressing. Milma is played by Ira Mandela Siobhan who is this extraordinary dancer, actor, and beautiful man and he embodies Milma without any costumes because he’s physically so gifted. It’s about his ghost that follows the journey of his tusks. There are five actors in this production and we play loads of characters. Some of the characters are serious but also funny.
You’re playing the role of Guoxi. What can you tell us about them?
Yes! That’s one of the characters that I’m playing in the show. Guoxi works for the Chinese embassy in Nirobey. So, it’s an interesting position to be in. I’m British-born Chinese and my family is Hong Kong Chinese which is very different from mainland China but I did base her on a political female character. She’s very poker face but I think she has one of the most interesting scenes in the show. From the beginning of her entry to the end, it is very very different.
How different is it from being on television and being on stage?
I haven’t been a serious grown stage play for years. I’ve been in theatres around the country singing nursery rhymes and silly costumes. This was a little bit of a shock going into proper theatre because I did train to be an actor and this is what I always wanted to do and I knew this would be something I would circle back to.
Tele is different where you rock up and you got eight hours to shoot sixty pages. Funnily enough when I’ve been working with some of the big networks recently it’s all about time and time is precious. Tele is either you’re waiting around for something to be set up or it’s like fast pace where you have a short amount of time.
Now we have to talk about your iconic role as Po in the Teletubbies. The Teletubbies have been around for decades. What was it like being part of such an iconic childhood show?
When I first got it I didn’t know it was going to be that, I thought it was going to be this little number that I did on the side that no one would know about. At the time I moved out of my flat, moved in with my sister and this job came out of the blue and I thought I had to wear this costume and I didn’t even know what it was. My friends and family said I should do it as it would pay for something [laughs]. If you go in expecting to be big or massive you never know how it turns out.
100 years later, I’ve got kids and I’ve got godchildren and they have all watched it and I can’t believe it’s part of my life. My number one single of the Teletubbies became Number One and it knocked off the Spice Girls! I feel very very privileged to be part of this!
Are there any behind-the-scenes you can tell us from being on the show?
There were times the director would say would you be okay walking two hundred and fifty yards while walking in your costume, then we will start shooting and then we want you to go on this scooter made out of steel where you need to go up and down these hills. Lots of heavy breathing and sweating!
You are also one of the original presenters of CBeebies! Now that is amazing! Do you remember being approached for this role? What was it like?
At the time there was no digital tele and there were only five channels. It was part of this massive launch called Digital Tele which I didn’t know we had and it was all such a shock to me. They were launching lots of channels at the same time and one of them was ‘CBeebies’ and a lot of people couldn’t even say the word because of how the syllables were together. I feel like a lot of my journey was tripping over and falling into these jobs and I learned when I got there.
Lastly, if you had the opportunity to ‘ReVamp’ anything. What would it be and why?
I like the open-back busses to come back and I’m not sure if they are around anymore? I remember I was on a blind date and I remember my bus was coming and all I had to do was jump on the back and grab the poll! Saved by the bus! [laughs].