When local actor Desmond Tan was told during a production meeting that he would be travelling to Alor Setar, Malaysia, to film his new Mediacorp drama All That Glitters, he was confused at first.
“What star?” he wondered, thinking that the production team had mispronounced the location name.
Speaking to AsiaOne at the press conference for the drama recently, the 37-year-old recounted his filming experiences overseas: “Alor Setar is a town that I have never heard of and the whole experience was new to me.”
He added that it was his first overseas project since the Covid-19 pandemic and he was looking forward to it.
“I really enjoy filming overseas, because that’s the only time that you get to live together with your co-stars. You get to stay together with the production members where you can have a very open opportunity to talk to your fellow cast members, directors, crew members and cameramen to share your ideas and to listen to their ideas.
“So every day, on and off production, we were always in tune and in sync together. That was a really good experience,” he shared.
‘It looks almost like a Hong Kong film’
Because of the good working environment, Desmond believes that it translated to a good outcome for the drama production as well.
He said: “I think the results speak volumes. I saw the trailer and I believe a lot of people also messaged and shared it with friends, saying that the show almost looks like a Hong Kong film, so it’s a big win.”
Desmond also talked about the “awesome” locations that they filmed at in Malaysia and Hat Yai, Thailand.
“We had the opportunity to shoot at a stream in a national park where no one was there. An experience like this is very rare. We were blessed to be able to do this with the support of the local tourism boards and the ministers.
“At some point when we were shooting in Hat Yai, the traffic police helped us to clear the road and block out the entire street, so it was very nice to have the support of the local people,” he said.
‘Dude, why are you topless in the hotel corridor?’
Besides the good vibes and environment, Desmond added that while they were shooting in Malaysia for four weeks and in Thailand for two weeks, he also had a good chance to get to know his cast mates Ayden Sng, Jeremy Chan and Tyler Ten better.
He shared: “It’s only through living together in the same place that we get to know each other better.
“In Singapore, we usually report for work separately and leave to go back home at the end of the day. We hardly have time to meet each other even for dinner. It is only when we are overseas where your family and friends are not around, that you get to build an additional friendship and it’s amazing, because this is the first time the few of us worked together and we can build such a good friendship.”
Desmond revealed that he is a “clean and neat freak”, where he would unpack his luggage and arrange everything neatly in his hotel room. He would also have his bed properly made before getting out of his room every day, which surprised his cast mates.
He also shared some of their funny experiences with us, such as the time when Tyler Ten, 27, who stayed on a different level in the hotel, visited Desmond’s room to get something from him.
“When Tyler came to my room, he was actually topless. I said, ‘Dude, why are you topless in the hotel corridor?’ He said, ‘No lah, just come here [to get something from you] and go back to my room.’
“If I remember correctly, I think he had a towel over him, but he was in shorts and I was like ‘Dude, this is public, man’,” he added with a laugh.
Desmond also shared that they had a cute nickname for Ayden — Gudetama, the Japanese cartoon character that is a perpetually tired raw egg.
“Ayden looks very proper and very gentleman-like and you may think that he’s an always on-the-ball kind of person. But on some days he is very, very adorable. We call him Gudetama, because he’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t feel like doing anything. I am just going to nuah (laze around)’ and it’s so hard to get him out,” he said.
‘Jeremy is such a sweetheart’
Desmond added that it is through living together overseas — in separate rooms — that they get to see each other’s living styles and shopping habits.
He said: “The biggest attraction for us, or rather, the best pastime for all the actors was just grocery shopping. So we spent a lot of time grocery shopping together.
“I got to know that Jeremy loves blueberries. So when he buys blueberries, we will exchange food with each other. It was fun.”
The sharing habit continued even when they returned to Singapore.
Desmond said: “Jeremy is such a sweetheart. He bought me packet herbs to cook chicken, because we were going through a very tedious schedule at the time.”
He added that when he was sick during production, Jeremy sent 10 coconuts to his home.
“I have to cut them open myself every day, so that was a very interesting experience as well,” he shared.
Beside buying food and other items for each other along the way, Desmond also bought sunscreen for Jeremy because he was filming under the sun most of the time.
“It’s a very loving experience working with this group of people,” he added.
‘They thought that I was a repairman’
Speaking about his filming experience, Desmond also shared that he had three hairstyles in the series, which he called the “F4 hair”, “Jay Chou hair” and “prison hair”.
While all three hairstyles were equally amusing for him, the one that stood out to him most was the Jay Chou hairstyle.
He shared: “The hairstyle had a fringe covering one of my eyes with three coloured stripes. I actually suggested that because I remember Jay Chou having this hair in one of his world tour concerts.
“That was my second hairstyle that people kept laughing at. I remember when I wore that wig and the moving company’s uniform with an earring and other accessories for my role, other artistes couldn’t recognise me when we bumped into each other at Mediacorp. They thought that I was a repairman.
“It was interesting to hear comments like that. I thought the image was very successful”.
Desmond also shared that wearing the wigs took him and the styling team about 30 to 45 minutes each time, and if he had to shoot with two different hairstyles a day, sometimes his lunchtime would be cut out.
Despite that, he felt that it was all worth it.
He said: “The hairstyles really created a change throughout the two decades, from the 90s to the present day… It was also easy for me to get into character once I put on the wig and changed to a certain hairstyle.”
All That Glitters centres around three young men, Lin Musen (Desmond Tan), He Jianzhe (Ayden Sng) and Huang Jintiao (Jeremy Chan), who are unhappy with their life circumstances at the bottom of the social ladder and are determined to achieve success in life and change their destinies. However, in the midst of gaining riches and accomplishments, their friendships crumble as they turn from best friends to worst enemies.
The drama, which also stars Hong Ling, He Yingying, Chen Yixin, Zhang Zetong and Tyler Ten, airs on Channel 8 at 9pm on weekdays. It is also available now on demand for free on meWATCH.
ALSO READ: ‘Peer pressure to me doesn’t exist’: Ayden Sng on effect of Mensa’s admission and new realisations turning 30
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