After binge-watching all 10 episodes of Toggle Originals series Derek, we admit that speaking to its two stars, Desmond Tan (who returns as everybody’s favourite “nice Singaporean boy”) and Chantalle Ng (who plays his lover Stephanie An), felt kind of… jarring.
That’s a compliment to them, of course. In the Code of Law spin-off, we see the tragic backstory of maniacal murderer Derek Ho unfold via flashbacks and tales told to psychologist Dr Winnie Low (played by Cheryl Tan) in a rather The Silence of the Lambs-esque exchange. One key person in his past is Stephanie, a troubled young woman who teeters between gloomy moods and hysterical episodes.
Needless to say, the two actors are nothing like their deranged characters in real life: Chantalle is sweet and cheery (she replies to WhatsApp messages with two exclamation points, if that’s any indication), while Desmond, besides the obvious difference of not having killed anyone in his life (not that we know of, at least), loves to joke around - for instance, he gleefully sprouted a bunch of puns with the word “ass” when we were discussing his butt-baring scenes.
Oh yes, his disrobed derrière is on full display for a few precious seconds in one pivotal sequence. According to the 32-year-old, he did not know about his booty-showing duty until the imaging session, when the director approached him about it. While he was taken aback at first, he decided to go along with it as he trusted that it would be done in a tasteful manner.
Going nude also made sense in a way, as the scene involves Derek attempting to hang himself with the prison jumpsuit that he was wearing. But wait, do convicts go commando?
“My friends asked me the same thing and I was like, maybe prisoners aren’t allowed to have underwear in case they kill each other with it, then a lot of them joked that the director just wants to see my ass,” he chuckled. “But I think [the nude scene] makes it more gritty? And I would like the whole of Singapore to see my ass. (Laughs)”
And you can do so in Episode 3 (out today) below:
Desmond Tan talks groin guards, duct tape and almost blacking out
To prepare for his literal exposé, Desmond visited a sports shop to look for groin guards to keep him covered up (somewhat) in front. “Initially I asked [the drama staff] to buy one for me, but then we started talking about sizes and types, and we figured out that it’d be better for me to go and get one myself because I would know my own size better,” he grinned.
Because he had to remove the bands so that they wouldn’t be seen on screen, he had to find another way to keep that very necessary accessory in place. “I used double-sided tape at first, but it was too flimsy and whenever I sweat, I could feel [the groin guard] sliding down, so I asked for duct tape.”
You can imagine how that went. Although it proved to be the most effective method in getting the groin guard to stick, taking it off, as Desmond described, “was the most painful part of the entire show”. Ouch. “But I would rather feel pain than it sliding off!”
With the groin guard in place, they could finally proceed with filming. To make Desmond feel more comfortable, the entire room was cleared, save for two key crew members and himself. However, when the shoot was finally over and done with, the actor walked out to discover over 20 people – from the director to the makeup artist to the lighting guy – staring very intensely at a monitor that had been displaying the scene the entire time.
“So while there were physically not many people in the room with me, the whole kampong (village) was outside watching my ass. (Laughs)”
The dedicated thesp also recounted a frightening moment when he was filming the hanging scene. “I had to hold on to the noose while standing on a chair and slowly rotate, and while I was rotating, I could actually feel the noose tightening around my neck,” he shared. “I felt like I was losing focus and almost going to black out, which worried me because if I really did black out, I might lose my footing.” Thankfully, that did not happen.
So then, is Desmond prepared for screenshots of his behind to be plastered all over social media? Shrugging, he quipped, “If you have good art pieces, you have to show them to the whole world.”
This is one self-assured chap.
Stay tuned for our interview with Chantalle Ng!
Stills: Mediacorp Channel 5