If you were on Canadian-Taiwanese model-actor Jeff Chou’s Instagram page last Thursday morning (Sep 26), you might have spotted two risqué screenshots of him and Joanne Peh in the throes of passion from a bedroom scene in Toggle Originals series Last Madame (they were pretty hard to miss).
Alas, the post was flagged and subsequently taken down about two hours after it was uploaded. And you won’t see the complete final product in its entirety in the M18-rated production either, as the frame is cropped to avoid showing the bottom half of their bare bodies.
Bummed? So is Jeff. “I’m a bit disappointed that we went all the way, but weren’t able to show it in the end,” he told us in an interview last week. That said, he has no regrets as “it’s still a very beautiful scene” and, as he noted on social media, it gave him the “opportunity to push [him] beyond [his] comfort zone and grow past [his] fears”.
Of course, the 30-year-old was understandably apprehensive about going so far at first, especially in what was only his second acting project and first main role. “I was a little scared because the script is very descriptive!” he said, explaining that his character, the suave but stoic Inspector Mak, was supposed to make certain, erm, expressions (if you know what we mean).
However, upon learning of Joanne’s willingness to take on the racy challenge (whether the steamy sequence would even exist or not hinged on how comfortable the actress was), Jeff was encouraged - or was it pressured? - to follow suit, especially when he knew that she had full trust in him. “If she’s okay with it, then I can’t say no, right?” he chuckled.
In her own Instagram post, Joanne, who plays brothel boss Fung Lan, elaborated on her reasons for agreeing to do the scene. “It wasn’t just about love-making, it was my character learning to love and trust again, and a transitional milestone for both our characters,” the 36-year-old wrote, adding that she “realised [she] had made the right decision after watching the cut. “Because showing two bodies moving in unison captured the passions and inner conflict of the two characters so vividly, it pushed the show to a different level.”
Read on as Jeff tells us more about filming the bedroom scene, and why he was scared of Joanne at first.
Toggle: How did you become involved in Last Madame?
Jeff: We had a casting in Taiwan, and I tried out for the role of Guo Wen (the heritage enthusiast helping Fung Lan’s great-granddaughter discover more about her family history, played by Ky Tan) at first, but the director thought I was more suitable for Mr. Mak, and I can see why: he’s a more serious guy with a poker face, so we kind of have the same demeanour. (Laughs)
How did you prepare for your role?
I watched a lot of movies that take place at around the same time period (the 1930s), like Vertigo and Chinatown, just to see how policemen moved, talked, and dressed back then. I also looked into the history of Singapore just to get an idea of what it was like at that time.
What was your first day on set like?
It was a tough day for sure: I didn’t know anyone, it was an outdoor shoot, I had to wear a full suit in the heat, and Joanne and I had to film a more intimate scene from a later part of the story, when we had only met once before in real life. I had to get used to all these new things, but it got better after that.
Did you do anything to try and break the ice with Joanne?
The thing is, I was a little scared of her, actually. (Laughs) I think it’s because of her persona and the fact that she’s a more veteran actress, so I was kinda afraid to talk to her. It was only on the second or third day when I realised that we have a lot in common. She told me that she doesn’t really like to talk to people on set because she just wants to concentrate on the scene, and I’m like that as well.
Let’s talk about your bedroom scene. What was it like?
I was very nervous, but it was kind of a fun experience! I had a modified groin protector with the sides cut off taped to my body, which was kind of uncomfortable, but it was fun because that’s not something I do every day. Plus, everyone was very professional and it was a closed set. [Joanne and I] took off our clothes, did it, and as soon as we were done, people would come in and cover us up. It was a very safe environment.
Did you feel awkward?
I felt like I had very good chemistry with Joanne. And she’s really good - she was very realistic, so it was easier for me to get into the moment as well. It was only when the director yelled “cut” that I would feel awkward, and I wouldn’t dare to look at her again until she put her robe on. (Laughs)
Do you remember how long it took to film that scene?
We were planning to block out the whole day for that, but in the end it only took around six to seven hours. We had a few other scenes before that, but I couldn’t think of anything else [but the bedroom scene]. (Laughs)
Would you consider the bedroom scene your biggest challenge on Last Madame?
For me, most of the challenges were in everyday things like being natural and appearing relaxed in front of the camera, but Joanne helped me through it a lot. I also experienced a lot of firsts on this production, like fight scenes, gun scenes, the sex scene, and displaying a range of emotions.
Photos: Tammi Tan, Ochre Pictures, Instagram/Jeff Chou