The cast of The Lead plays wannabe stars in this drama about four friends who harbour showbiz dreams. But that’s not the only thing that’s meta about the mid-year blockbuster. We get the stars to spill on other reel life-mimicking-real life moments.
She plays… a struggling actress who can’t act.
Real life: “In the first part of the drama, my character always got scolded ’cos she couldn’t act. That happened to me a lot when I was just starting out (laughs). I got scolded by a lot of directors and cameramen. Back then, I’d be like, ‘Give me a break. I’m already trying my best.’ But now when I watch my old shows, I understand why I was scolded so badly — my acting was crap. Every day, when I reported for work, I was just waiting to get scolded. I’d make friends with the other part-timers and I’d say, ‘Okay, so how many hours do you give me before I get my first scolding today?’ (Laughs)”
She plays… an aesthetically-challenged actress who goes under the knife.
Real life: Okay, so she’s au natural. But the 24-year-old admits that she visited a plastic surgeon once. “When I was 19, I wasn’t confident about my boobs. People would say hurtful things like ‘Her chest is so flat like Changi Airport.’ So I told my mum I wanted to get a boob job. We went down to the plastic surgeon and I was ready to do it. But then, I met my mentor. He asked me, ‘Do you want to be a celebrity or an actress?’ I said, ‘An actress.’ So he said, ‘Then why do you want to change your appearance? If you do so, you’re actually looking at yourself as a celebrity.’ So, eventually, I decided against it ’cos I should love myself for who I am.”
He plays… an A-lister who hits a rough patch and indulges in vices like gambling.
Real life: The now A-lister muses that he himself has gone through a “career low”. “Of course, I didn’t gamble. The most I did was play mahjong and ended up losing a few hundred bucks. But I didn’t give up on my dream. When I was feeling low, I’d go running at night. I’ve since learnt to look at things simply, and to take one step at a time. When I was young, I wanted to quickly rise to the top and be a superstar. Now, I just focus on doing my part well in my shows, and slowly work towards my dream. I hope that one day, people from overseas will know that there’s someone called ‘Shaun Chen’ in Singapore.”
He plays… a verbose Hongkong stunt coordinator.
Real life: “You know how the filming crew in Hongkong like using vulgarities?” says Hanwei. “Sometimes, I got too immersed in my role, like when I scold someone, I found myself spewing vulgar words (laughs). The crew had to edit all those scenes away. But they loved hearing me swear ’cos it’s so real. When they’re filming, they also use vulgarities (laughs).”
She plays… an actress past her heyday, who under-performs ’cos she’s physically strained.
Real life: “These are problems that we older actors face [Ed: She’s 55]. While filming Peace & Prosperity and The Lead, I kept falling sick as I’m going through menopause. My weight kept fluctuating like a balloon. Sometimes, my face would become bloated. When I looked in the mirror, I’d be shocked. The change wasn’t just physical, but mental too. How do I do as good as when I was young? You’re fighting against nature. I took MC twice ’cos of health issues while filming those two shows. I was very paiseh ’cos I seldom take MC. The 14 days of MC I took then was to make up for my clean record in the past 35 years of my career (laughs). But now, I’m learning yoga to slow down my aging process. I also don’t have much of a nightlife now and I’ve stopped drinking red wine. I’m slowly leading the life of an old person (laughs).”
He plays… a struggling actor who gets relegated to supporting roles while his peers thrive in their careers.
Real life: “My character always feels like life is against him and things are unfair. It reminds me of myself when I was younger. [When I didn’t get as many opportunities as my peers,] I’d think that it’s not fair lor. I’m working so hard and I’m better than so-and-so, how come that doesn’t happen to me? It’s worse if the person is from the same batch or around the same age — I’d feel very sian. Like Desmond [Tan] got a lot more popular than I did even though he joined showbiz later. I spent more time acting and I did more projects. But he came in and within like a year [of becoming a full-time artiste], he was taking on lead roles. So I was like, ‘Why like that?’ (Laughs)”
The Lead debuts May 22, 9pm, Ch 8.
PHOTOS: KELVIN CHIA