After seeing the Santas in action at Universal Studios Singapore's A Universal Christmas, and at malls and events all around town, we were curious: Do you have to be portly and old to play Santa? Does Santa always have to be jolly? Are there people who hate Santa?
So we asked a man who plays the jolly ol' dude at USS to give us some answers, and whadayaknow — he turns out to be not fat, not old, and kinda hot. In fact, he looks nothing like the white-bearded, big-tummied guy. He looks like this.
American Seth Adams, 35, has played Santa on and off for about three years, and is one of six people who play Santa at USS. He performs and takes pics with eager kids and their parents at the Santa’s Snowy Sleigh Ride parade. But you'll never see more than one Santa at any one time in the theme park, 'cos as a spokesperson tells us, "He’s real, okay?"
8 DAYS: Everyone thinks you have to be portly and old to play Santa. Is this true? What are the pre-requisites to being Santa?
Modern costume technology gives us the gift of portliness without having to eat our way into the role, so our Santas come in all shapes and sizes. Pre-requisites are a good “Ho Ho Ho” and a flushed face, the latter of which can be added via make-up or the natural flush from Singapore’s tropical weather.
How long does it take to get made up and into costume?
The first time takes a while because there are so many pieces to put on, but once you’re used to it, it’ll take less than 10 minutes.
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about your job playing Santa Claus?
Many people think you gotta be chubby and old to play Santa, but it’s all in the attitude! My favourite Santa is a brilliant actor named Donovan Scott in Los Angeles who grows out his white beard at the end of the summer and truly plays a magical Santa all December long. That is some Christmas spirit dedication!
What’s the best and worst part of the job?
The best part about playing the role of someone so iconic is that 99 percent of people instantly smile and wave at me. The worst part: meeting that 1 percent who are terrified of a man with big white beard (usually that’s anyone under the age of 6 months. They will learn to love him! Presents help.)
Do Christmas carols drive you crazy?
Not a bit. I’m a Christmas album nerd. This season, I even discovered a few new ones to add to my favourites list.
How do you prepare for your role? Any special things you do in the months or weeks leading up to Christmas?
I enjoy Christmas movies, so you definitely see a lot of versions of Saint Nick that are inspiring. It’s also helpful to work on the voice so I can sustain it and speak easily for hours.
How do you get yourself into the Santa mood before you get on ‘stage’?
The first waving, smiling kid snaps you into the mood right away. No work needed.
The Santa costume isn’t the most comfy. Does the beard tickle and is the suit too warm for our weather?
Yes and yes. I’m hoping we do Beach Santa at some point with sunglasses, board shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and a fresh shave, but I imagine we will stick with the classic.
What’s the best and worst experience you’ve had as Santa?
Well, one of the best parts is working with the other cast members. Watching actors turn into dancing elves, reindeer and walking candy canes is fun every time. I also love when parents are excited to share the idea of Santa. Even at my age, you can’t prove to me there isn’t a real Santa. He exists every day worldwide. The worst experience as Santa? Let’s just say it’s never polite to pull on a man’s beard, especially Santa Claus'.
Any interesting experiences to share? Have kids said or done anything interesting when they meet you? Any overzealous fans?
Most kids are just in a state of awe. Santa is quite a sight! As far as adults, there was a fan this year that showed up and stood in line to take pictures with Santa every single time he showed up during the day. Maybe she was hedging for some expensive presents this year!
Can anyone play Santa? Or does it take someone special?
Well, my grandmother is very insistent that I am special, so in her opinion I have what it takes to play Santa. But thousands of people do this every year and I bet there are A LOT of special Santas that people will remember for the rest of their lives.
A Universal Christmas is on till Jan 1 at Universal Studios Singapore. Usual admission charges apply.
Photos courtesy of Resorts World Sentosa and Seth Adams.