Photos: Teo Sijia
Video: Foong Mien Shi, Sarah Tay
An air of gloom hung over the set of C.L.I.F. 4 yesterday at the funeral scene of Yang Zhongzheng (Terence Cao), during our media visit. It didn’t help that the skies were overcast and it rained relentlessly right before they filmed the coffin scene at Mount Vernon.
Dressed in a neatly-pressed white shirt and black pants, Terence tells us this is not his first time filming a coffin scene, having done it for dramas like The Reunion (2001), where his character died a valiant death after sustaining multiple gunshots.
“It was very grand and he died like a man. But in my mind, I thought it was just messy – I had to imagine the gun shots (more than 20 of it) and they had to film it slow-motion. But that was still memorable,” he said.
Terence gets ready for his scene in the coffin
No stranger to playing dead on camera, Terence revealed that he has also filmed in a coffin that was shaped like an “ingot” for a period drama series. The key to playing dead – according to him – lies in the breathing method.
“It’s like acting sick – you don’t have much lines to begin with,” he said, “What makes it different from acting sick is the need to hold your breath when the director shouts action… You have to remain very still and you cannot twitch or let your eyeballs move around because of the close-up shots.
“If you take too big a breath, your veins will start popping out. The secret is in taking half-a-deep breath,” said Terence.
His C.L.I.F. 4 co-star, Elvin Ng (he plays Zhang Guixiang), had an equally unfortunate first brush with playing dead in A Life of Hope, his first acting project in 2005.
In a separate interview, he tells us that the scene, in which his character was clobbered to death, required a total of 20 NG (no-good) takes as the tube of blood that was on his head (hidden in his hair) did not drip in the right direction for the camera.
“It was supposed to drip down in the middle of my forehead, but the blood was uncooperative,” chuckled Elvin.
When Li Nanxing, who plays Wei Lantian in C.L.I.F. 4, was quizzed about his most memorable on-screen death, he brought up his role in The Journey: Tumultuous Times, which saw his character Zhang Tianpeng die a sudden death after tumbling down the stairs.
“I want the most natural death – sometimes it is too handsome, heroic or exaggerated. I prefer a natural on-screen death,” he added with a chuckle.
Li Nanxing shares about working on set with Rui En and their five-month-old baby on the next page.
Nanxing and Rui En with baby Cara (right). Photo: Li Nanxing Global/Instagram
Although Lantian loses his best friend in the new season of C.L.I.F., he gains a new family member after his wife, Huang Zhijie (played by Rui En), gets pregnant and gives birth to a baby girl. According to Nanxing, the onscreen couple have started filming with their young co-star, baby Cara.
So how have he and Rui En (the actress previously shared that she doesn’t like working with babies as they can be quite difficult to handle on set) fared so far in terms of parenting their five-month-old onscreen baby?
Self-professed baby whisperer Nanxing beamed with pride when he shared that their first two scenes with the baby went smoothly – without a hitch. “She’s (Cara) very good and anyone can handle her. Some babies are very sensitive, due to actions or smell that can make them uncomfortable and insecure. But when I’m carrying her, she seems to like me and would even rest her head on my chest. (Chuckles)”
Added Nanxing, “I did teach her (Rui En) a few tricks – make sure the baby feels that you are someone who is secure and reliable – and when you carry the baby, you need to do it with the right posture and allow the baby to feel your body warmth.
Nanxing finds a random object to substitute their baby in the show
It appears that imparting tricks and tips on how to handle babies is not the only thing Ah Ge has done for his co-star on set.
Nanxing played mood-maker as per usual, despite the somberness at the funeral scene and was on the constant lookout for his co-star Rui En, who was also present at the filming session, often giving her an encouraging pat or two on the back. When they were posing for a couple shot together, he started frantically searching high and low for their nowhere-in-sight baby, tickling the actress with his gestures.
When asked if Rui En, who was recently embroiled in an accident involving a stationary motorbike, is coping well on set after the incident, he said: “Things are OK [on set]. It has been some time since the matter and I think she needs some time for it to settle down.”
“Sometimes I’d crack jokes to improve the atmosphere, I really want to encourage everyone, including her too, at work,” explained Nanxing, as he added, “We need to give her some space and time to settle things. And what we can do as co-stars is to ensure that everything else is well taken care of…”
Similarly, during his interview, Elvin expressed his hopes for Rui En to ride through this rough patch. “I wish her well and at the same time I feel heartbroken too. She is usually a very confident person but has mellowed down recently. I really don’t wish for this to happen to anyone else.”
The actress’ manager from Hype Records was also present yesterday and turned down interview requests, explaining that Rui En is still facing a lot of pressure, and they hope for the media to give her space.
C.L.I.F. 4 debuts September 6, 9pm on Channel 8.
Watch past episodes of C.L.I.F. 1, C.L.I.F. 2, C.L.I.F. 3 on Toggle.