Cast of C.L.I.F. 4 on dying and playing dead

Dead or alive: The actors talk about their death scenes from previous dramas

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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.

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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.

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