Text and Photos: Tammi Tan, reporting from Penang
Video: Teng Siew Eng
Most of us know Alaric Tay as the man behind iconic (and utterly hilarious) The Noose characters Xin Huahua and Andre Chichak, but in December, we will see a completely different side of the local actor on Channel 5’s Mata Mata: A New Generation.
In the third instalment of the police period drama, which also stars Cheryl Wee, Daren Tan, Desmond Tan and Oon Shu An, Alaric takes on the antagonistic role of gang boss Eric Leong. “This is my first villain role with zero comedic elements in it,” he told us during his interview with Toggle on set in Penang. “And it is so fun.”
While he may not have the intimidating, brawny build of his minions, he more than makes up for it with a ruthless, cold-blooded demeanour that will send chills up and down your spine, if what we caught a glimpse of during filming was any indication.
“He’s usually a calm, quiet person, but when it comes time to take action, he goes for the kill,” said Alaric during his interview with Toggle. According to the FLY Entertainment artiste, he drew influence for his portrayal from both western and eastern onscreen gangsters (“I’m a big fan of the Young and Dangerous series”), as well as from his knowledge of secret societies in Singapore, on which he wrote a paper for in university.
To look the part, Alaric got a few fake tattoos on his arms: his character’s surname in Chinese, two dragons, a snake, and a gang sign that was “undergoing reconstruction” at the time we spoke.
In addition, he even has a bit of real life experience as inspiration. Back in his secondary school days, Alaric was chummy with the gangsters in his class. However, he only picked up the positive bits from his alliance with them: friendship, loyalty, and standing up for one another.
“They were fairly tame gangsters that knew how to draw the line,” he said. “Because I’ve been on the receiving end of these guys covering for me, I understand how this idea of brotherhood works.”
One incident that demonstrates the good rapport between Alaric and his unlikely pals happened during a school trip to Malaysia. “We were in a mall and one of them noticed a small group of other gangsters staring at us, but I was totally oblivious to it,” he recalled. “He alerted us and we all calmly walked out, with them in strategic positions around me. There were 10 of us and only three of them, but they had helmets, which can be used as a weapon.”
Alaric also stressed that they took care to be considerate around his family. “When they come to my house for Chinese New Year, they would smoke outside instead of inside the house. I remember my mum telling me that she appreciated them being respectful,” he said. “They were a cool bunch of dudes.”
Pictured: Find out why Alaric is holding Oon Shu An hostage when the show premieres on Channel 5 on November 30.
Unfortunately, Alaric’s co-stars Desmond Tan and Rifat Hidayat can’t say the same about the hoodlums they’ve encountered.
Rifat, who plays police officer Isham, had the bad luck of getting his nose broken in a nightclub three to four years ago, when he was a polytechnic student. “I don’t know what I did, I was just having fun and I got punched in the face. That was the most physical confrontation I’ve had with a gangster,” he said.
As for Desmond, who looked unrecognisable in a short wig for his role as Tommy Foo, a former thug who is forced to re-join Eric Leong’s unruly brood after the latter sabotages his job hunts, he went through a similar incident in lower primary while playing soccer with the school delinquents.
“One moment I was kicking the ball, and the next, I was down on the ground, stunned,” he recounted. “One of them had punched me in the face. That was my very first school bully experience, but after that, I grew taller and no one really dared to bother me anymore. (laughs)”
Although the self-proclaimed good boy (and former school monitor to boot) didn’t have interesting tales about being inducted into a group of hooligans to regale us with, he did go through a “crazy clubber” phase when he was 20, right before joining Star Search in 2007.
“For months, I clubbed up to five days a week,” he said. “I never got into trouble but my friends and I would stay up just drinking and hanging out. It was very messed up and meaningless, and it brought me to really think about what I really want to do in life because I felt very useless and lost. Now when I think back, I don’t know what all the fun was about.”
Mata Mata: A New Generation premieres at 10pm on December 7 on Channel 5. Stay tuned for more features from our visit to the set in Penang!
More from our Mata Mata set visit:
Cheryl Wee: from self-starved starlet to empowered entrepreneur