Photos: Teo Sijia, Jeslyn Say, Channel 8
Video: Lye Yuk Sing
Attempting suicide, abusing prescription medication and being humiliated on live television with pies in the face might come across as far-fetched in Crescendo, Channel 8’s mega-production that revolves around xinyao (Singapore folk music) and the recording company set up by three like-minded friends (played by Christopher Lee, Tay Ping Hui and Darren Lim). But according to actress Dawn Yeoh, there’s an element of truth in these plot developments.
“The whole drama does give an insider view of showbiz,” she said. “But I’ve been lucky, I’ve never gotten cream pies smashed in my face.”
At the Crescendo press conference yesterday, the actress shared with Toggle the difficulties of being handed the role of Fang Xin Yi, a troubled singer who uses drugs and falls in love with her married boss, Yang Yi Wei, played by Christopher Lee. “My character is serious or crying most of the time and seldom smiles, which is the opposite of my own personality,” Dawn said.
The emotional turmoil of juggling a dark suicide scene with filming the cheery drama series 118 was almost too much to bear for the 30-year-old actress. “On my second day [on set for Crescendo] I shot that suicide scene, so I had to get really deep into the emotions right from the start,” she said.
Filming that scene definitely affected her mood, Dawn said. After the suicide scene wrapped, she had to rush over to shoot 118, which has a happier, comedic tone. The director of 118 couldn’t shoot close-ups of her face because her eyes were swollen and red from the crying she had to do earlier that day, she added.
“During those days I did feel like I was developing a split personality!” she said. “As actors we sometimes become too involved in our characters, and the emotional turbulence then was overwhelming.”
Like the role of Fang Xin Yi, Ann Kok’s character also suffers troughs in her musical career. The actress plays Shirley, a singer who moves to Taiwan after getting scouted, but struggles to gain recognition and winds up playing gigs in bars.
Ann says she shares few similarities with her down-and-out character. “We’re both tough people, but she’s so pessimistic, and I think her persistence on certain things is too extreme,” she said. Despite the experience in Taiwan, Shirley still harbours hopes of becoming a singer and recording artist, and believes Darren Lim’s music producer character when he tells her he’ll cut albums for her and encourages her to return to Singapore.
Ann herself once tried to establish a career beyond our shores. “You could say I didn’t make it big, but I went through many experiences,” she said of her time spent overseas. “Invitations to dinner with directors and executives, appearances on variety shows — I’ve seen those, and I felt that sort of environment wasn’t suitable for me.”
In Hong Kong she was asked to dine with a director, but Ann said her manager then looked out for her. “He was very protective of me, and told me that if I choose to accept [the request] there would be subsequent invitations,” she said. “And he added, ‘We don’t need to depend on these [engagements] to make it, we just need to wait for a good opportunity.’”
Another aspiring singer in Crescendo is played by Singaporean songbird Olivia Ong, who makes her TV debut in this hefty drama series. Her character, Alixia Ong, is newcomer on the music scene who heads to Taiwan to promote her new album. She receives a dubious request for a private dinner from a record company executive, and is subjected to a trial by fire (or pie, if you will) while trying to gain visibility by appearing on a local variety show.
Though the scene is intended to show the humiliating situations new artistes are forced to endure for the sake of media exposure, the bossa nova singer said she thought it was fun getting pie in the face more than 10 times. “It depends on the personality of whoever is getting slapped with pie,” Olivia said on her dissimilar experience. “I wasn’t nervous at all.”
But the novelty ends there for Olivia. The 30-year-old singer, who launched her musical career in Japan, has a decade of recording experience under her belt and sees her character grow and develop the same way she did. “At the start we both tend to be trusting and innocent,” Olivia said. “But after entering [show business] and being involved, we become more discerning, more careful.”
Crescendo premieres on October 23, 9 pm on Channel 8; it will be available on Toggle-It-First from October 16.
Click here for more details on Crescendo.
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