Photos: Tammi Tan, Channel 5
Video: Vina Chia
Desmond Tan and Oon Shu An may have been working together for the very first time, but the actors had no trouble easing into their roles as lovers – or with the inevitable kissing scenes – in Mata Mata: A New Generation.
In the third and final instalment of the Channel 5 trilogy, Shu An stars as Patricia Yeo, a tenacious police officer who has a past with gangsters. During her juvenile delinquent days, she fell in love with bad boy Tommy Foo, played by Desmond.
“We met and just clicked right away,” Shu An shared in an interview with Toggle after an exclusive screening of the drama’s first two episodes at Shaw Theatres on Nov 14. “We didn’t have to ask a lot of questions before our kissing scenes; we got through with a few basic ones and then we were like, ‘Let’s just go’.”
Desmond concurred, “The trust level is super high – we didn’t feel awkward on set, even during the intimate scenes; it all came very naturally.”
In fact, the duo admitted that many onscreen smooching sessions had to be cut out because, according to Shu An, “at one point, it was getting a bit too much”. “We added them in to make the relationship feel more real,” Desmond explained.
It probably helps that they both had favourable impressions of each other even before they met. Shu An gushed, “I’ll be honest: when I saw Desmond for the first time, I was like, ‘Wah, sibeh (very) handsome!’ (laughs) So I was a bit intimidated at first, but it was not difficult (to get along) at all.”
The duke took this chance to remind her that they actually crossed paths a long time ago at an event, although they only spoke very briefly on stage. It was then when Desmond, upon noticing Shu An, thought, “Who is this girl? She’s quite hot!” (His confession promptly led the actress to flail about excitedly and exclaim, “You just made my day leh!”)
Their good camaraderie became even more apparent to us when, upon sharing their Christmas plans and finding out that they might be in the United States at the same time, the 29-year-olds spontaneously started making tentative plans to meet up despite being in completely opposite sides of the country: while Desmond hopes to spend the holidays in New York, Shu An will spend five weeks in Los Angeles to meet her manager and for a gathering with her boyfriend, photographer Joel Lim’s family.
Could the visit mean that there are wedding bells ringing for the couple? “No, no, no, no, no!” she reiterated, laughing. “No rush, no rush. We’re very happy with where we are now!”
Cheryl Wee chooses between Daren Tan or Tosh Zhang
Fans of Elizabeth Lee and Lim Seng Hock from the first Mata Mata are in for a treat this season: although the pairing did not quite have a happy ending, things could be better for their respective children Joyce Goh and Lim Kiat (also played by Cheryl Wee and Daren Tan), who both follow their parents’ footsteps into the police force.
This time, however, they won’t share as much screen-time, as most of their correspondence will take place via phone calls and letters (at least in the earlier part of the series). “We didn’t film that much together, so it was tougher to develop a chemistry that’s beyond just seeing each other physically,” Cheryl said.
Since making their drama debuts on Mata Mata season 1 in 2013, both Cheryl, 28, and Daren, 32, have been actively adding to their showbiz résumés. At the moment, the up-and-coming artistes are in the thick of projects: Daren is busy shooting two Channel 8 dramas (House of Fortune and The Revenge Queen), while Cheryl just wrapped up 4Love, an anthology of four short films. The daughter of hair and beauty magnate Jean Yip also recently started work on My Love, Sinema, in which she embarks on a 1950s romance with Tosh Zhang.
So, which paramour does Cheryl prefer: “Mr. Biceps” in Mata Mata 3 or “Mr. B-boy” in My Love, Sinema (as she herself described them)?
“Can I have both?” she grinned.
Mata Mata: A New Generation debuts December 7, 10 pm on Channel 5.
More from our visit to the Mata Mata 3 set in Penang:
A New Generation: The most dangerous ‘Mata Mata’ of all
Cheryl Wee: from self-starved starlet to empowered entrepreneur
No more Mr. Funny Guy: Alaric Tay takes on his first serious villain role
The cast of Mata Mata 3 (clockwise from top left): Jiten, Cheryl Wee, Oon Shu An, Eunice Annabel, Rifat Hidayat, Nicholas Goh, Desmond Tan, Alaric Tay, Daren Tan