Richie Koh has been a very busy bee recently – after wrapping up filming on Channel 8 drama 118 Reunion earlier this year, he’s worked on two Toggle Originals, Divided and The Distance Between. Despite his hectic schedule, he’s been able to squeeze in a trip to Beijing (more on that later), as well as promotions for his latest movie, 2359: The Haunting Hour.
A week before the movie’s premiere, Toggle sat down with the 25-year-old for a quick catchup session, where he talked about stripping down for the first scene he filmed after he got off the plane and his plans for the rest of the year and beyond. He also hinted at the possibility of venturing into unchartered territory: a career in China.
Before we got all wrapped up with his future adventures, we rewound the interview back to last year, shortly after he finished filming his debut drama, Channel 8’s When Duty Calls. After he finished work on that, he successfully auditioned for a role in 2359: The Haunting Hour and jetted to Kuala Lumpur for nine days to film.
“The director mentioned that there would be a scene where I had to be clothed in nothing but my underwear. At the time, I just finished my National Service so my physique was pretty okay, so I thought that it wouldn’t be too much of an issue,” Richie explained. “So I got on the flight, and I brought along some weights so I could get my body a bit more in shape before I had to film that scene.”
Natalia Ng and Richie Koh in 23:59: The Haunting Hour
Unknown to Richie, after he got off the plane, he was whisked to the filming location, where he was told that the scene would be filmed that very day. “I was still carrying my weights at the filming location, and when they told me, they handed me that piece of underwear. They said that it was what NSFs wore at the time, so I went and got changed,” he said.
His surprise didn’t end there, however, as not only did he had to strip down to his tighty whities, he also had to film a steamy kiss scene with actress Natalia Ng on that day too.
“I didn’t know her at all and we didn’t get to talk much, they just told us that we had to film that kiss scene,” Richie chuckled. “Plus, she had a full face of makeup on because her role is a snake spirit, so I couldn’t really tell who it was behind the makeup.”
The actor continued that he had no issues with filming the scene even before warming up to his female co-star and tried to make her feel as comfortable while maintaining his professionalism during the shoot.
He explained, “When actors film intimate scenes, I feel that the female is more on the losing end. She was very professional about it, but I made sure that she would feel comfortable while we were filming. Thankfully, it wasn’t awkward at all!”
(Continued on next page: Richie Koh on why he would be willing to get naked for a role)
Richie with his family
Being a relatively green actor, we asked Richie about whether he was against taking on more provocative (read: bed scenes) projects in future. He mulled over the question in silence before responding, “My parents are a bit more traditional and they’ve mentioned that they prefer me not to do anything that shows too much skin…"
“But right now, I think I’m at the age where I’m old enough to make my own decisions. Of course, I won’t readily agree to anything – I’ll have to talk to the director, find out why that scene is important before taking some time to consider whether it’s something that I’ll want to take on,” he let on.
So he has no intentions of informing his parents about it? “I think I’d tell [and inform] them, rather than ask them for permission, because as an actor, I have to be professional and do what my job requires me to do,” he sheepishly grinned.
Richie’s dedication to his job also saw him jump into a cesspool of emotions for Divided, which brought about an emotional shift he didn’t expect.
“There was one day after filming, I went back home and looked at the mirror. I asked myself how my character (Li Renyi) ended up the way he did – he’s just an ordinary guy who met with extraordinary circumstances,” Richie explained. “Filming this drama, I really felt like I was overthinking a lot of things and even after filming wrapped, I took three to four days to really get out of character.”
He added that for the first two days after filming wrapped, he spent most of his time at home, and that nights were the most taxing as his mind would kick into overdrive. Richie said, “On the third day, I told myself that I couldn’t let this continue, so I went out with my friends and did whatever I could to get out of character. I felt better after that, and for me, this was the toughest role to get over to date.”
Left: Richie during his top-secret training in Beijing Right: Richie filming The Distance Between in Australia
As one of the hot favourites running for Best Newcomer award at this year’s Star Awards ceremony, Richie’s still got a long way ahead of him – and has already set his sights to take his career beyond Singapore’s shores.
The budding actor told us that he was in Beijing recently to attend vocal and dance classes, along with “meeting some important people” – though he stopped short of divulging their identities. When we probed further, asking if this means that he is looking to expand his career to the mainland, he would only say that he is in the preparation and discussion stages of something that encompasses the various fields.
“The company (Mediacorp) has been very supportive of me, but I can’t say anything yet because it’s not confirmed. I don’t want to raise expectations, only to let everyone down if it falls through,” said Richie, who had the chance to work on a Chinese web movie in Jiangsu last year.
He did, however, confirm that he has another Toggle Original in the works, and will start filming in October. The series, titled Playground, will also star Paige Chua, Brian Ng Wang Yuqing and Cynthia Koh, among others.
After working on back-to-back projects – most of them filmed overseas, Richie revealed that he’s currently on a well-deserved break. “I’ll stay in Singapore and just relax. I know for sure I don’t want to go overseas anymore,” he chuckled. “My older brother is expecting a baby soon, so there are quite a lot of things we have to prepare to get ready for that.”
Seeing his brother (who’s only three years older) start a family has indeed tickled Richie’s instincts to want a family of his own, but he admitted that it’s something that he “can’t think of yet – I need to have a stable career before I can even allow myself to think about this in the first place”.
After the birth of his brother’s bundle of joy, he will also be elevated to the status of uncle for the very first time, which could mean that his social media platforms will be filled with adorable baby photos in the near future.
Watch Richie Koh in 2359: The Haunting Hour (PG), which opens in cinemas today.
Catch up on all episodes of 118 Reunion and Divided on Toggle.
Catch The Distance Between when it debuts Oct 4 on Toggle.
Richie Koh makes big screen debut in Chinese film
First look at ‘The Distance Between’