NASTY: Desmond Tan eats raw fish for survival in ‘When Duty Calls’

The actor requested they add the scene (which wasn’t originally in the script); plus, Romeo Tan raves about getting to ad-lib insults to his senior Pierre Png

NASTY: Desmond Tan eats raw fish for survival in ‘When Duty Calls’
NASTY: Desmond Tan eats raw fish for survival in ‘When Duty Calls’
19 Jul 2017

NASTY: Desmond Tan eats raw fish for survival in ‘When Duty Calls’

Photos: Tammi Tan, Channel 8
Video: Genice Ooi, Goh Wen Kai

When Desmond Tan received the script for Channel 8 military drama When Duty Calls, he noticed a scene where his sergeant character verbally recounts his harrowing tale of how he survived being lost in the jungle, which included eating raw fish from the river to avoid starvation.

Instead of being relieved that the adventures were just spoken instead of shown, the 30-year-old thought, “This needs to be more visual; people need to feel the pain my character goes through.” Then, in a move that would make Leonardo DiCaprio proud, Desmond requested for the director to include a real take of him chomping down on his uncooked catch of the day.

And no, it was not like enjoying a plate of ultra-fresh sashimi (even though they got sushi-grade fish from a Japanese supermarket).

“Trust me – when you have [the fish] untreated and unsliced with all the scales and bones, it’s pretty nasty,” Desmond declared with a grimace at yesterday’s press conference. He added that he had a tough time swallowing the first few mouthfuls, but after much perseverance, he managed to finish one entire side in a single, two-minute shot that makes it into the final cut.

While he was fortunate enough to avoid food poisoning (does he have a steel gut to match his rock-hard abs?), the unconventional meal did not leave poor Desmond entirely unscathed. “It’s been one or two months since the shoot, and I’ve not touched sashimi,” he said. “Even when I smell [raw seafood], I still [feel like puking].”

In spite of all this, the committed thespian told us he is not ruling out repeating the experience if a role requires it again. “As an advocate of method acting, this was the closest I could come for my character [in When Duty Calls],” he explained. “I even starved myself for an entire day thinking it would help me enjoy the fish, but it didn’t. (Laughs)”

Click through for more stories from the set of When Duty Calls (don’t worry, they are nowhere as stomach-churning as Desmond’s!).

Romeo Tan had a whale of a time screaming at Pierre Png
Romeo Tan had a whale of a time screaming at Pierre Png
19 Jul 2017

Romeo Tan had a whale of a time screaming at Pierre Png

As the no-nonsense captain of Pierre’s lazy lance corporal character, Romeo got to do a lot of loud, angry yelling for his role, which he gleefully described as “very enjoyable.”

“I had a lot of fun scolding Pierre because he’s my senior,” he said with a chuckle. “This is our first time sharing so many scenes and I hope I didn’t leave a bad impression on him; thank God he isn’t here today!” (According to Instagram, Pierre is in Taiwan and was unable to attend the press conference.)

To help get himself into full rage mode, the usually mild-mannered Romeo drew inspiration from his own time in National Service (NS). “There was this particular Encik – I’m sorry I forgot your name! – who was so fierce,” he recalled. “Sometimes you would get scolded until you wonder why you were even born on this earth. (Laughs)”

Romeo also shared that he ad-libbed some of the insults he flung at Pierre, with his personal favourite being, “The cookhouse aunty can run faster than you!” According to the 32-year-old, he came up with the phrase when he saw a real cookhouse aunty observing the filming. “I got to scream in front of everybody, and it was very shiok!”

Now, Romeo didn’t tell us this, but it sounds as if he needed to let off some steam, and this show was the perfect opportunity for him to do it!

Shane Pow attempted parkour for the first time
Shane Pow attempted parkour for the first time
19 Jul 2017

Shane Pow attempted parkour for the first time

The 26-year-old actor got to go from watching parkour videos to practising the sport in When Duty Calls. “I had to run, do flips, slide down bars, roll around and even climb the outside of the building,” he said. “It was quite a fun experience!”

While some of the trickier moves were taken care of by stunt doubles, Shane wanted to do as much of his own scenes as possible so that the camera wouldn’t have to keep avoiding his character’s face. The most challenging parkour scene he tackled himself involved him sliding across a table, climbing over a ledge, then jumping down to a carpark from the second storey.

It took four to five takes before a satisfactory shot was produced, but at the end of it, Shane felt like he was on top of the world. “I’m glad everyone gave me the time and the chance to try this; I’ve watched my scene and it came out really nice,” he gushed.

Of course, so much action would not be without its physical risks. Thankfully, his worst injuries were short-lived muscle strains on both his inner thighs – which may have come about due to a lack of, or too much, stretching – as well as a generous dose of bruises. All in a day’s work for someone who dutifully performs their own stunts.

Paige Chua’s first fight scene was a disaster
Paige Chua’s first fight scene was a disaster
19 Jul 2017

Paige Chua’s first fight scene was a disaster

Despite knowing that she had several fight scenes scheduled, Paige sheepishly admitted that she was “pretty bad on the first day”, as she wasn’t mentally and physically prepared.

“My three co-partners weren’t stuntmen so they were quite awkward and didn’t know how to throw fake punches, so I was throwing real punches and ended up hurting myself. (laughs)” After that mishap, the 36-year-old vowed to buck up and added more sessions to her weekly gym routine. Her efforts paid off and her next butt-kicking sequences went more smoothly, especially with the addition of proper stuntmen.

“Fortunately, there were no fractures, but I did get huge bruises that I had to cover up over the next few days,” she reported.

Felicia Chin applied her face paint the wrong way
Felicia Chin applied her face paint the wrong way
19 Jul 2017

Felicia Chin applied her face paint the wrong way

We don’t think we’d ever heard someone so thrilled to be going through NS until we spoke to Felicia (okay, but to be fair, she only had to sample it for a few months).

One of her personal highlights was getting to put on camo face paint. “Romeo couldn’t understand why I was so excited,” she laughed. “I applied [the stripes] in the wrong direction at first and had to remove the whole thing and apply it all over again, but I didn’t mind it at all.”

The 32-year-old also revelled in the feeling of being treated as “one of the boys” by her male co-stars. “I really enjoyed [making this drama] because it’s not a very typical character for me, and it’s a nice change because I’ve been doing heavier roles recently.”

Jasmine Sim and Richie Koh found out their dads are friends thanks to this show
Jasmine Sim and Richie Koh found out their dads are friends thanks to this show
19 Jul 2017

Jasmine Sim and Richie Koh found out their dads are friends thanks to this show

As the newbies of the cast (this is Jasmine’s third drama and Richie’s first), the 24-year-olds had a lot to learn about acting and filming technicalities.

“I’m still trying to [understand] how the camera works and how to portray my character the right way,” said Richie, who was the runner-up of talent scouting competition Hey Gorgeous in 2013 (alongside Carrie Wong), while model Jasmine, who was previously seen on Dream Coder and The Lead, added, “I haven’t been fully letting go of myself in front of the camera, so that’s something I need to work on as a newcomer.”

They were also candid about their need to improve their Mandarin, specifically, in how they deliver it on screen. “We don’t sound like people who speak Chinese fluently; it sounds very ‘ang moh’ (like a foreigner),” Jasmine explained.

A hilarious fun fact came up when we asked what their families think of them pursuing a career in showbiz. “Actually, our parents know each other!” said Richie, as Jasmine piped up, “His dad was my dad’s best man [at his wedding]!”

Strangely, the two of them did not know each other, or about their connection, until Richie’s mum recognised Jasmine in a photo taken at the lensing ceremony for When Duty Calls. “[Our fathers] were super amused; my dad was like, ‘Oh, so Richie is playing your boyfriend?’” said Jasmine, with Richie joking that things were awkward between him and her dad because of that.

Okay, we knew Singapore was small, but that is pretty insane.

The cast of 'When Duty Calls' (plus press conference host, DJ Kunhua)
The cast of 'When Duty Calls' (plus press conference host, DJ Kunhua)
19 Jul 2017

The cast of 'When Duty Calls' (plus press conference host, DJ Kunhua)

The cast members were asked to choose who was the most "garang" among them
The cast members were asked to choose who was the most "garang" among them
19 Jul 2017

The cast members were asked to choose who was the most "garang" among them

Felicia Chin speaks at the press conference for 'When Duty Calls'
Felicia Chin speaks at the press conference for 'When Duty Calls'
19 Jul 2017

Felicia Chin speaks at the press conference for 'When Duty Calls'

The cast shares a laugh on stage at the press conference
The cast shares a laugh on stage at the press conference
19 Jul 2017

The cast shares a laugh on stage at the press conference

When Duty Calls premieres July 31, 9pm on Channel 8.

WATCH: The stars of 'When Duty Calls' share their most interesting moments on the show

Related:
Filming for When Duty Calls ends with a literal bang
Channel 8 drama ‘When Duty Calls’ gets real on terrorism
Bruises and body aches on the set of When Duty Calls
“Siao on” or slacker: what were stars like in the army?

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