Desmond Tan is not the only one who had to go out of his comfort zone (by baring his naked butt, FYI) for Toggle Originals series Derek - his co-star Chantalle Ng takes on not just her first English-language project with the drama, but also her first bedroom scenes.
“Before I confirmed that I would be taking on the role, I was told that there would be intimate scenes, so I asked them to send me the script so I could be mentally prepared,” the 23-year-old actress told us during our interview last week. “After I read it I was like, ‘Whoa, this is too much for me’.”
The original instructions do sound like they could have been extracted from an erotic novel. “For one scene,” she recalled. “I had to lie on the bed with Desmond on top of me, and the camera would film a close-up of my ‘sex face’, and there would be movement and everything.” Her co-star also recalled a couple more risqué acts that we’d rather not repeat here.
Unsurprisingly, Chantalle reported that her mother, veteran actress Lin Meijiao, was “a little worried” when she found out about her little girl’s impending onscreen romp. By then, Chantalle had already made up her mind to accept the part because she couldn’t resist the storyline, but she had arranged for a few meetings to ask the director to tone down the saucy bits.
“My mum told me that I have to be very clear in communicating what I’m comfortable and uncomfortable with, because she was scared that I would be too paiseh (ashamed) to say anything, and then feel wronged when I got on set,” she said. “So I took her advice and was very straightforward about my boundaries, and they modified the script.”
Desmond, too, had his concerns about the sexy sequences. “For guys, we’re afraid of accidentally crossing the line and causing misunderstandings because we weren’t sure of the actress’s comfort zone, so Chantalle and I had a lot of discussions about this,” he said.
Their age gap - he’s nine years older than her - also caused a bit of apprehension for Desmond in the beginning (“I felt like an uncle!”), but Chantalle shared an amusing conversation she had with her manager that left him blushing and flattered.
“We were contemplating whether I’m ready for this kind of role or not, and my manager was like, ‘Aiyah, Desmond Tan can lah!’” she chortled. “I think she was trying to imply that it would be easy because he’s attractive. (Laughs)”
At the end of the day, the shoot turned out to be not as awkward or unpleasant as they thought. It’s also clear that the production crew paid attention to Chantalle’s requests, as the resulting picture is fleeting and more family-friendly that what was initially intended (you can see it for yourself in episode 6).
Watch episode 6 of Derek:
So, now that Chantalle has successfully conquered her first bedroom scene, how much further does she think she can go?
“When I was 16 or 17, I filmed a drama scene where I had to get a kiss on my forehead, and I was so scared!” she recalled. “Since then, I’ve grown a lot. If you told me back then about my role in Derek, I would have just said, heck no, that’s not going to happen. For now, I think the bedroom scenes in Derek are my limit, but you never know - in the past, a kiss used to be the limit for me.”
That said, she draws the line - for now - at giving audiences an eyeful of her behind like what Desmond did. “I don’t think I would be comfortable, and I feel like I can only perform well when I’m comfortable,” she explained. “But maybe I will be more open to it in the future.”
All episodes of Derek are available for free on Toggle.
Stills: Mediacorp Channel 5