Desmond Tan nailed serial killer role with drunken audition
Photos: Tammi Tan, Channel 5
Video: Philip Ang
There is some serious bromance going on between Desmond Tan and Keagan Kang. We witnessed it first-hand at Channel 5's Double-Bill Screening (of both their new drama Code of Law and Thai-Singapore production Missing), and according to the chummy duo, even their director remarked, “I think you guys are in love.”
We don’t know exactly what went down on set (and we’re not sure if we want to find out), but their affection for one another manifested in the form of endless praise – a.k.a fanboying – during our interview. Keagan, who reprises his role as lawyer Jacob Fernandez from the previous three seasons, seemed particularly blown away by Desmond’s portrayal as psychotic murderer Derek Ho.
“This guy was phenomenal to work with,” Keagan, 41, gushed before we even asked our first question. “We didn’t have that many scenes together but [when we did] we really made it work.”
Desmond’s murderous portrayal marks his second time playing a villain in his career (the first was in 2009 Channel 8 drama Together), and his first time playing a serial killer. During a short Q&A session at the screening, the 31-year-old said he jokingly asked the director if he could prepare for the role with his beloved method acting practice which, in this case, would mean slaughtering folks for real (gulp).
Thankfully, all he needed to get going was lots of online research (he was particularly inspired by two infamous figures from Japan and America, whose names he cannot remember) and lots of coffee (which Keagan eagerly revealed he makes for him). Other than that, Desmond doesn’t even need to specially get himself into any “zone” before the cameras start rolling.
“We’ll be here like this [laughing around] and then suddenly he snaps into character; it’s rare to find someone who can switch in and out like that, but he does it so seamlessly!” said Keagan. “I really get scared – a lot of our reactions [in the show] are really genuine.”
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Keagan Kang and Desmond Tan
While he was terrifying his poor co-stars, Desmond himself had a whale of a time being utterly sadistic and evil. “I don’t know why, but it was really fun getting to pull nails and teeth out of people, things I don’t get to do in real life,” he said with a grin (we may or may not have backed off a bit at this point).
When asked what was his favourite way of, um, eliminating someone (not something you get to ask every day), Desmond recounted one scene where he uses a blowtorch – a part that terrorised even the crew. “I pointed the blowtorch [a little too close] to the camera and the director and cameraman screamed!” he recalled, seemingly amused at the memory. “They thought I was going to burn the camera, but I was like, ‘Chill, guys, I got this’.”
So, how does someone who spent the past eight years playing mostly noble and upright men land the role of a bloodthirsty psycho?
“I went to the audition slightly drunk,” Desmond admitted sheepishly, to excited exclamations of “that’s my man!’ by Keagan. “I was at a wedding luncheon and I said I had to leave, but you know, bros being bros, they urged me to have another toast, so I gave in and had one more drink.”
About an hour later, Desmond found himself at the auditions (he made sure to mention he took a cab there), where he had to act out a scene where his character knocks someone out at the supermarket and drags them to a car. “I think my bloodshot eyes got me the role,” he quipped, as Keagan added, “He looked perfect, like he was really going to kill someone.”
One of Desmond’s next projects, however, will have him going back to the clean-cut image we’re all familiar with. “This time, I’ll be playing someone who is trying to catch a serial killer,” he revealed. Other than the fact that the show will be shot overseas and that he has to learn a new language for it, he did not divulge further details.
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Michelle Wong took Muay Thai lessons for her role
Also returning in the fourth season of Code of Law for a second time is Oon Shu An, who is back as badass junior partner Stephanie Szeto. This time, however, she displays a softer, more vulnerable side as she has fallen in love (with Desmond’s character, no less, although she doesn’t see his deranged side – yet).
The 31-year-old actress admitted to us that she “struggled” to comprehend this change in her character. “I was thinking, why is she allowing this man into her life? She’s an independent woman, but the second he walks in she’s telling him so many things! I really had trouble understanding their relationship, I’m not going to lie, but in the end I finally did.”
Another new addition to the series is up-and-coming starlet Michelle Wong, who plays a gruff and tomboyish police officer named Miki Lee.
To prepare for her character’s action sequences, the 26-year-old continued with the Muay Thai lessons she had begun while on an earlier break. “I wanted to make [my fight scenes] as realistic as possible,” she explained, adding that she’s “not athletic at all”. “I got so many bruises but as long as the scenes come out okay, it’s worth it.”
Desmond Tan gives us his best "serial killer stare" (it's creepier in the drama)
The cast of 'Code of Law' with Executive Producer and Mediacorp Chief Customer Officer Debra Soon
Desmond Tan as banker-slash-serial killer Derek Ho
Keagan Kang returns as lawyer Jacob Fernandez
Oon Shu An returns as lawyer Stephanie Szeto
Michelle Wong joins the cast as police officer Miki Lee