Charlie Goh and James Seah
After over three years and a staggering 825 episodes, the proverbial curtain is falling on Singapore’s longest-running drama series, Channel 5’s Tanglin.
Okay, small correction: it’s going on an “indefinite hiatus”, although as of right now, there has yet to be news of a reboot or resurrection in the near future. Then again, there were 16 years between Star Wars films Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, and a decade between Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens, so…never say never?
Of course, Tanglin is no out-of-this-world space epic. In fact, it is its close proximity to home – both geographically and socially – that made it such a beloved part of local television ever since its debut on June 30, 2015. And just as the series became a staple in many faithful fans’ weeknight routines, the custom-built double-storey set at Infinite Studios became like a second home to its cast members.
“I think we spent more time on set than we did in our own homes! (laughs)” said James Seah, who plays Chris Tong, in an interview with Toggle last night. Which is why we don’t blame him for feeling wistful when he went back to see that the place has been completely torn down to make way for the next long-form drama, Kin, another Channel 5 production.
His last day of shooting earlier this year was just as emotional. “When I was done filming my very last scene, I really felt my heart sink and I almost cried,” he admitted, before clarifying, “My eyes got teary but I didn’t break down.”
For his onscreen brother Charlie Goh, the fact that he had to bid a long – if not permanent – goodbye to his character Eddie Tong “didn’t really hit” him until the wrap party. “It was then that I realised that this could be the last time we’re all gathered together as a Tanglin family, and when you see everybody else cry…it’s quite sad lah,” he said.
(Continued on next slide: ‘Tanglin’ enabled Charlie Goh to get married?)
‘Tanglin’ enabled Charlie Goh to get married?
Being heavily involved in such a long-running production undoubtedly came with its pros and cons. For James, his biggest challenge stemmed from figuring out how to plan the portrayal and emotional journey of his character without knowing exactly what’s going to happen to him.
“For a normal 20- or 30-episode drama, we usually get the entire script at once, but for Tanglin, new scripts would come in every two weeks or so,” he explained. “It was exciting yet scary, but I think it taught me to be more flexible.”
Charlie was candid about subconsciously bringing his work home with him, that is, not quite being able to break out of his role even when he was off the set. “There was a time I didn’t know who I was – Charlie, or Eddie? When you do something every day, it becomes part of you, so I was adopting certain mannerisms without even knowing it, until people told me,” he said.
But the benefits far outweighed the complications. “Tanglin has been a huge blessing and opened doors for so many,” Charlie gushed. “As a freelance actor, I was always having to look for jobs, but Tanglin was my very first TV drama, which gave me a lot of experience, as well as a stable job and income that allowed me to get married a year ago; I’d like to think that without Tanglin, I would never have been able to get married! (laughs)”
He’s also grateful for the regular exposure, which he believes might have played a part in netting him and his wife their endorsement deal with a home care brand. “I honestly never imagined myself as a brand ambassador,” he admitted. “Some actors go years without getting endorsement deals, so I’m quite lucky.”
James, on the other hand, said that producers from other shows have told him that they see a different side of him ever since his involvement in Tanglin. “When I first started out, I was getting roles but they weren’t very heavy, so I feel that Tanglin gave me a way to show others what I’m capable of, and helped me grow as an actor and a person.” Now, more and more projects have been knocking on his door.
What’s missing from his bucket list – for now, at least – is that elusive and coveted endorsement deal. “I’m open to anything but if I could choose, I would want a car endorsement,” he grinned. Well, might as well aim high, right?
Read on for more from our interview with James and Charlie!
Photo: Instagram/James Seah
Charlie and James in a still from 'Tanglin'
What were your first impressions of each other?
James: Call me judgemental, but the first time I saw Charlie, I thought he was a typical ah beng and was like, “Maybe I should be careful around him.” (laughs) But after working with him, I learned that he’s actually a very nice and funny guy.
Charlie: The first time I saw him was at a Chinese New Year show (a few months before I met him on the set of Tanglin), and I thought he was damn stuck-up! (laughs) Because he walks like this [imitates a stiff, arrogant-looking strut]. I was like, “What the heck is wrong with this guy!?” So when I got to know him better I was actually pleasantly surprised. (laughs)
Do you remember your first day on set?
James: I remember being so nervous because I only joined about 30 or 40 episodes in. Everyone else was already familiar with their characters and had such good chemistry with one another, so to be the new guy to come in and have to try and match their pace was quite intimidating, but everyone was very nice and it soon became very enjoyable.
Charlie: I struggled a lot in the beginning trying to ease into my character, who was very young at that time. That was difficult. If you ask the director, I was probably the worst actor to work with because I couldn’t get my lines right!
What’s one of the most memorable moments you’ve had with Tanglin?
James: Filming the double wedding scene. It was outdoors and it was crazy hot, and I was in a suit and tie. I just wanted it to be over. (laughs)
Charlie: The wrap party. I’m not a person who cries easily, but when they played this video compilation of everyone sharing their thoughts, I almost cried. I think if I watched it again right now I would cry.
Are you happy with your character’s ending?
James: Although it’s a bittersweet ending [Ed’s note: no spoilers here!], I quite enjoyed portraying this character to the very end.
Charlie: Well, mine is a happy ending, so yes.
(Continued on next slide: what have they learned about each other?)
Photo: Mediacorp Channel 5
Charlie and his wife; James and his girlfriend
What are some things you learned about each other after working together for so long?
James: Charlie is very messy. If you looked at his wardrobe, you would see one shoe here, one shoe there, a pair of pants over there…
Charlie: I knew you were going to say that. (laughs) I even get blamed for messes that aren’t mine! As for James, he’s very weak and falls sick easily, and once he comes to work, he spreads it to everybody.
James: It’s not me, it’s James Kumar (who plays Arjun Bhaskar)! I have a lot of scenes with him so I fall sick because of him!
Tanglin tackled many social issues. Were there any that affected you in any way?
James: I thought the story where my character’s wife Suzanne (played by Gayle Nerva) suffers a miscarriage was very scary and felt quite “real”. I found myself thinking about what would happen if that were to ever happen to me in the future…touch wood!
Charlie: Mine would be the one where Shruti (played by Eswari Gunasagar) suffers a stroke. I could only imagine how tough it would be if it were to happen to any of my loved ones (touch wood!), the amount of care you would have to give them and the emotional distress that everyone would go through. It was already so tiring just having to act it.
So what’s next for the both of you?
Charlie: I just did a Toggle Originals series, The Fifth Floor, and I’ll also be in Kin. I’ve always wanted the role of a cop or detective, and this year I was blessed with two!
James: I’ll be doing another long-form drama, Channel 8’s Jalan Jalan, and also the ‘Rui En show’, Hello from the Other Side.
Charlie, you’re celebrating your first wedding anniversary very soon (September 30). What are your plans?
Charlie: I’m not a very romantic guy to begin with so I don’t know how to buy presents for my wife – I have to ask her what she wants. (laughs) But we’re going for a couple’s spa together on the day itself.
James: You should share a message for her through this interview.
Charlie: Thank you for loving me.
James: No “I love you”?
Charlie: I love you.
James: Please include that I had to remind him to say that.
James, you recently crossed the 3.5-year mark with your girlfriend. So, when’s your turn?
James: When it happens, you will know. Let’s keep it a surprise. (smiles)
Photos: Instagram/Charlie Goh, James Seah
Charlie and James with their respective onscreen partners, Shruti and Suzanne
Photos: Instagram/Charlie Goh; Mediacorp Channel 5
James and Charlie on the set of 'Tanglin'
Photo: Mediacorp Channel 5
Charlie, James and their 'Tanglin' co-stars
Photo: Mediacorp Channel 5
The Tong family (minus Chris)
Photo: Mediacorp Channel 5
'Tanglin' stars Charlie Goh and James Seah