From ah boy to heroic warrior, Joshua Tan is well on his way to becoming a bonafide action star by taking on the most physically demanding role of his career.
It’s no secret that Joshua Tan, who rose to fame as spoilt recruit Ken Chow in the Ah Boys To Men (ABTM) series, is always game for action. In fact, the actor has a solid martial arts background in Muay Thai and hits the gym regularly – he even showed up to our interview clad in an Evolve MMA T-shirt! And save for his return to the latest instalment of the ABTM film franchise where he put on a whopping 20kg for the role, we’re betting Joshua has never been out of shape in his life.
“It has always been a goal [of mine] to be in a full-fledged martial arts film,” reveals Joshua, who cites Jackie Chan as an influential figure. Which was why he didn’t hesitate when approached for Flying Through Time, a live-action production that required extensive training as soon as filming for ABTM wrapped up. While it wasn’t quite the martial arts flick Joshua dreamt of, its sheer physical intensity is right up his alley.
Diving deep into preparations for his role as Tiger, a heroic warrior who travels to modern day Singapore to stop an evil villain from his dastardly plans, Joshua found himself shuttling back and forth Korea for intensive 12-hour trainings. “Our schedule is mainly, eat, train, sleep and repeat,” Joshua revealed, “They work us hard, but it is also necessary. For new actors who are trained in acrobatics or gymnastics, they need at least three months to be familiar with this performance. But I have zero background and only a month and a half. Due to the difference in timeline, they have no choice but to compress [the training] and really ‘squeeze’ me.”
Admittedly, the acrobatic stunts weren’t the only challenges for Joshua. Even though the production is a non-verbal one (which meant that the actor didn’t have to memorise lines), that ironically made it even more daunting. “Acting on stage is different as compared to on film or TV. Everything has to be really big and expressive – which some people who are used to the camera may find over-the-top. But when you put it into the context of a stage, it makes sense!” He continues, “The use of the body is crucial, because without body language, you can’t get your point across. I’m quite tall compared to the rest of the cast, so I found it quite awkward to position myself. We have to be very in tune with each other because there are no lines. So if I move, you react. It [becomes] a flow – everyone has to flow together.”
Considering the production comprised crew and cast of diverse nationalities, we can imagine it was extra tough trying to ‘flow’ with his co-workers. “There’s not a day that goes by where [things get lost in translation],” Joshua laughs as he shares a hilarious incident involving an intense wire-work setup. “They were teaching me how to do somersaults using the wire – [I was told] to complete my oscillation, but for some reason I didn’t. I was suspended in the air (legs up!), with the harness attached to my waist. I think I was stuck there for five seconds and I couldn’t get myself up. The harness started getting higher and higher… and I fell [out] without my pants.”
Thankfully, most of the training passed without a hitch, and Joshua has since managed to pick up loose Korean phrases, like “ppalli ppalli” (which means faster) or “cheoncheonhi” (slowly), amongst other everyday terms. He has even bonded with the Korean crew, bringing them to eat local delicacies such as roti prata.
So what’s next in the pipeline for this action star in-the-making? “The thing I need the most now is a break! I’ve been going at it non-stop since July, so I can’t wait for a good rest. A holiday is due.” He continues, “As for projects, I’d say more action stuff. There are two films that are pending, but more action is coming in my direction [here on out].”
Featured image: Resorts World Sentosa
Flying Through Time runs from now till 21 January 2018. Tickets from $38 on Sistic.
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