Persistence paid off for Ryan Lian.
After taking on small roles for 17 years, the local actor scored his first major role in Take 2, a tale about four former convicts trying to turn over a new leaf.
Directed by Ivan Ho and produced by Jack Neo, Take 2 also stars Maxi Lim, Wang Lei, Gadrick Chin, Henry Thia, and Chen Tianwen.
It opens here tomorrow.
To fully immerse himself in his role of former convict Ah Hu, Lian hung out with several real-life former criminals before he started filming last June.
He told The New Paper on Monday: "For three months, I would eat and talk with them for about three hours (almost every day). I watched the way they behaved, and they would share their life stories, which were very inspiring with me.
"It's quite sad when I think about those who want to change but society refuses to give them a chance, especially relatives who make cold comments.
He said after facing pressure from society and relatives, the former convicts might feel demoralised and go back to their "old selves" again.
Lian noted the way passers-by stared at their bodies because of the tattoos.
He said: "I felt so uncomfortable. Here were two guys just sitting down but they received so many stares."
Lian learnt that it does not matter how people look at you.
"(Former convicts) need to have a positive mindset to go through everyday battles," he said.
He also tried to channel an "ah beng" at coffee shops.
He said he is very shy and homely, unlike his character who is tough and fierce.
Lian said: "I had to convince myself I was not Ryan Lian. So I had to behave (unlike myself) when I got the role.
"I started to talk with big gestures and would sit with my leg up on the chair.
"I would stare at people talking to me, and my friends who did not know what I was up to thought I was crazy."
But Lian's biggest challenge in making this movie was playing a father to a 16-year-old son as he was only 31 at the time of filming.
"It was awkward at first, but after reading the script together, I felt we really had chemistry.
"The way my on-screen son looked at me made it feel like he was really my son.
"I'm not married and I don't have a son, so I spoke to the former convicts who were fathers, who wanted their children to forgive them.
"They really taught me how to be a good one," said Lian.
He praised the strength of former convicts.
"They need to have perseverance, especially as people (look down on) them.
"It's a lonely fight, and I think it is very remarkable."
As he is waiting for the film to be released, he is feeling nervous.
He said: "This is my first lead role and it's a Chinese New Year movie so it's a big deal.
"When I finally got this role, I was happy but very stressed out.
"I'm afraid if this movie doesn't do well, I won't get any more lead roles in the future, and everyone who invested in this movie will be disappointed.
"I still haven't gotten over it, but my co-stars played a big part in calming me down whenever I stressed myself out and told me this is something we cannot control.
"We just need to do our best."
This article was first published on Jan 25, 2017.
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