Whenever he gets a script that calls for an “accent”, Los Angelesbased home-grown actor Chin Han’s antenna goes up. “The first question from me is always ‘Are you talking about a British accent or an American accent?’
“And obviously, that’s not what they want. They want some kind of pidgin or broken English and I’m not attracted to that stuff,” he says.
It is a pitfall of being an Asian actor in the West that he has learnt to navigate by steering clear of stereotypes. He would also not hesitate to speak up if he thought that there were elements which exoticised Asia in a production.
He was back in Singapore recently to promote the HBO Asia original series Serangoon Road. It premieres on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601) on Sunday.
The 10-episode series is about the mystery cases handled by a small detective agency and is set against the backdrop of Singapore in the turbulent 1960s.
He plays Kay Song, the ambitious grandson of the head of a secret society. The cast also include China-born actress Joan Chen, Australian actor Don Hany and local talents Alaric Tay and Pamelyn Chee.
It is a set-up that sounds ripe for some rampant exoticising, but the actor, whose full name is Ng Chin Han, demurs.
Dressed casually in a brown jacket over a white shirt and jeans, the 43-year-old tells Life!: “If I felt there was an element of exoticism, I would bring it up, whether in terms of design or music, even the font for the titles of the show.
And HBO Asia was very open to these ideas and collaborative in this respect.”