Surprise hit for Chen

Surprise hit for Chen

Veteran local actor Chen Tianwen has scored his biggest hit yet since playing a jobless father in the Golden Horse-winning film Ilo Ilo two years ago.

A humorous two-minute music video he sings and stars in has gone viral, chalking up more than 430,000 views on the MediaCorp Channel 5 Facebook page within one day of its release on Monday.

By the next day, it has more than 750,000 views at press time.

Called Unbelievable, it is a cheesy love song.

Chen, 52, in a retro get-up and a ridiculous-looking wig, sings hilarious lyrics such as "You blossom like a flower, I so stunned like vegetable".

The video is part of an episode of Channel 5 dramedy Spouse For House, which aired yesterday.

Spouse For House, now in its third season, is about a pair of newlyweds (played by Alaric Tay and Hong Kong-based Selena Li) who are clueless about marriage and have to deal with intrusive, albeit well- meaning, family members and friends.

Its first season bagged three Asian Television Awards: Best Comedy Programme, Best Original Screenplay and Best Comedy Actress for Irene Ang.

Chen plays an Ah Beng character called Eric Kwek and it is his first time singing in English.

Chen, who is married to China-born Bao Xiao Hui and is expecting a baby boy in June, says: "I thought the song was quite relatable and cute. I never thought it would go viral. Hopefully, it will even gain an overseas audience."

When Spouse For House executive producer and director Wang Guo Shen approached him to "do something stupid", the actor said yes immediately without knowing exactly what he said yes to.

Wang, 41, says: "As we have a lot of mutual trust, Chen agreed without asking what it was. He trusted that I wouldn't sabotage him." The idea for the song came from Spouse For House's writers, who thought it would be fun to give some background to actor Desmond Tan's character's habit of dragging out the word "unbelievable".

The writers came up with the first line of the song - "Unbelievable, that's what you are..." - and Wang wrote the rest in one night, along with another song in the show.

Chen was instructed to model his singing style after 1970s local Mandarin pop king Huang Qingyuan, who is known for his sorrowful voice and whom Wang is familiar with.

Wang says with a laugh: "The writers might have been thinking of AfricanAmerican performer Nat King Cole's Unforgettable, but I wanted the song to have a more heartland feel and not be too jazzy and Westernised."

He adds that Chen "rocks". "There was a lot of interaction and free play during the filming and he danced well. Although he's a veteran actor, he's so humble and willing to learn," he recalls.

Chen is currently filming for Channel 8 drama 118, while Wang is working on the upcoming 200-episode Channel 5 longform family drama, Tanglin.

Wang says: "If the public gives us some time, it would be surprised by what local productions can achieve - like how this music video surprisingly went viral." He also says that the cast and crew of Spouse For House now break out into the song in unison, whenever something goes wrong on set.

"It's become our catchphrase - it's truly unbelievable."

sarahgyx@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 16, 2015.
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