I enjoyed playing soldiers for reel

SINGAPORE - Actor Xu Bin, who has been dubbed the "next Chew Chor Meng", takes on the role of recruit Qin Sheng in The Recruit Diaries, a 13-episode Channel 8 television series that continues from the 1983 hit The Army Series, which starred the late veteran actor Huang Wenyong.

But the 24-year-old Temasek Polytechnic graduate has not performed national service, as he was born and bred in Fuzhou, China.

My Paper speaks to the former Campus Superstar contestant - who clinched the Favourite Male Character title at this year's Star Awards for his role as a transfer student in Don't Stop Believin' - about playing a soldier.

What is the best part about working in a show like this?

It would most probably be the experience and happiness gained, particularly the experience of "being a soldier", as I am not a Singaporean and will not be serving NS.

I had wanted to serve NS when I was in secondary school, but I was never offered permanent residency. I held a student pass until I started working.

But after I completed this project, I realised that being a soldier is not easy, so I do not want to join the army anymore (laughs).

Can you tell us about your character in The Recruit Diaries?

My character is actually a bit gu niang (colloquial term for "ladylike").

At first, he wasn't too effeminate, but the director thought that it would be better if that aspect of my role was more exaggerated. That way, the contradiction between a gu niang and a girl magnet will be more comedic.

I actually got all my information (about NS) from Singaporean friends who told me about life in NS. I tried to absorb whatever I could from their stories.

Which is the most memorable scene for you?

One of the most memorable scenes was when I had to carry a big jerry can to refill water for the other recruits, as I was excused from training.

While on the way down a flight of stairs with the jerry can, I fell and landed face down in a really awkward position.

For another scene, we were told to dirty ourselves. At first, we merely smeared soil on ourselves, but the director made us dig a hole, pour water into it, and then roll inside it until we were completely covered in mud.

The Recruit Diaries is a continuation of The Army Series, which was a television sensation 30 years ago. What makes this sequel different?

I have not watched The Army Series but there are a few plot extensions that I know of.

In the previous series, the late Huang Wenyong's character, Guo Zhenghao, sacrificed his life for a recruit. In The Recruit Diaries, it is revealed that the father of recruit Lin Dai Yu (played by Shane Pow) is the soldier that Guo saved.

Having three girls who the three army boys fall in love with is a concept from the previous series, too.

Do you think people will compare The Recruit Diaries with the Ah Boys To Men movies, which are also based on the NS experience?

It is understandable if people feel this way.

There aren't too many ways to interpret the genre. Besides, there are policies that restrict the production of certain content.

While there are similarities, there are also differences. For example, my character in the show is a new concept.

The Recruit Diaries airs on Thursdays at 8.30pm on Channel 8.