Movie producer Daniel Yun had his eye on former opposition politician Nicole Seah, 28, from the time she emerged in the public eye as a contestant in the 2011 General Elections.
After she left politics earlier this year, he jumped at the chance to cast her in his movie 1965, which commemorates Singapore's 50 years of independence.
Seah will be making her acting debut in the film.
Currently shooting the film in Batam, Mr Yun, who is its executive producer, says: "She was the star of the elections from the media standpoint. I looked at her and saw that she has that proverbial X factor. I told myself that when she was no longer in politics, I would want to work with her."
The articulate Seah caught the attention of the public when she contested in the elections for the National Solidarity Party. She went on to become the party's second assistant secretary-general, but resigned from the party in August.
Earlier this year, in March, she relocated to Thailand to pursue an advertising career there.
Made on a budget of $2.8-million, 1965 is directed by Randy Ang, who did last year's cop thriller re:solve. It stars actor couple Qi Yuwu and Joanne Peh, as well as veteran actor Lim Kay Tong who takes on the role of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Though Seah was a little shocked by the acting offer, Mr Yun says she quickly warmed up to the idea of being in a movie and acting as the wife of a police inspector played by Qi.
He says: "When I got Randy to call Nicole, she was like, 'are you kidding?'. When she learnt more about the project, she was intrigued and found the project meaningful."
Contrary to the strong independent image that Seah projects, Mr Yun says: "I wanted to cast her against type, for her to play someone not in line with her past and present image. Mei is this character, someone who is totally devoted to her husband and family, quietly supportive and a housewife."
Seah could not be contacted by press time. Life! was told that she is currently in Bangkok and unavailable for interviews.
To participate in the film, she takes leave from her advertising firm in Bangkok, and shuttles back and forth between the film set in Batam and her base in Bangkok.
She is not entirely new to acting, having studied Theatre Studies and Drama for her A levels at Victoria Junior College. Nonetheless, the production crew were concerned about casting the rookie actor with political links.
Mr Yun says: "When I suggested to my director and production team, everyone was quite shocked. Some of them were uncomfortable."
However, he managed to convince them after auditioning Seah, who was in Bangkok, over Skype in August.
He later got her to come back to Singapore for auditions and confirmed her for the role shortly after. He says of her audition: "Honestly, she was quite raw."
However, he adds that he is satisfied with her performance so far. He says: "I find that her spirit in embracing the role is quite good. She overcomes whatever she needs to overcome in order to be competent for the role."
So far, Seah has shot two scenes in Batam opposite her on-screen husband and Malaysian actress Deanna Yusoff.
What does Mr Yun - a veteran producer whose credits include comedy Homecoming (2011) and musical drama 881 (2007) - have to say to detractors who think he has cast Seah for the publicity it will give the film?
"When I cast Kay Tong, there were detractors. If I cast someone else, there will also be detractors. It's the same for Nicole," he says. "Of course, there will be people who see negatives for casting her, but I see that the positives outweigh the negatives.
"I wanted an interesting mix for the cast. I want 1965 to not be your usual movie. This is not business as usual. I have produced more than 30 movies. There are movies and there are movies, and then there's 1965."
This article was first published on Dec 10, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.