Seven Series [Part I: Actors] Fish Chaar4 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
He was the murderous schoolbus driver in local drama True Files, and is last seen as a loan shark in local movie Truth Be Told (pictured) Fish Chaar is everyone’s favourite villain and Sinema’s first victim to the series of Seven Questions for Seven Professions.
1. Let’s start at the beginning. How and when did you become an actor?
I auditioned for a now-defunct talent agency in early 2003 (at the NUSS Orchard Guild House at Level 8, Cineleisure Orchard). Hoping to leave an impression with my singing, I sang Boyz2Men’s “I Swear” in front of a small selection panel which included a known local actor, for the first time in my life. They then had me do a couple of lines from a simple script, which I did in a why-the-heck-not-since- I’m-already-here kind of way (I was only interested in singing then).
Got a call-back the next day, asking me to head on down to their office in Chinatown, where they just happened to get a casting call from MediaCorp Studios. I attended that call (my first ever) but didn’t get the part. 2 weeks later, MediaCorp called (just as I was stepping into a job interview at Keppel’s shipyard) and offered me a role in True Files: The Bus Driver, which was shot in March 2003. The episode aired only in October because another docu-drama, True Courage (in which I played the role of a ER doctor) took precedence due to the SARS outbreak in May.
By the time television viewers, and I, saw me as the murderous schoolbus driver, I had undergone drastic physical and mental shift — I had shaved 10kg off the scale, but you don’t really need me to say ‘what-for’ right? The answer is of course, “Vanity. Definitely my favourite sin.” (a quote from Al Pacino in Devil’s Advocate).
… and is this a full-time job?
It’s gonna take me a while longer, but methinks I’m getting there. Meanwhile, tutoring supplements my income.
2. Why choose to be an actor?
Back while I was taking night classes at NUS (1997-2001), during my RSAF-senior-tech days (1994-2001), I actually wanted to be a maths teacher. I applied 3 times but for some reason, not a single interview came my way. After leaving the force, I worked as an engineer for 7 months, quit, got into tutoring, and was still trying to figure out what it is that I really wanted to do. I then did True Files and then some and then some… and somewhere along that line, I knew.
3. What is the most challenging role / scene you have done so far?
It was for a scene in Ethan, an NTU short film I did in late December 2006. I had to cry, sitting on the pavement with my dying son cradled in my arms. It took me a while to find that emotion. I’m just a typical guy. My tears flow for physiological reasons like when my eyes are too dry, after yawning, or under excruciating pain. I wasn’t even sure myself if I would be able to pull it off then, but somehow I did. And it felt good. Good that I didn’t have to fake it after all. Or maybe, letting it out once in a while really does do some good. Who knows?
Incidentally, Ethan will be screened on Oct 28 at the Golden Lion Film Festival in South Africa.
4. Do you think it is very easy to become stereotyped in one role / character? Do you think this happens more in Singapore / Asia?
It happens everywhere. I think stereotyping is the safe way to cast. It’s a compliment, really. Especially if it’s like:
“Fish ah, we want you to play a loan shark can? It’s a major support role. You’ll have a fight scene, spray paint the wall, threaten the family members…It’s a 3-day shoot and we’re starting on… Huh? Audition? No need la. So you can a not har?”
5. How do you improve your craft?
I really can’t think of a better way to get better at anything other than to keep on doing it. Every role I take on is a chance to better myself. Each time I’m on set, I try to pay attention to everything that’s going on around me. Try. When it’s not my scene, I’d tend to hang around, trying not to get in the way, and just observe.
6. What is your dream role(s)?
Haven’t got one. I guess every actor wants to play a significant role, with a kick-ass script, fantastic sets, nifty wardrobe and most importantly, a top-notch cast/crew. I’m no different. A generous pay-check wouldn’t hurt either.
7. So what’s next for you?
I’ve been in touch with several undergraduates at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, who will be shooting their short films over the next few weeks. Quite often, acting jobs come in at the eleventh hour too. Meanwhile, it’s auditions, auditions and more auditions. Anyone hiring?
Fish Chaar turns 33 this December, and is happily married with a 5-year-old daughter. He is ‘beng’ only on-screen, or so he claims. Catch him in his latest movie, Truth Be Told, now in theatres.