Beneath Nick Tan’s boyish good looks, soft-spoken demeanour and well-mannered disposition lies a fiercely-ambitious 25 year-old. Speaking in a crisp, light but confident voice, Nick expounds his love for challenges. “It’s the reason why I didn’t want to pursue modeling as my career. I wanted to do something challenging. Something that would push me to learn new things.” This drive is what propels the former Raffles Institution go-getter to venture into his two main passions: acting and music. And judging by his humility, optimism and eagerness to learn, Nick’s already won half the battle.
THE ITALIAN JOB
Representing Singapore at the SEA Games and then on the global fashion arena is an incredible honour and I am very humbled to have these opportunities. To be honest, I’ve never seen myself as a model. For the most part of my life, I’ve been focused on swimming and studying. In terms of looks, there are taller and better-looking guys out there. I think I got selected by Domenico (Dolce) because of characteristics besides my physical appearance. When we were on set, I remember him saying that he didn’t want us to look like models; he wanted us to be who we are naturally, like real men.
There were definitely some nerves on set as I was very excited to work with an established fashion house like D&G. Domenico, Alvaro(the photographer), the designers, and the entire team made me feel at ease. Although it was a relaxed environment, there was also an unspoken respect in Domenico’s presence.
When I first stepped into their headquarters in Milan and got to see floors of their clothing archives, I was in complete awe. The detail and artistry that went into their stitching and fabrics were astonishing. I have utmost respect for Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s visions. The more experienced guys also shared tips and pointers, which helped me a lot on set. The first day, they made us do manicures and pedicures. It was my first time, and it was really ticklish, so everyone was laughing at me. Also, there was a gorgeous cat on set! Sadly I did not get to shoot with it as I like animals.
BIG SCREEN AMBITION
Although I majored in biology at Harvard, I was put through a liberal arts curriculum, so I was exposed to writers and thinkers from cultures across the world. One of my most enriching classes was called East Asian Cinema. In that class, I remember two films we studied that left an impression, one was Chungking Express by Wong Kar-wai, and the other was a 1960s Korean horror cult flick called The Housemaid. We also studied the works of Ang Lee and Zhang Yimou.
It was eye-opening learning about cultural themes and how they were reflected in motifs and cinematography in those movies (yes, even for horror movies). I also got the chance to act in a few school productions and really enjoyed those experiences. With a newfound appreciation for film and acting, I would like to pursue acting going forward. I don’t aim to be in every movie or magazine out there. I just hope to land a role that I can do justice to. I don’t have any problems taking a small role and shooting just a few scenes if it’s a good role in a great story.
I would love to try out roles in action movies that would put my athletic training to good use. I admire Taiwanese actor Eddie Peng for undergoing a physical transformation to embody his role in the boxing movie “Unbeatables”. Directors like Peter Chan, Ang Lee and Wong Kar-wai are just some of the Asian directors that are on my dream list of people to work with. As an Asian, I feel I can relate better to the Asian method of film-making and story-telling compared to say working with a Hollywood director.
THE WAY FORWARD
From swimming, I have learned good habits to keep myself healthy, but most importantly swimming has taught me to handle the mental challenges that lie ahead. Before my race at my first SEA Games, I remember having doubts if my training was sufficient. My coach told me, “Believe you’re ready, or you’ll never be ready. Now get out there and do it.” Before the D&G shoot, or any production, there will always some nerves and doubts. I will prepare myself as much as I can. These few months, I have been brushing up on my Chinese diction, learning martial arts, and also watching new works like Peter Chan’s American Dream.
Music, in particular dance music and producing music is also a passion of mine. I got my first chance at songwriting during my last semester at Harvard. At that time, Gangnam style was becoming a huge hit in America, and there was interest in Asian songwriters. I had some friends who were in the music industry in New York, and while I was in NY they gave me opportunities to write with producers who have also worked with Chris Brown and Sean Kingston.
It was a surreal experience and I learnt a lot about songwriting from these guys, especially learning about the work that goes behind the lead singles they produce for singers like Miley Cyrus, Madonna, and Maroon 5. I like the dance genre because dance is a celebration. It is evergreen, and something that people will always need regardless of the era. Going forward, I hope to infuse this interest with my other projects, perhaps I could write for a movie theme song.
Success to me, at this point, is about landing a good acting role but more importantly also spending time with my family, siblings and friends. I’ve been away at Harvard for sometime so maintaining quality time with my loved ones is important to me. Being able to balance this with my work commitments and training schedule and just being positive about life overall is my idea of being successful.
“I don’t think I am the kind to crave the limelight, so there isn’t really any pressure being in the spotlight.”
“One of my all-time idols is James Dean. His movie roles and distinct style was a breath of fresh air for the industry. I think fashion is about finding your personal style and what works for you. Today I think Takeshi Kaneshiro is very stylish, with a laid-back effortless yet classic style. He has also had a great acting career across many different movies and characters.”