Exclusive Interview with Homegrown Star Desmond Tan


In the vernacular of local television, terms like the King, Queen and Princess of Caldecott have been long associated with familiar faces. In recent years, the rise of a young group of male actors, now affectionately known by fans and the press as the eight Dukes of Caldecott, have garnered quite a rampant following. One of the eight Dukes, Desmond Tan, epitomises the qualities of a true-blue Singaporean son. From his determined beginnings towards a stable, white-collar career, to his eventual escalatation into stardom, Tan has been consistently steadfast and humble, but that doesn’t make the rising star any less exciting. 

In the August issue of Men’s Folio, Tan shares his path to success, as well as the tribulations that arise when attempting to change your destiny.

MF: How difficult was it trying to make it as a rookie actor?
DT: To be honest, it was easier then. As a fresh-faced actor, people are more forgiving. All you’d need to do is to look natural on screen and that’s it. But as you gain popularity and take on more roles, people will start to expect to see different sides to you because you’d risk becoming a one-dimensional actor otherwise.

How have you developed as an actor since you firsts tarted?
What I’m trying to do now as an artiste is to expand my breadth and depth. Breadth in the sense that I’m trying to increase the number of opportunities to showcase myself. That’s why I’m moving into music as well. Depth in the sense that I’m still striving to learn and master my craft to deliver better acting performances. It is very important to me as an actor to inspire and not just to entertain. And that means that I need to start developing who I am as a person. Look at people like Bruce Lee. He was dead long before I was born and yet I knew who he was and what he stood for. I want people to know what I stand for and not just what I’ve done.

Wouldn’t expanding your breadth also mean having more things to juggle? Why not just focus on one aspect of your craft?
Because we are artistes and not just actors. I wouldn’t learn that much from reading 10 scripts in a row compared to if I exposed myself to other things like painting, music or even doing someone else’s make-up. Exposing yourself to different things will give you a different perspective, which in turn, will inspire you to play a role better. 

Did it hit you hard when you weren’t named in the Star Awards Top 10 Most Popular Male Artistes this year?
It hit me hard. I was pretty affected for two days after the awards night. It felt great when I got it last year. And when this year came around, I naturally wanted to get it again. I also felt a bit of pressure because people were expecting me to get it. This experience taught me the true meaning of awards.

Which is?
It’s not all about winning. When you win, I get a deep sense of personal satisfaction. Through losing, you feel the love around you. People were coming up to me and offering words of encouragement. This experience brought me back down to Earth. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was floating before but I think reminded me that my work is less about chasing awards than it is about working hard and honing my craft. 

For the full feature, check out the August issue of Men’s Folio.