EXCLUSIVE: Selena Tan talks about playing the "Bible aunt" Alix Cheng in 'Crazy Rich Asians'
Selena Tan was born to play 'Alix Cheng' because her baptism name is 'Alexandra' anyway. She's also done a splendid job of observing the elite in Singapore.
It's the day 'Crazy Rich Asians' premieres and as we sit for an interview with Selena Tan, who plays the role of 'Alix Cheng,' Nick Young's aunt, she shares with us little known details about the movie and tells us why she was destined to play the role of Alix Cheng.
In the upcoming movie 'Crazy Rich Asians,' you play the role of ‘Alix Cheng’, one of Eleanor Young’s (Michelle Yeoh) sisters and Nick Young’s (Henry Golding) aunt. Tell us a bit more about your character and the significant impact she has on the plot of the story. Do you personally relate to her character?
In the book, Alix Cheng has a big role, and in the movie, she plays a role in making Rachel feel like she is being watched and uneasy during her visit to Singapore. She clearly tried to sow seeds of doubt to Eleanor Young about Nick’s new girlfriend.
I can relate to her character when I first read the book as I felt that “I know these people.” In Singapore, there are only one or two elite schools with children whose parents have this kind of money. It was very obvious what kind of “rich” we were talking about in the book, so I was certain that I could bring out the inner "Alix Young” in me for the movie just based on my observations. What’s more, my baptism name is Alexandra which is the character name for Alix Young!
Sneak peek into my first scene in @crazyrichasians filmed last year. Really thrown into the deep end .. #backtifilm and didn’t know what to expect and was grateful for a super sweet and talented cast, Director @jonmchu and film crew and ADs. Hair and makeup and costumes and art department sound lights etc I was in good hands and so happy to meet @amyjcheng and share a TRAILER with her on our first couple days shoot at a gorgeous house. #grateful @dreamacademysg @dimsumdollies channeling my inner rich and posh mission school bible study gossiping tai tai /Aunty #Alixyoung . To top it all odd, I even had my own monogrammed bible thanks to @necoates1 and was thrilled cos I did not know that the role i would get after auditions would be names Alexandra which just so happens to be my baptism name #fated #serendipity
You were also one of the first Singaporeans to be cast in the upcoming movie. Please tell us about your audition process and how the role came to be?
I was asked by a casting director in Singapore to audition, but as I had just finished a major production and had already planned a 4-day family vacation in Thailand, I had to postpone the first two appointment dates. After coming back from Thailand, the casting director called again and said that they had not found what they were looking for and we set another date. I had fun preparing for the audition. I had my nails and hair done like a real “tai tai” (rich lady of leisure). They called back a few days later and told me I got the part of Alix Young.
What was your reaction when you found out you got the part? What was the reaction of your family and friends?
When I found out, I was really excited about going back to film again. My work is mainly on stage in the past few years hence I was really psyched about being on set and meeting the actors and creative team. We worked like one big family.
Family and friends were, of course, excited and happy for me as well. My mother-in-law had read the book years back and was pretty thrilled about me meeting Kevin Kwan and being in the movie.
You started your career as a stand-up comedian. We would like to know more about your stand-up journey. Please tell us how you got started into comedy and how did you venture into acting?
I actually fell in love with the theatre when I was 10. Then, I was mostly involved with acting in school plays. After some time, I began looking for every opportunity I could get involved outside of school. I started as a theatre actor from the age of 14. I did several musicals and theatre shows, but my first solo performance was a stand-up comedy performance written and performed by me in 1998 called Selena Exposed!
What are your expectations for the movie 'Crazy Rich Asians'? How do you think people are going to react to your character?
The early audiences that have gotten to watch the show ahead of the worldwide release have really come out in full force to say what they liked about the movie and about how they enjoyed the Asian representation.
I thought so before, and now I am even more sure that the world is really going to embrace the show as a modern Rom-Com with real universal issues of family and sacrifice.
Someone just wrote to me on social media to share that she had just attended the New York screening and she thought it was great as I had reminded her about the “bible aunties” from her hometown.
Besides acting and doing stand-up, what other activities do you enjoy doing?
I love traveling and being outdoors. I have a young son, and my husband and I are constantly looking for nice, green big areas to explore. We recently went to Hawaii for a wedding, and I must say, enjoying the beach with my friends and family was simply wonderful!
In Singapore, I love to take walks to enjoy the greenery…and we have lots of it all over the island…we are known as the Garden City after all. A lovely walk really helps you escape from city life.
Will you be appearing in any upcoming Hollywood movies besides 'Crazy Rich Asians'? Who would you like to work with next?
No, but I am open to anybody who would like to cast me in one. I would love to work with the cast and crew of 'Crazy Rich Asians' again.
What is your personal favorite moment in 'Crazy Rich Asians'?
For me, my favorite moment (even though I am not in the scene) would be the bachelor party scene as it was crazy and out of this world!
What does your Instagram name mean?
First Bible Study Scene. Such a buzz just watching @michelleyeoh_official do her thing with such authority, confidence and grace. @crazyrichasians Meanwhile, @amyjcheng and I were pretty much like thrilled little kids, #fangirling and thrilled to be in KL on a Hollywood shoot with a trailer to share and lots of time to catch up on old times over some super shiok suppeR. And oh, then there was my personal bible specially monogrammed with the short form of my baptism name #alixyoung . It all went by so quickly ... #likeadream #grateful #friendsfilming @dreamacademysg @dimsumdollies @jonmchu
My Instagram name is @bigdimsumdolly.
My main work is on stage, and I am a big part of the 'Dim Sum Dollies' which I created. We are a satirical comedic trio in Singapore, and everything is very current and on the go. I am known as the “big bao” (big steamed bun) of the trio and hence the name big dim sum dolly!
Besides, your own character, who is your favorite 'Crazy Rich Asians' character and why?
I love Awkwafina as Peik Lin. She is so naturally quirky, endearing and funny which comes across really well on the big screen.
Is there anything you would like to say?
It will be good to see more Asian talents being cast in bigger roles in Hollywood movies. My hope is that producers and casting managers will look to Singapore for talents as we have a very talented pool of actors here who are raring to go. We also have a great blend of east and west.