To say that the underworld in upcoming Channel 8 drama Hello From The Other Side is an unconventional one would be an understatement.
For starters, there is air-conditioning. The "Courts of Hell", where one’s deeds in life are judged, looks more like the set of a game show. The "Gifts Hall", where burnt offerings from the living are sent, has a take-a-number system, like what you might find at the post office or a telco store. Very modern, and very different from what is depicted at Haw Par Villa or in Dante Alighieri’s poem Inferno.
Perhaps that’s why its staff are always in such a cheery mood, or at least, they were when we paid a visit to the set yesterday. Rui En, who plays a latte art-making grim reaper, was particularly smiley and full of things to gush about, including her co-star Shaun Chen.
"He’s changed so much [since we last worked together in The Journey: Our Homeland]," the 37-year-old actress told Toggle. "I’ve discovered that he really is the perfect husband and father. Sometimes during dinner breaks, he would specially rush home just to spend time with his family - you can see that they are really his priority now."
Likewise, Shaun had plenty of good things to say about Rui En, who is fresh out of a year-long showbiz hiatus. "She’s getting more and more awesome," he grinned. "It’s exciting to see her come back after a long break to show a better and more mature side."
Rui En scared Shaun Chen’s daughter?
It was on the set of Hello From The Other Side that Rui En got to meet Shaun’s wife Celine and daughters, Nellie and Neia, for the very first time. Chen Hanwei, who plays the boss of the underworld, along with a few crew members had secretly planned a surprise birthday celebration for Shaun on November 3 (his 40th birthday), and arranged for his brood to pop by.
"It was my birthday but I still had to go to work, so I thought it would a completely normal day with just a small cake or something, that’s it," he recalled. "I never imagined that my entire family would show up to visit me! It really was a surprise, and I’m so thankful for it."
Although Rui En didn’t get to interact much with his little girls, she was won over by how adorable they are (can’t say we blame her). She even noticed how Shaun seemed to pay more attention to his oldest, Nellie, who turns 3 in December.
The father-of-two was quick to explain this alleged display of favouritism. "She tends to get jealous of her sister; for example, if the younger one wants a hug, [Nellie] would quickly run over to ask for one as well, so I have to cuddle with them both at the same time!" he chuckled.
Rui En also shared a story of how her grim reaper getup may have traumatised poor Neia, who is just about a year and four months old. "That day I was wearing a black leather vest, so I think I may have looked a bit scary to her," she said. "I tried to approach her but she looked frightened; I think she’s also more shy, while the older one is more mischievous."
Rui En is recovering from her sickness
Due to the fantasy elements in the new drama, it’s no surprise that Hello From The Other Side contains a lot of stunt scenes and special effects. "It’s my first time working with so many green screens in the background," said Rui En. "It can be quite challenging at times but we’re all looking forward to seeing the final product."
The challenge, she elaborated, is in trying to picture something that will only be edited in during the post-production process. "The crew tries their best to describe what we should be reacting to, but there’s no proper reference, so it can be difficult," she said, before turning to Shaun and chuckling, "Does that mean we finally know what it’s like to work in a Hollywood film? I think so! (Laughs)"
Unfortunately, the long hours and copious amounts of action took a toll on Rui En, who fell sick last week (not that her fever could stop her from attending her fan club’s 10th anniversary celebration). But fret not, for she reassured us that she is well on the road to recovery.
"My body is recovering, but I still get tired easily so I try to get as much rest as I can and drink lots of water," she smiled, saying that she was "feeling much better" already during our chat. She also theorised that her feeling under the weather could be caused by a lack of sleep - she estimated that she gets just five hours of shut-eye a night, at most.
Oh dear. Let’s hope that as soon as she has the chance, Rui En will go from escorting the dead, to sleeping like the dead. She deserves it.