the big movie comeback with Selena Tan

What was your favorite part of Crazy Rich Asians? Was it the romance? The comedy? The Bible Study scene? If you’re familiar with Singaporean theatre, you might have known of her way before her Crazy Rich days. With her background predominantly being on-stage, Selena Tan is back on the big screen once again! & this time in a big way as she stars as Auntie Alix in Crazy Rich Asians.

Here’s asienne’s interview with (one of) your favorite auntie(s).

A: What first attracted you to Crazy Rich and how did the casting process look like?

ST: So, I’m Singaporean-Chinese and what attracted me to the movie is, of course, this is a big Hollywood blockbuster movie that’s set entirely in Singapore where I was born and raised. I just found it really exciting to be a part of that.

They called the office and said they wanted me to come and read a part as one of the aunties and that’s how I got into the audition. I was straight out of a long stage production at the time, so I happen to had a period [of time] free.  I went into the audition here in Singapore and I was told about a week later that I got the part.

A: How was it filming in your hometown?

ST: Oh, it was really fun! It wasn’t just in Singapore but in Malaysia as well. It was great! It was lovely shooting near home in particular because I have a young son, so it meant I could be close to him as well and not be away for too long. Also, it meant that when the cast and crew were here in Singapore, I got to play host and tour guide. It was fun bringing people around and getting to know a very international cast and crew. We got pretty tight!

A: What was the most relatable thing in the movie for you in terms of culture?

ST: I think all the themes are very relatable whether the theme about family versus self, or individual pursuits versus [what’s] for the greater good of the family other than yourself. Also, just the idea of love triumphing–those are all universal themes that will really speak to anyone.

A: What’s your take on following one’s passion versus choosing your family like Auntie Eleanor said? Do you even have to choose?

ST: I’ve been fortunate enough that I haven’t had the need to choose. In a sense, I chose my passion also in terms of pursuing work in the entertainment profession. I was a trained lawyer and so I did take that big leap and said [to myself] ‘I’m going to let go of my professional training as a lawyer and go into performing full time. But I definitely had the support of family going through that.

A: What was the most relatable thing about your character, Auntie Alix (Young)?

ST: I think the fact that she is like any typical auntie–very protective of her own family, very curious about everybody else’s business but really sort of first and foremost, in her mind, it’s her family. That in itself is something I can relate to. We try to be–no matter what–for us, family always does come first.

A: What is your favorite scene in the movie that you did? The Bible Study? (laughs)

The Bible Study | 📸 Warner Bros. [insta link]

ST: (laughs) I would say the Bible Study, yes but I love all the scenes really. The Bible Study stood out I guess because it was the first thing I [had to get into] and I haven’t done film in a long, long time since that first day of shoot. It was kind of nerve-wracking going in but Jon [M.] Chu made it really easy to do that and Michelle Yeoh was really amazing in that. She was very giving and generous and embracing. So it made that whole transition into going back shooting on film very exciting and challenging but fun at the same time. I felt at ease enough to play around with the scene.

A: What do you have to say for Asian women who want to break into theatre, film and the entertainment industry?

ST: I think it’s the same for anyone, right? You just have to keep on doing it. Keep on banging on doors and getting rejected, or riding uphill and sliding down a bit, and just keep on moving, just keep on going. Just keep the momentum. I think when people see that you have been knocked down and you’re just full of passion for what it is you want to do, then sooner or later, you’ll find your break.


For more on Selena Tan, check her out on instagram @bigdimsumdolly and the Dim Sum Dollies @dimsumdollies.

Tan’s explanation behind her instagram handle name is an allusion to the trio she created (and one she’s a part of): the Dim Sum Dollies– a satirical, political satire production in Singapore.

This interview was briefly condensed for time.


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