You can catch Selena Tan playing Alix Young in the blockbuster smash hit movie, Crazy Rich Asians. You can also catch her speaking up and out for the big causes she cares about. Celeb Secrets recently caught up with the star to hear about her early career beginnings, her first foray into acting, and all of the important lessons she has learned along the way. Plus, we learned how she was cast in one of the year’s biggest films — and her hopes for the upcoming sequel. Be sure to catch our exclusive Q & A below.
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.
Celeb Secrets: Do you remember your earliest experience with film, theatre, or other arts, and what it entailed?
Selena Tan: 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 in outside of school. I started as a theatre actor from the age of 14.
Celeb Secrets: When did you realize you wanted to pursue acting professionally?
Selena Tan: I was a lawyer by day and actress by night from the years 1994 to 1998. I knew there would come a time where I had to choose one or the other.
Thankfully, I came to a decision early and that’s when I held my first solo performance, a stand-up comedy performance written and performed by me in 1998 called Selena Exposed!
Celeb Secrets: Did you face any challenges early in your career, and if so, how did you overcome them?
Selena Tan: Early on in your career as a freelance, you are always worried when your next job would come along. So, I would take on every single job that came my way, and it came to a point when I was working continuously without breaks. That was when I realized I had to be more selective with my work and started producing my own works so that I could have better control over my own time.
Celeb Secrets: Can you tell us about how your role in Crazy Rich Asians came to be, and how your experience working on the film was?
Selena Tan: I was asked by a casting director in Singapore, 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.
Every single day spent with the cast and crew was memorable. It’s really a dream come true having a chance to work with such a talented group! I found myself locked into observing their craft. How they are able to be so firm yet gentle, strong and real for the camera. It was really a masterclass for me.
Celeb Secrets: This movie specifically is opening up so many conversations about the importance of representation in film – how does it feel to you to be a part of that?
Selena Tan: To see all the Asian actors coming together, forming a powerful ensemble was something to remember! This particular cast and crew definitely had a strong bond while on set and even have a very active WhatsApp group today.
Celeb Secrets: The movie is wildly popular right now. What do you think made the film so special that people have such wonderful things to say about it?
Selena Tan: The early audiences that have gotten to watch the show ahead of the worldwide released has really come out in full force to say what they liked about the movie, 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 though it was great as I had reminded her about the “bible aunties” from her hometown.
Celeb Secrets: With a sequel on the rise, how do you think this will change Asian representation in Hollywood?
Selena Tan: We should be seeing 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.
Celeb Secrets: Is there anything you’d like to see happen to your character in the sequel?
Selena Tan: I would like to see her develop more and have a chance to showcase her family in the sequels.
Celeb Secrets: We saw that many members of the cast represented Singapore fashions at the Crazy Rich Asians premiere, including yourself! Can you tell us about it, and how your experience was on the red carpet?
Selena Tan: It was a no-brainer for me. I had to wear Frederick Lee Couture because he makes the most beautiful and outstanding gowns in Singapore.
He is the costume designer for the Dim Sum Dollies, and his work has always been extraordinary.
Celeb Secrets: What is some of the best advice you’ve ever been given in your career, and who was it from?
Selena Tan: It was from one of my stage directors, and he told me that when working with other actors, I should never expect any particular response or performance. I could only be in control of my own performance, and that really set me free of panic or unnecessary worry.
Celeb Secrets: Is there any wisdom you’ve picked up now that you would pass along to your younger self?
Selena Tan: Always be in the present moment.
Celeb Secrets: Besides your work, what are some other causes that you’re passionate about?
Selena Tan: I support the LGBT community here in Singapore and hope that one day, the Singapore government will repeal section 377A of the penal code which criminalizes gay sex.
Celeb Secrets: Since we’re Celeb Secrets, would you be able to share a fun secret about yourself that not too many people know about you?
Selena Tan: I am an introvert!