Tiger Burning Bright
August Man SG|Issue 174
While pursuing a bachelor’s degree, Desmond Tan dove right into the world of showbiz. He tells us about learning to separate himself from his on-screen personas and lets us in on his latest projects
Amos Chin
Few local actors actually dream about a career in acting. Singaporeans are far too pragmatic for that. And so Desmond Tan buckled down to pursue a degree in real estate, a field that promises to pay off handsomely in this land-scarce country. His grades were good and he thought he had his career mapped out. But things took an unexpected turn when he participated in the Star Search 2007, with the intention to “ just get some exposure”. It was only during the competition that he realised he does have something for acting. It invigorated him and he enjoyed having a medium to express himself. Despite placing second, Desmond’s career trajectory proved that ranking and titles don’t determine your future, but that hard work and dedication do.

That said, his journey as a singer-actor wasn’t a smooth ride either. While it’s easy for us to wax poetic about his aptitude for show business now, many didn’t share the same sentiments when he was just starting out. The deferential and humble 35-year-old had to juggle school and acting commitments while trying to prove his abilities to casting directors and his peers. With the immense pressure to do well, he gave himself an ultimatum. “I gave myself two years. If this doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to what I studied in school ‒ real estate,” he said.

Desmond Tan shared with AugustMan his difficulties and struggles while giving us the lowdown on his latest projects.

Did you always know you wanted to be an actor?

Like most other kids, I wanted to be a soldier, or police officer or action-packed roles in a similar vein. It was only during Secondary School when I chanced upon a Jackie Chan movie that I wanted to be an actor. My friends and I would purchase boxing gloves and practice at car parks after school.

What kickstarted your trajectory towards being an actor?

I participated in Star Search right after completing the mandatory national service. Though it was merely for the experience, I just wanted to join the queue. (laughs)

After the talent competition, I got cast for episodic characters; I was still in the midst of pursuing a bachelor’s degree and couldn’t commit to bigger roles that required me to commit to a full-time acting schedule.

You undertook a real estate degree and graduated with honours. What prompted you to make the switch from real estate to acting?

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