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The New Paper
Nov 6, 2017
Fans of actor Joshua Tan might do a double take when he reprises his star-making role as recruit Ken Chow in Ah Boys To Men 4.
That is because he gained 20kg for the upcoming sequel in the hit local movie franchise. Putting on the weight was a "dream come true" for the 1.75m-tall actor, who eventually hit 88kg.
Opening here on Thursday, the fourth instalment centres on the recruits being called back for in-camp training after completing national service and embarking on careers as civilians.
The detour in Tan's fitness journey did not faze him one bit - he got back to his buff self in no time.
Right after filming for Ah Boys To Men 4 wrapped in September, Resorts World Sentosa approached him to play a Korean general in its original theatrical production Flying Through Time, which starts its run next month.
From the team behind CHEF: Bibimbap vs Chilli Crab, including director Choi Chul Ki, the non-verbal action comedy sees Tan's heroic warrior Tiger portal from ancient Korea to modern Singapore in pursuit of a powerful mythical relic.
Tan was tasked to shed the extra girth in two months, and he has currently lost 17kg.
The athletic 27-year-old told The New Paper he wanted to "challenge" himself and experience something different.
He added: "I am like a balloon. I just gain and lose weight, but it is not uncommon in the acting industry...
"The point of being an actor is to (transform into) someone else. Why would you want to do similar roles?"
On why he decided to go from hunky to chunky, Tan said Ah Boys To Men director Jack Neo had commented during a Chinese New Year gathering earlier this year that co-star Maxi Lim had lost a lot of weight.
"Jack preferred how Maxi looked when he was chubby, but Maxi did not want to put on the weight again after putting in so much effort to lose it," Tan said.
"I do not know why but I asked if I could be the fat one.
"Days later, Jack said he would allow it but wanted me to be extremely fat by putting on 30kg, and I agreed."
Filming for Ah Boys To Men 4 was scheduled to begin in August, so Tan had six months to achieve his target.
"It was definitely dangerous, but I know how to manage my body. I read up on nutrition and did my research," he said.
He put on about 3kg to 4kg each month as he wanted to avoid being saddled with excess skin and stretch marks.
In one scene, Tan is shown rubbing his bare and bulging belly.
"I wanted to draw attention to it. I spent six months on that, so if people didn't notice, I will be pretty shattered," he said, jokingly.
He did not consume any junk food or sugary drinks even though he knew it was the easiest and quickest way to pile on the pounds as he felt that it was too unhealthy in the long run.
Instead, he followed a carbohydrate-heavy diet, ate rich foods such as cheese and stopped exercising.
His diet these days, however, is pretty much the opposite, due to his training for Flying Through Time in Gyeongju, South Korea, alongside the international cast of ex-national athletes and competitive sportsmen.
He loads up during breakfast and lunch and consumes fewer carbohydrates during dinner.
"I eat normal stuff such as white rice, brown rice, potatoes, chicken and a lot of beef, because South Korea is big on beef," Tan said.
"It was not too difficult, except when I was starting, because I was used to consuming more calories (for Ah Boys To Men 4).
"Whenever the (Flying Through Time) crew had dinner, they normally drank, so the challenge for me was staying away from beer."
His intensive physical regimen also helped in regaining his original physique.
Tan, who has been practising muay thai for 10 years, said: "The fact that we train for such an extended period of time through dancing, cheerleading, gymnastics, acrobatics and martial arts such as taekwondo... naturally burns calories."
Despite a backflip stunt gone awry, a hamstring injury and having to confront his fear of heights during wirework sessions, Tan feels that all the hard work so far is worthwhile.
He said: "I have always wanted to expand my martial arts (repertoire) and do more action films. Flying Through Time is a live action show that is aligned with what I want. To do 36 live shows, it is a huge opportunity and such a privilege."
WHAT: Flying Through Time
WHERE: Resorts World Theatre, Resorts World Sentosa
WHEN: Dec 9 to Jan 21, 2pm and 8pm
TICKETS: $38 to $118 from Sistic and Resorts World Theatre