SINGAPORE – Award-winning director and actor Alaric Tay knew he had to do “Sent” a few pages into reading the script.
“I thought ‘Wow, it connects.’ In this day and age, things have been changing, moving so rapidly (especially) that everything is on our smartphones – our food, our shopping, our transportation. Everything is just a few clicks away using app on phone. Humans that we are, it’s always possible that we could mess up,” he said.
“Sent” is about unremarkable office worker Jay Bunani (played by Haresh Tilani) whose life is turned upside down after his draft e-mails to anyone who aggravates him get accidentally sent to, well, all of them and everyone else on his mailing list.
The series is HBO Asia’s third original production after dark action fantasy drama series “Halfworlds” set in Bangkok, and rom-com “The Teenage Psychic” set in Taiwan.
Comedy drama “Sent” is set in Singapore, which makes the story funnier and, perhaps, more plausible considering that many of its nationals are known to be workaholics and thrive in the world of memes, GIFs and hashtags.
We asked Alaric if it’s harder to gauge if Asians are laughing because they find something funny or for entirely different reasons. After all, being generally polite and proper people, we smile or laugh when we’re nervous, embarrassed, even when we’re angry or unsure if only to diffuse the situation.
“That’s an interesting question,” he said. “But you’re right, Asians do laugh a lot about different things and we have different sensibilities across boundaries. The Filipinos will laugh at one thing, the Indonesians will laugh at another. We may laugh at different points in a sentence for example.
“But at the end of the day, humor has that challenge of crossing boundaries. And the best we can do here is to find a good balance and put it out there. We also try to get a sense of visual stuff to help transcend the boundaries.”
Being a funny man himself on “The Noose,” Alaric has a sense of what would work and won’t.
“I think I’m able to critique if it’s funny or not but you don’t wanna spend the time breaking it down too much,” he said. “A big part of it is sensibility. And that’s part of the joy of creating a funny piece anyway. For us, it’s just a matter of ‘Let’s try that and have him do it’ and when he does it, it’s like ‘Oh my God, it’s so funny!’ And then we know we’ve got it.”
The other cast members are based in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India and Hong Kong. They are Alan Wong, Carla Dunareanu, Rosalind Pho, Adrian Pang, David Asavanond, Dhanya Nambiar, Indi Nadarajah, Anuradha Chandan, Laanya Asogan, Emil Marwa, Mike Leeder, Nikki Muller,Stephanie Carrington, and Crispian Chan.
What was it like working with actors coming from different cultures?
“Oh, I thought I was the luckiest guy,” he said. “I was very much involved in the casting and at the end of the day, everyone that was cast was a collective decision that we said ‘This one is the best person for the role.’”
Though “Sent” is a comedy, Alaric said crafting it was a serious job, indeed.
“Doing comedy drama is hard work, it is serious work. If only people understood that comedy is another form of dramatic story telling. I always think humor is the icing on the top of cake. You can have any story and turn it into a comedy without having to lose the base flavor of your dish or your show.”
Unless it’s lost in translation, Alaric shared the main message of “Sent.”
“If you want to write someone a nasty e-mail, be sure you mean to send it – or don’t write it.”
Bulletin Entertainment was also able to interview Carla Dunareanu. If her name rings a bell to Filipinos, it’s because she’s the ex of singer Christian Bautista. They met on the set of Singaporean series “The Kitchen Musical” some years back.
The actress said doing comedy comes naturally to her being ever precocious with gift of gab.
“My mom used to play a game with me, ‘Let’s see, who can keep quiet the longest.’ And she would offer to pay me, like, the winner gets two dollar. And I never won! I couldn’t win. I always just have too much to say,” she said.
Still, she has her other, more vulnerable side. From out of the blue, someone asked Carla what’s the most romantic gesture anyone has ever made to her, and she gamely answered without giving out names.
“I was on a holiday and my boyfriend said, ‘Okay, we’re gonna go out for dinner.’ We’re gonna go into a boat because the dinner is on island, so that’s interesting – it was in the Philippines and they have a lot of islands there.
“When we get into the island, it’s a deserted island and I just see fire, like, candles leading the way from the beach all the way to this little table that he set up by himself. And that’s our little dinner. It was a dinner on a private island and we have a chef there who is cooking on the beach for us and I got to say that was G. That was very, very G.”
On ‘Sent,” Carla plays interior designer Joey Wong.
In relation to the story of the show, she gave this advice to people who vent their feelings on social media.
“It’s very important to be careful of what you write and put out. Once you have something down, you have to be held accountable for every single thing that is in it. You can’t stop and say ‘It wasn’t me.’”
Has she ever received a wrong send, we wondered out loud.
“Mine was actually a phone call,” she shared. “I was having a fight with my friend and we were texting. Then at one point, I got a call from her. So I said, ‘Hello.’ I hear her, like, saying bad things about me to this person that she’s with. And I was just there listening to the whole thing! She didn’t realize that it was me whom she called. I stayed on the line until she picked up and then I hung up.”
Fortunately, they’ve remained friends with Carla acknowledging that sometimes, these things happen.
“Sent” premieres in Asia today with two back-to-back episodes starting at 9 p.m. in the Philippines. Two new episodes will premiere at the same time every subsequent Sunday.
The series will also be streaming on HBO GO and will be available on HBO On Demand. The first episode will be available across Asia on HBO Asia’s website tomorrow until Sept. 24.
The show is developed by HBO Asia and produced by Singaporean production house Very Tay in partnership with the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA).
Tags: “Sent”, Alaric Tay, Carla Dunareanu, christian bautista, comedy drama, David Asavanond, Dhanya Nambiar, Haresh Tilani, HBO, HBO Asia, Indi Nadarajah, Manila Bulletin, Manila Bulletin Entertainment, mb.com.ph, Oops my bad!, Rosalind Pho
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