Local jazz singer Nathan Hartono gets steamy, not spooky
Local singer Nathan Hartono was waiting for something spooky to happen while shooting TV series Halfworlds
While other actors fear supernatural happenings on set, local jazz singer Nathan Hartono admitted he "tempted fate" in his TV debut for the new HBO Asia series, Halfworlds.
"I was waiting for something to happen, because we are dealing with all these supernatural elements in the show," the 24-year-old told M yesterday.
"There were lots of body parts and fake blood on set - severed heads, arms and legs everywhere.
"I even walked back to my chalet once late at night. It was an hour's walk, but nothing happened."
Premiering on Nov 29 at 10pm on HBO (StarHub TV Ch 601), Halfworlds stars Indonesian newcomer Salvita Decorte as Sarah, a street artist drawn into an underground society of demons known as the Demits.
Hartono, the only Singaporean cast member, plays Coki, a struggling indie rock musician who is Sarah's boyfriend.
Hartono, whose parents are Chinese-Indonesian, nabbed the part when director Joko Anwar put out a casting call on Twitter for an Indonesian male who can sing and act in English. Anwar's followers suggested Hartono, after which he successfully auditioned for the role.
He said: "I love supernatural dramas more than fantasy shows like Game Of Thrones. I liked True Blood, The Walking Dead and I like movies like Blade and Let The Right One In. They scare me, but I don't mind."
Hartono has been on the music scene since the age of 15, releasing three albums and opening for Dutch jazz legend Laura Fygi and local Mandopop star Stefanie Sun. He has also dabbled in musical theatre, with roles in Spring Awakening in 2012 and Next To Normal in 2013.
A student at Berklee College of Music in Boston, US, Hartono has been taking a break from his studies for the past year to focus on his music and acting opportunities.
"I haven't made firm plans to go back to school yet, as things are going well so far," he said.
"According to my school, I have 10 years to defer my studies, but then again, I don't want to be the 33-year-old student in the class."
Hartono will be putting out a new acoustic-jazz single later this year, an EP release next February or March, and a solo show at Esplanade next July.
"Hopefully, I'll have a second season of Halfworlds to keep me busy too."
What was it like shooting your first TV show?
It was like being thrown into an alien environment, but it was so damn cool. I had done only musical theatre before, and the style is very different. In theatre, you have to be dramatic and use big gestures, but TV acting is much more subtle. It was an eye-opener for me.
I would sneak onto scenes I wasn't in to see what was going on during filming. It amazed me that people could work for two or three hours to set up for an eight-second scene.
Did you have romantic scenes with Salvita?
We had a few, and one steamy scene. But I am no stranger to that. For Spring Awakening, I had simulated sex with a girl two times a night on stage, for 30 nights.
But these scenes are not as interesting as you'd think. For Halfworlds, it was raining outside the room, and it was dank, gross and humid. Steamy scenes are not uncomfortable to do, but they are difficult to watch.
When I had to watch the playback of the scene, I just couldn't look at it. I think you'd have to be the biggest narcissist in the world to enjoy watching yourself do that.
Tell us about your contribution to the Halfworlds soundtrack.
Since Coki is a musician, I got to sing four songs. It was a collaborative process. I co-wrote lyrics for two of them (A New Season and Northern Star), and wrote the lyrics to Run To You.
A New Season is a rock song, which is a departure from my usual jazz and acoustic style, but I enjoyed it. After all, the music my character likes and what I like would definitely be different. And you need a rock song to fit the Gothic mood of the show.
Do you believe in the supernatural?
I believe there is stuff out there, although I am not going to use an Ouija board to look for it.
My most frightening experience was when I was 13 and went to a haunted house at a Tokyo theme park. I was supposed to go with my older brother, but he ditched me, so I was alone. The gimmick was that you were given a cellphone, and it would ring as you explored the house.
At one point, the bed in the apartment started shaking, the microwave door in the mini-kitchen opened, and there was a severed hand inside. At some point, the cellphone rang, and when I answered, I heard creepy breathing noises. I freaked out and just ran out of there.