Malaysian actress' unforgettable 'Westworld' experience: 'It was very surreal'

Cheryl Chitty Tan in her scene from the first episode of Westworld Season 3. Photo: Instagram (@cherylchittytan)

Last year, there were open calls for actors for an international project in Singapore. Malaysian actress Cheryl Chitty Tan, who is currently based there, decided to answer it.

The project’s details were shrouded in mystery, but Tan had a feeling about it. She had heard news that the television series Westworld was going to be filmed in Singapore, and put two and two together.

Tan’s feeling was right. She got through her audition, and ended up in a scene of the show’s current season, alongside actor Aaron Paul.

“I’m not a die hard fan of Westworld but I’ve seen the first two seasons and I think it’s an incredible show. So ambitious, so much scope!, ” said Tan, 31, who is from Kuala Lumpur.

Tan has acted in theatre and television shows in both Malaysia and Singapore. Her previous theatre experiences include Romeo And Juliet, Forbidden City and Beauty World, while her TV credits include Derek 1 and 2, Faculty and Paddles Up.

Tan shot a very short scene in the first episode of Westworld Season Three, where she plays a woman who encounters Paul on a train. To do this, the TV crew went to Singapore’s Stadium MRT station, where they filmed on an actual train.

“So I’d do my little bit and then try to run after him (Paul) and make sure I’m behind the camera, and the whole crew is also scrambling to get out of the shot. The camera kind of swung back and forth so you had to be on your toes a lot. It was kinda terrifying but super cool, ” Tan explained. “There were actual commuters and we had to keep getting on and off the train because of filming regulations.”

Actress Cheryl Chitty Tan takes a selfie with Aaron Paul. Photo: Instagram (@cherylchittytan)Actress Cheryl Chitty Tan takes a selfie with Aaron Paul. Photo: Instagram (@cherylchittytan)

Paul, she said, was extremely nice, and went out of his way to be friendly to everyone, including the crew and background actors. Tan had not been prepared to meet him, and so became starstruck upon their introduction.

“I just did a very, very ungraceful double take and he said, ‘Hi I’m Aaron’ and I said, ‘uh YES, yes you ARE’.

“It was extremely un-smooth, I had to go to the bathroom and have a small freakout!” she said.

Tan’s episode was directed by Jonathan Nolan, the co-creator of Westworld.Actress Cheryl Chitty Tan and Westworld co-creator Jonathan Nolan. Photo: Instagram (@cherylchittytan)Actress Cheryl Chitty Tan and Westworld co-creator Jonathan Nolan. Photo: Instagram (@cherylchittytan)

“He is very charismatic, and you just want to follow him around. He had this really cool presence, very confident and focused on his vision. And he was very nice to me as well, even though my character is basically nothing. He kept checking in on me and reassuring me, ” she added.

Tan said there was a lot of secrecy during filming. Her script, for example, was two grey boxes of censored text, and one single description for her scene. Even after her episode came out, she still didn’t know everything about her character.

“People were asking if I was a robot. Honestly, I had no clue. Who can tell? It’s that kinda show, ” she quipped.

While Tan’s scene lasted under a minute and she had no lines, she said it was an experience she would never forget. Where else would she get the chance to meet actors like Paul and Thandie Newton?

“It was very surreal to sit in the same dressing room as these people and hear Aaron and Thandie talk about their kids and their Singapore experiences. She’s in Mission: Impossible and he was in two of my all time favourite shows, Breaking Bad and Bojack Horseman. I would pay money to do this gig and have this experience, ” she laughed.

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