If you’ve been a fan of Chen Yi Xin for a while, you might be surprised to know that her character called Sio Bee in TiTouDao: Dawn Of a New Stage (this is Chen’s first appearance in the much-lauded series), has much in common with her. They’re both gutsy, lionhearted and incredibly bold in the way they navigate a world that sometimes has it out for them.
To get into character, however, Yi Xin has had her work cut out for her where cosmetic scarring was applied to half of her face and which she had to wear for at least 14 hours a day. As she puts it, “filming for this role really took a toll on my skin but it was a good dedication because it really helped me to get into character.”
Here, she takes us through her role as Sio Bee, lessons about the world of wayang, and most importantly, her skincare favourites to get all that heavy-duty makeup off.
Hello Yi Xin! What was it like playing Sio Bee in TiTouDao: Dawn Of a New Stage? How much of yourself did you see in her and what are some lessons you’ve learnt from the character herself that you hold close to your heart?
I really do see my fiery and feisty personality in Sio Bee [laughs]. She’s very straightforward and she’s also quite immature in certain ways because she does see her troupe leader Suan Jiah (played by Chen Liping) as a real mum.
So, her feelings do get a bit complicated when it comes to, you know, being professional as a wayang actress while seeing Suan Jiah as her mum and her mentor.
She gets personal and jealous when Ah Chiam (played by Koe Yeet) comes into the picture as a new troupe member. I do feel inspired by how the character grows up and learns to navigate relationships with the people around her.
This development runs quite parallel to the stage that I am in my real life because I am also growing up and learning to see the bigger picture of things.
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What are some things you discovered too about our local cultural arts heritage when you were filming the series?
I think it’s about the wayang side of things. Maybe for someone my age and the people around me, we’ve never really been exposed to this side of our heritage. I’ve really never delved into wayang’s role in our arts and culture, but taking up this role has broadened my perspectives.
I’ve always had an impression that it is only just performed in Chinese, but this show has made me realise that it is deeply intertwined with other languages and dialects, like Taiwanese Hokkien and Teochew. I was greatly humbled by the language aspect of the show because I have zero knowledge of the Hokkien language despite being Hokkien myself.
There’s actually a difference between our Singaporean Hokkien and Taiwanese Hokkien, so that was new to me as well. I felt so uncultured when I first entered this project.
There are so many different types of makeup, too. The different eras have different styles like makeup, hair and everything is just like, oh my god, how did they do this every night? Back in the day and with the products that they used, how did they even remove their makeup back then? It just boggles my mind.
How much makeup did you exactly have to wear during filming and how long did it take the artist to put it on? What did it feel like especially if you’re filming for hours?
I play a character who has a marred face where the entire left side of it is scared. I can’t really elaborate too much to avoid spoilers, but it was the result of an acid attack. The process to get ready took about 30 minutes every day.
It’s quite a process because of the specific ways in which the prosthetic scar has to stick to my face. The environment that we’re filming in had no air conditioning and the weather was very humid and rainy. So I was sweating a lot and the prosthetic scar would collect a lot of my sweat in it!
To actually have it stick on my face, I am not supposed to have an ounce of moisturiser on my skin. This would allow the alcohol to “melt” the scar in order for it to stick to my face properly. We did a lot of overnight shoots, from five p.m to about seven a.m the next day.
So I think with the tight schedule and long hours, filming for this role really took a toll on my skin! But it was a good dedication because it really helped me to get into character. Initially, because of the scar, I really couldn’t feel the left side of my face and I couldn’t really smell properly, either.so I think it was a nice reminder that okay, yeah, my face is scarred for this character.
As for wayang makeup, it took about one to two hours to complete, as we took turns to have our faces painted. It was a really fun and eye-opening experience! Oh, and the hair was definitely a huge issue. We had to use some sort of glue-like substance to get the curls to frame our faces. The entire hairpiece was soaked in the same glue or wax. At the end of the day, my sweat will be all mixed up with the glue, and it would run down under my chin. So yeah, that was certainly a commitment.
Were there tips the makeup artist taught you when it came to removing it? Or perhaps, are you already very diligent with makeup removal?
I’ve always been very diligent with makeup removal, and I’m super into double cleansing. When I’m super sweaty on set, I’ll ask for a wipe to get the gunk off my face, then go home and use an oil remover, before washing it all off with a soapy cleanser.
Below, Yixin’s go-to beauty products.
Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil, $58
This cleanser really helped to get rid of all the heavy makeup we used during those wayang scenes!
Kiehl’s Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash, $52
I’m all about that double-cleansing life!
Chanel N°1 De Chanel Revitalizing Serum, $235
The long hours on set, thick makeup and lack of sleep definitely took a toll on my skin. This really gave my skin an extra boost of suppleness and glow.
Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution, $99
Giving my skin a solid protective layer with this product was so important because it was constantly exposed to alcohol with the application of the prosthetic scar makeup.
Chanel N°1 De Chanel Lip and Cheek Balm, $73
My go-to blush on set for that naturally flushed look whenever my character isn’t wearing a full face of wayang makeup.