Chen Yixin hunts down monsters in Mr Midnight
Filming Mr Midnight: Beware The Monsters was a brave new experience for Singaporean actress Chen Yixin, who has a role in it as a teenage paranormal hunter.
The series, based on the children’s horror books written by James Lee, whisked the 22-year-old star off to Batam, Indonesia, for five months of filming.
“It’s like the kind of variety show where you’re stuck on an island with a group of people, so we became very close. We would go to one another’s villas and have cook-outs. It was like travelling, but not really, because everyone is from a different culture,” says Chen, who is the second child of veteran actors Edmund Chen and Xiang Yun.
She stars alongside Malaysian actor Idan Aedan and Australian actors Caleb Monk and Nikki Dekker. The series is streaming on Netflix.
Chen recalls: “It was actually really fun. The production crew wanted to film our most genuine expressions, so they tried to keep us and the actors who played the monsters apart, so that when we saw their full make-up with their dentures, we would really be surprised.”
Chen went through four rounds of auditions to secure the role, a process which she, as the progeny of famous veteran actors, appreciated.
“Sometimes, when people cast me, I don’t know whether they’re hoping to promote the project with the fact that I’m Edmund Chen and Xiang Yun’s daughter. That’s why Mr Midnight was such a refreshing experience for me, because both the producer and director didn’t know about my background.”
In 2017, Chen made her acting debut in the Mediacorp drama While We Are Young and has since starred in both English- and Chinese-language projects, including the mystery thriller film Precious Is The Night (2020) and Channel 5’s Teenage Textbook: The Series (2021). Her older brother Chen Xi, 31, is also an actor.
“Acting is something that I’ve always wanted to pursue, perhaps because I was exposed to the environment at a young age,” says Chen, who studied applied drama and psychology in Singapore Polytechnic, graduating two years ago. “But there are expectations that come with being my parents’ daughter. Sometimes, I feel that it’s difficult to make mistakes because it doesn’t just reflect on me, but also reflects on them. It’s a certain type of pressure.
“For example, my Mandarin isn’t great and I think people might wonder why my Mandarin isn’t as good as my parents’ or why I’m not as good at acting. But I think we all have to start somewhere. It’s hard to expect us to immediately be able to live up to the standards our parents set.”
She feels like the kindred spirit of other second-generation stars like Lim Shi-An, with whom she shares several reel-life connections. Lim, a fellow actress, is the daughter of actress Tan Kheng Hua and actor Lim Yu-Beng.
One of Chen’s first acting projects was Sparks, a miniseries by DBS bank, in which Tan played her mentor. In Mr Midnight, Lim plays her father, which led Lim Shi-An to remark on social media that they were “basically sisters”.
“Yes, it’s very cool, I’ve met Shi-An in passing once, but we have never actually met up before. We definitely plan to, but it has yet to materialise,” she says.
Apart from Mr Midnight, which is Chen’s major role this year, she is also starring in the second season of Titoudao: Inspired By The True Story Of A Wayang Star. The period series about Hokkien street opera premiered its first season in 2020 and recently wrapped production of its second.
Chen, who joined the long-standing cast as a newcomer, says: “Learning to perform opera was the hardest part. We all had around 10 lessons, but I felt so uncultured next to the cast like (Malaysian actress) Koe Yeet and (actor and opera practitioner) Nick Shen, who were so amazing.
“There was a lot of homework to be done because Hokkien is just sounds to me. I had no idea what I was saying, but the art and culture behind wayang made the whole experience really beautiful.”
But trying new things is exactly what Chen wants to do in her 20s – explore the world and experiment with different roles. As for her personal life, she is in a committed relationship with singer-actor Gavin Teo, 27.
“My partner is very supportive and respectful and I’m very grateful for that. We both want to do things for ourselves and we give each other the space to do what we want to do and plan how to go about achieving it. We have talked about marriage, but it’s not happening any time soon.”
• Mr Midnight: Beware The Monsters is available on Netflix.