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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Battling bulimia to become singer and actor

Posted: 10 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

South Korean actor Seo In-guk stars in the TV series, The Master's Sun

South Korean actor-singer Seo In-guk never made the cut at the many auditions he attended in his pursuit of his show business dreams when he first moved from his hometown Ulsan, to the South Korea capital Seoul in 2006.

Slightly pudgy at the time, he encountered major obstacles thrown his way by an industry dominated by possibly surgically-enhanced idols. He had previously shared on a TV show his ordeal of turning bulimic after heeding the advice to shed some weight after an audition for JYP Entertainment, the agency behind boy band 2PM and girl group Miss A.

He lost the weight and went back for another round of auditions, only to be told that his singing did not improve. In hindsight, Seo reportedly said that all the vomiting he endured had probably damaged his vocals.

After three years, he finally got his big break when he emerged the winner of the first season of reality TV show Superstar K (2009).

In an e-mail interview, the 26-year-old Seo says: "I've taken part in many auditions. With all the challenges and eliminations, the determination to reach my goal grew stronger. I had dreamt of becoming a singer since childhood. I had this ambition after watching rocker Kim Jung Min perform the song Sad Promise in the 1990s."

(From left) Seo with his co-stars from The Master's Sun Kong Hyo-jin, So Ji-sub and Kim Yoo-ri.

(From left) Seo with his co-stars from The Master's Sun Kong Hyo-jin, So Ji-sub and Kim Yoo-ri.


He went on to score a recording deal under Jellyfish Entertainment and release albums, from his debut Korean mini album Calling You (2009) to his recent Japanese album, Everlasting (2014). A day after Everlasting was released, it reportedly made it to the Top 10 of the daily sales of the Oricon chart on Jan 16.

Acting was his next frontier. He made his debut as an actor playing a bumbling sidekick in romance drama Love Rain (2012) and subsequently leapt to the big screen in a big way, as the lead in his first movie, No Breathing (2013).

Despite his earlier struggle with bulimia, the hardworking entertainer had no qualms gaining 9kg, reportedly to better portray a carefree and laidback law student in Love Rain. He later underwent a stringent diet and exercise regimen to shape up for his role as a competitive swimmer in No Breathing.

Indeed, acting is no sideline for Seo: He intends to pursue it with as much gusto as when he first chased his singing dreams.

"I want to be a diversified artiste – an actor with many different 'colours' and a singer who performs great songs at the same time. I want to be an artiste doing both fields together for a long time," says Seo, who is currently seen playing a bodyguard on the supernatural romantic comedy The Master's Sun.

"I want to be an actor who is faithful to the role assigned to me. If the character requires me to put on a lot of weight and look ugly, I would do the background work in order to immerse myself in that role."

Now Seo can take pride in his growing international fanbase. There are Facebook fanpages created for global fans, and country-specific pages created by fans as far as Turkey.

On his rising popularity beyond the borders of his home country, Seo says: "I'm very happy about it. I want to produce even better work and songs in return for their support.

"Besides that, I would like to hold an event soon to interact with all my fans." — The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

> The Master's Sun airs every Sunday at 8.45pm on One HD (Astro Ch 393).

Freddie Highmore goes psycho in 'Bates Motel'

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

The British actor plays Norman Bates in the TV series.

While most college students often use their year abroad to embrace the culture and nightlife of new countries, British actor Freddie Highmore opted to play one of the most notorious fictional serial killers, Norman Bates.

Highmore, 22, plays a teenage version of Norman Bates who helps his erratic mother run a hotel in modern-day Oregon in Bates Motel.

Bates Motel is the first television series for Highmore, who is currently finishing up his final year at Cambridge University, where he studies Spanish and Arabic. The actor started out his career playing wide-eyed young boys in films such as 2004's Finding Neverland and 2005's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.

But playing Norman Bates has presented a new direction in Highmore's career, playing an innocent, sensitive teenager who begins to transition into a psychologically disturbed young man with an abnormally intimate relationship with his mother, played by Vera Farmiga.

"I always did want to get to play a killer, so I guess that one's ticked off," the young actor said with a laugh.

"What's fun about Bates Motel is that the characters change so much. The Norman that we see at the start of Season One is markedly different to the end of Season Two," he said.

After a dramatic finale in Season One that culminated with the suspicious death of Norman's attractive young female teacher, the second season opens with Norman trying to cope with her demise by embracing taxidermy. The hobby of stuffing dead animals may be an eerie foreshadowing of his future path.

"The biggest journey he'll go on is this growing sense of self-awareness about who he is or who he might become," Highmore said.

At the centre of Bates Motel is the complex and at times, almost inappropriate relationship between Norman and his high-strung single mother Norma, which earned Farmiga an Emmy nod.

In the first season, the two are dependent on each other for support and comfort as they try to start afresh with the purchase of the motel in a new hometown, but in the second season, Highmore said their bond will be more fraught with tension.

"Vera and I disagree, but I think our disagreements fall in line with our characters and she sees the relationship as more platonic," Highmore said. "For me, I think Norman does read a little more into it and has feelings for his mother that go beyond what most boys would have."

The close relationship and fascination that Norman has with his mother was made famous in Robert Bloch's 1959 novel Psycho that was adapted by director Alfred Hitchcock into a film of the same name in 1960, becoming one of his most famous films.

Norman Bates is based on real-life serial killer Ed Gein, who was notoriously discovered with mutilated body parts in his house after police suspected him in the disappearance of a store owner in 1957.

Working in television has allowed the character of Norman Bates to be explored indepth, developing the original story that leads him on the journey to murder over a gradual arc.

Highmore said that he went back to Bloch's original source material for season two in order to understand Norman's psychological unravelling as he becomes more engrossed in taxidermy. But he often found a challenge in reigning himself in to play out Norman's journey.

"It's always a sense of being tempted to do more than is best to do at this stage of the series, and you have these fantastic characters and there are so many places you can take them," he said.

"For the series to develop well, it's much more fun and delicious to have this tension playing out over time." — Reuters

>> Bates Motel airs every Thursday at 9pm on Universal Channel (HyppTV Ch 612).

Mike Judge, creator of TV's 'Silicon Valley', is wired right

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

The creator of Beavis And Butt-head tackles life in Silicon Valley.

It seems a little odd that director-writer Mike Judge is doing a comedy series about citizens of Silicon Valley in California, which is home to many technology corporations as well as smaller start-ups.

Undeniably, Judge has influenced a generation (or two) with his biggest shows – he created and voiced MTV's Beavis And Butt-head, wrote and directed the 1999 cult movie Office Space, and wrote and produced the animated series King Of The Hill.

So, creating, producing and writing a 30-minute show called Silicon Valley seems a little off for Judge.

Well, until you learn that Judge has a degree in physics and has lived in Silicon Valley for a little over a year working as a software engineer before venturing into showbusiness.

"I worked for a company that did automatic test systems for the F-18 that went on the carriers. And then my second job in Silicon Valley was with a company that made interfaces for the very first high-def screens. Then I worked for a company that made bass and guitar amps," the 51-year-old American shared with reporters gathered at the sunny state of California earlier this year.

He had the idea to explore the occupants of the digital world as early as 1999 when he met with some of them to talk about an animation project.

Silicon Valley stars (from left) Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr, Thomas Middleditch, Zach Woods and T.J. Miller.

Silicon Valley stars (from left) Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr, Thomas Middleditch, Zach Woods and T.J. Miller.

Seated in a big meeting room at the HBO office in Santa Monica, which makes his already soft-spoken voice inaudible, Judge said: "It occurred to me that a lot of people like Paul Allen and Bill Gates, if they were born 200 years ago, they probably would have not been the richest people in the world. They would probably be navigational engineers or something.

"I knew so many of these programmers, having done it myself, seeing these types of personalities who in school were not the alpha males, and now they are the richest people in the world, but, who are still socially awkward. It's such a good area for comedy. So I have been wanting to do that for awhile."

Silicon Valley focuses on a group of computer programmers – played by Thomas Middleditch, Josh Brener, Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani – who found a start-up company called Pied Piper. They live in a house owned by a dotcom millionaire, Erlich (TJ Miller), for free, as long as he gets 10% stake in their projects.

In today's Internet world, when you design the right programme or app, your earnings can shoot up to billions within weeks – Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Biz Stone (Twitter) can attest to this fact.

In the pilot episode, we see that one of the guys has written a compression programme which is able to deliver massive amounts of information without quality loss. Suddenly every big company wants a piece of his subroutine. What will these socially awkward nerds do? The first season answers that exact question.

To make sure that the series holds up to scrutiny, Judge and his team did a lot research and even got a tech consultant for the show. "We met with Stanford graduates who are experts on compression. I wanted to get this right because it just feels better writing if you are on solid footing. Either it has happened or it could happen, they're based on real things. Everything on the background is accurate. We worked hard to make it accurate."

While doing the research too, Alec Berg – who is also the executive producer, director and writer for the series, discovered something interesting.

Berg explained: "I think, when you're doing something like this, the craziest stuff that you can think of is not half as crazy as the real stuff you're finding, just in terms of the absurdities and the eccentricities."

The satirical series is fast paced as it only has eight episodes for its first season. Judge was able to write the first season's story arc in completion before shooting started.

"It's kind of like writing one big movie, in a way. What was really great was we could plant something in one episode and have a payoff in another. It seems like this is the way TV is going, with fewer episodes.

If Beavis And Butt-head had just been 13 episodes a year, quality could've been (chuckles) ... the third of the series is really good, the rest of it is (shrugs). So it's nice to keep a low episode count. It's a luxury. But will he ever go back to these two teenagers who sit and watch TV all day sometime in the future.

"We did new episodes and it fared well. But I guess, MTV's demographics is like 12-year-old girls. It got good ratings ... but I'm kind of trying to sell it to another network, and I haven't.

"I'm just happy doing this one right now," he said only to continue with a smile, "But I love doing (Beavis And Butt-head), if it came around again, I would."

>> Silicon Valley premieres April 13 at 10pm on HBO Signature HD (Astro Ch 437).


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