Roz Pho and Carla Dunareanu Talk About HBO Asia’s Sent
Roz Pho and Carla Dunareanu, the bubbly stars of HBO Asia’s first local comedy Sent, tell us what it’s really like working on local productions and why “competition is good”.
Roz and Carla are not really the kind of women you’d expect to be cast in “sensible” roles. At least not after they breeze into our shoot, talking up a storm and giving the camera a tonne of energy.
But on Sent, the first HBO Asia series entirely shot here, they respectively play a timid journalist and a sensible wife – quite a contrast to their actual personalities. So what was it like working on this HBO project?
How did you both get involved with Sent?
Roz Pho (RP): I saw a casting call for it, and because I know the casting director, I asked about it, and she said no. She said it was because they were told to try and not audition people from Tanglin. So then I was, like, “Please, please, please, just tell me what you need and I’ll come in and show you something different.” Finally, she said OK. So I kind of begged my way into the audition.
Carla Dunareanu (CD): I had a call from Alaric [Tay, the director of Sent], and I just freaked out. I was like, “OMG, I’ve seen a lot of his work. I’m a big, big fan.” So I went in the next day, and read for the audition.
Was it very different working with HBO compared to other local production studios?
CD: Oh, absolutely. Whether they were buying food for everyone or people from the art department – everyone just had so much pride in their work, which is something that I think is lacking in local productions, where people feel their job isn’t as important as someone else’s. So they either slack or…
RP: ...Or they think the audience won’t notice the difference. Everybody was really into their jobs on set. Do you remember the guy who handled all the props? He would be wiping all the fingerprints off the paintings and we’d be, like, “You can’t see it, it’s in the background.” And he’s like [makes squeaking cleaning sound] until the director was, like, “Get out!”
Could Sent take local productions in a new direction?
CD: I think it’s healthy competition. When people see what can be achieved with the resources we have here, it’ll inspire others to do something of a similar standard or better.
Was there anything you felt you learned from this production?
RP: I think the one thing that’s lacking in a lot of local productions is adequate time for rehearsals, and I think this helped us a lot. Also, the chance to get things perfect. I was working on a production recently where the producer was, like, “We’re over-running, that’s good enough.” I wanted to do another take, but he was, like, “No, moving on.” The director and I were really mad because we felt we were sacrificing quality. For Sent, if it wasn’t funny, Alaric would be, like, “Let’s go over it.” I can’t remember what scene it was, but there was one where we got the writer to come in and we worked on that one short scene for like two to three hours just to get it right.
The humour in the whole show seems really relatable. I’m sure we’ve all felt like sending an e-mail we shouldn’t.
RP: Yeah. But for my character, Charlie, Alaric wanted a more subdued, natural tone. I found that quite hard to do because everyone’s energy is [raises arm] up there, while I’m just whispering. So I would be, like, “Alaric, are you sure?” And he would be, like, “Yes, just pull back, pull back.”
CD: It’s hard because you want to join in the fun with everyone!
So can we expect a second season?
RP: It was definitely shot in a way that would make it possible. It was a lot of fun, so I hope it happens.
CD: If the first season does well and it gets a very good following, I don’t see why they wouldn’t do a second season.
It does seem very relatable.
CD: Yeah. There aren’t a lot of shows like that now. RP: And I like how everyone has their own story. So you have the main guy, Jay Bunani, who’s trying to redo his life, and [Carla] has her family scenes, and I have mine with Nikki [Charlie’s boss]. It’s great – everybody has something happening.