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From YouTube Star to Leading Man in HBO’s Upcoming Comedy ‘Sent’!

By Flora  /  08 Sep 2017 (Friday)

Photo Courtesy 
of: HBO Asia

Haresh Tilani created his YouTube channel ‘Ministry of Funny’ in 2014, producing short video clips to his over 110,000 subscribers. 4 years later, he is the producer and the lead actor of HBO’s upcoming comedy series ‘SeNT’. 

Set in Singapore, SeNT is the first HBO Asia Original production that has been filmed entirely on location.

Directed by another funnyman, Alaric Tay, the eight-episode half-hour series also stars Alan Wong, Carla Dunareanu, Rosalind Pho and Adrian Pang. ‘Sent’ tells a story about the life of an unremarkable and meek office worker, Jay (Tilani) whose life is turned upside down after his draft emails to anyone who aggravates him get accidentally sent. 

“In Youtube, it’s mainly about 3-4 minutes, so there is only so much you can explore in a character. Whereas in this series, it is (rolled out) in episodes so there's much more to explore and even go darker as well,” shared Tilani at the Singapore press conference on 24th August. “It’s very nice to tell a more detailed story than to just rush it in 3 or 4 minutes.”

Photo Courtesy of: HBO Asia

When asked if he was pressured to be the leading actor of the international TV series, Tilani shared that he only felt it during his first table read with all the ensemble. 

“Ya, there was some kind of pressure for me. It dawned on me during a table read that “Oh Crap!” And someone mentioned that I am the lead and I have to do it well,” he recalled. He added: “But at the same time, it was a challenge that I’m really looking forward to because going from YouTube to HBO, and it’s not just normal TV, it’s regional!”

Tay praised Tilani at the press conference that the young actor ‘embodied the tone that we wanted to do’. “He could pull off a very naturalistic performance!”

Tay may be known to many as a comedy actor, having parodied many different characters in the hit spoof TV series ‘The Noose’. But Tay is far from nasal-sounding newscaster Andre Chichak, or the taxi driver interviewee Nicholas Le Fong. In person, Tay is more laid-back and serious, who shared that his direction in the series is more of a naturalistic comedy than a parody-like or a slapstick humour genre.

“It will not be falling on a banana peel kind (of comedy), that’s not what you’re after. So it’s more of naturalistic comedy. And I think that’s a little bit more in line with my personality.” 

Photo Courtesy of: HBO Asia

During our interview with the cast, many of them adored Tay’s directing technique, something he credits his experience as an actor that helped him. 

“Say, for example, being an actor, I understand blocking and what I would like to hear from a director. Usually, I will appreciate if the director was not specific as to what he wants me to do, but he will give me emotions or put me in the situation and tell me where to go on or the next thing I have to do… he gives me an objective and I navigate my way there. Usually, that’s more productive. So I try to do it with the actors and I hope I’ve done it a decent job.”

When asked if he preferred being on camera or off camera, Tay shared that he sees both as challenging as fun. “I don’t prefer one in particular. I think they are both complementary to each other. Being an actor helps me to be a better director and being a director helps me to be a better actor… I don’t like one more than the other.”

In theme with the series, HBO Asia has also developed a microsite (http://hboasia.com/sent/), where viewers can use the 'Inappropriate Email Generator' to craft appropriately inappropriate angry, lustful or jealous emails directed at bosses, colleagues or in-laws with different levels of intensities. Viewers can also be in control of their destinies and stand a chance to win one of three Playstation 4 Pros by submitting their most embarrassing story through the microsite – contest ends on 8 September 2017 and winners will be announced by 29 September 2017, on HBO Asia’s Facebook page.

SeNT premieres on HBO (StarHub TV Ch 601) on Sunday, 17 September with two back-to-back episodes from 9pm
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