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SINGAPORE — Crime drama Code Of Law has returned for a fifth season, teasingly titled Code Of Law: Final to tease audiences into finding out what the "Final" really means – is it the last season of one of the best shows made in Singapore? The series is part of a larger television universe, which began with The Pupil, and also spun off into the Forensik and Derek series. Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore caught up with both sides of the law in an interview with Desmond Tan (who plays serial killer Derek) and Fauzie Laily (who plays police inspector Razali) to find out their thoughts on this season. (Some spoilers for earlier seasons as well as the current season of Code Of Law follow.)
What can we expect to see for Razali (Fauzie Laily's character) this season?
Fauzie: Razali behaves more like Inspector Han in Season 5. (Inspector Han, played by Sunny Pang, was Razali's partner and senior in the first four seasons, although he did not return this season). At the end of Season 4, Razali and Han had a big fight, but somehow without realising it, Razali's character had evolved into a bit like Inspector Han himself. Like it or not, there were some good traits Razali was emulating from Inspector Han. So that's what I was trying to portray this season.
Does Razali miss his former partner, Inspector Han?
Fauzie: Razali the character, or Fauzie the character? (laughs) For Razali, something happens at the end of Season 5... so Inspector Han's character keeps coming up, and that becomes a storyline of its own. His character will be... there and about. There have been mentions of him already in the earlier episodes. But Razali doesn't realise that he still cares for Inspector Han. As for me, of course I do miss working with Sunny, because we've been there since day one, he's been like a brother to me, I've learnt a lot from him and he's a fantastic actor. The chemistry we've had, it's very difficult to replicate.
What can we expect to see for Derek (Desmond Tan's character) this season?
Desmond: So Derek was introduced in Code Of Law Season 4, then in the Derek series we learnt more about his first love and how it caused him to do all this unacceptable nonsense, as well as his relationship with his psychologist and how he manipulated her. What is interesting this time around is that he has escaped from prison, but he's injured and in the care of someone else. Eventually, he gets a taste of his own medicine, being tortured (Derek's modus operandi in his debut was to kidnap, torture, and murder his victims).
Does Derek miss lawyer Stephanie Szeto (played by Oon Shu An), whom he seemed to have a connection with (and manipulated) in Season 4?
Desmond: I think that was answered in the Derek series. I had a great time working with Shu An in Season 4, but then she wasn't so active in the later seasons. So anyway, Derek actually liked Stephanie because of the name — Steph is the name of his first love, the one who actually led him down the road into killing and was his first kill.
Who would win in a straight-up fist fight between Derek and Razali?
Desmond: I think Razali would win. He's an officer of the law, he's trained in combat. But Derek isn't trained in any form of martial arts. His strength is to manipulate people's minds, rather than using force. So I think Razali would win, because I trust the Singapore Police Force.
Fauzie: I think there's no clear answer to that. Razali as a character, he's trained and all that, but the unpredictability of Derek's character is his strength. You don't know what Derek's going to do next, that's always the case with Derek. So no matter how much training you go through, it's not always the same when the actual fight happens. It's just like playing football — you train train train, but you don't know what will happen in the actual game. So it's the same thing with Derek, you can prepare as much as possible, but suddenly he become xiao xiao (crazy) then you don't know what to do already.
What were some of the challenges of shooting this season?
Desmond: The shoot for Derek S2 and Code of Law S5 was quite a challenge for me, because prior to that, I was working in Taiwan for four months. The initial plan was that I would land in Singapore and then go straight to set from the airport. But eventually we made some changes, so I went on set the following day after settling down in Singapore for one day. The transition time was intense, because I was in Taiwan; then when I came back to Singapore I had to switch from a good person to a villain, from a Mandarin-speaking role to English. It's like opposite sides of the spectrum.
Also, about 80% to 90% of my scenes were filmed after 7pm. So my working hours were flipped— I work from 7pm to about 6-7am, and then I'll have breakfast, then I'll go home and sleep till the afternoon. So that was quite a challenge for me, because physically it wasn't favourable. Because your body clock is kind of flipped. And even Fauzie, when he worked with me for some of the scenes, we were filming in the wee hours, 3-4am. So trying to keep awake and being sharp, that was a challenge for me.
Fauzie: It's been a crazy ride for me, I shot Forensik, Code Of Law Season 5, and Derek Season 2, all within six months. Half of 2019 was spent on that. So it was taxing, I won't lie. And sometimes we shoot out of order, like I'll be shooting for Forensik on one day and then Derek the next, so I'll have to properly understand the context of the scenes, what has happened, and how I'm supposed to react. As we were shooting it, scripts were being given to us, so we didn't have that much time to prepare or plan stuff. So I'm lucky that I'm already familiar with Razali's character, so it's easy for me to incorporate it into whatever last minute things we're supposed to do.
Are there any aspects of your characters that you identify with?
Desmond: I think the killing part – no! (laughs) It's quite hard, because Derek's entire world is warped. The only thing I can identify with is the drive for our passion. For Derek the drive is to kill, but for me it's the performance bit, I'm driven whenever I go on set.
Fauzie: If you watch Forensik, we finally get to see another side of Razali, the personal side of him. The shows haven't shown who Razali is outside of work. But in Forensik, you can see this playful side to Razali, which he only shares with people he trusts. So you can see that tinge of playfulness in his dialogue with Audrey Soh (played by Sharon Ismail). So anyone who has worked with me on set will know that it's very difficult to find me serious. I like to joke a lot.
Desmond: I have witnessed that!
Fauzie: So you can be immersed in your character, but it's important that throughout the day, when you're not on take, that you keep up a good mood. I believe in that, that's why I tend to joke around a lot, because I think it helps everyone's work.
What did you do to prepare for your roles this season?
Fauzie: Because I take on the role of an Inspector in Season 5, there must be a growth in Razali. So that's why I told myself, I must look better, I must sound better, I must be better. There must be an improvement from previous seasons. So I went for fitness training. Not because I wanted to take off my clothes or anything, but I wanted to feel better. So when you feel better, you can translate that into your acting.
Desmond: And it shows, when I watch Seasons 4 and 5, the maturity really shows.
Fauzie: Actually when we went for wardrobe fitting, script reading and stuff, the producers were asking me: "Do you want to take off your shirt for this season?" Then I said "No la! I go to the gym, but that doesn't mean I want to take it off." I'm not that confident, I'm not Desmond Tan yet. (laughs) I also have to give props to Desmond, because it takes a lot of commitment and discipline. Derek's character had to take off his top. He had to look really good, and it's not easy to look that good. I know now because I've started working out and it's... bro, it's not easy! The amount of dedication, when he takes off his top — "bro, how do you stay consistent?" So for Desmond to really tahan (in terms of diet), he did it for four months in Taiwan and then when we were shooting in Singapore, and I really respect that.
Desmond: The choice of food is very limited. The exercising part is not the hardest, but the tough part is dieting. So when you're on set, seeing people eating good nasi lemak and enjoying real food, and then you'll be munching on yong tau foo, vegetables and high protein stuff. And then Singapore is a food heaven too, so that was the toughest part when you have to watch your diet.
In addition, the acting approach I took for this season was quite different. In Code Of Law S4, I was doing more method acting, Fauzie would know, I hardly spoke when I was filming during that period. So I stayed away from everyone at that time. I did research on the psychology of serial killers and such. But for this season, I just had to immerse myself in the character, the effort to get into character was less, it's like a good friend, you know how he's going to react. So I enjoyed this production period more than the previous one. So my preparation was to understand the change in dynamics. Using the cat-and-mouse analogy, it was to see Derek go from being the cat, to being the mouse,
What interesting comments have you gotten from fans after playing Derek?
Derek: I did get quite strange comments and direct messages in the beginning, like "Will you kill me?" or "If I were to die, I want to die in Derek's hands", corny stuff like that. So initially when I first saw these comments I took it as a joke, as people being cheeky, so usually I'll just reply "haha" and move on. But when I thought about it later, I got really worried, as I wasn't sure if they were joking or not. I mean it's a compliment for me as an actor, but when I thought deeper I was worried about people thinking that killing is okay. So when I look back, I really hope that these were just jokes.
What interesting comments have you gotten from fans after playing Razali?
Fauzie: When I go out, makciks will call me "Inspector Razali, Inspector Razali!" I don't know why because I don't see it in myself, but they say I look the part of a policeman. So there was one incident when we were shooting in Season 2, and I was with Sunny taking the lift along with a resident in that block to get to the location. So we were just playing, me and Sunny. Sunny said "Sergeant, have you inspected the victim?" Then I said "Yes sir, yes sir." Then you could see the resident moving a bit further away from us. That meant we really looked and sounded the part of police officers.
Code Of Law: Final airs on Channel 5 every Monday at 9.30pm. It is also available on meWATCH.
Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter who writes for “Crimewatch”, as well as popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Code of Law”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.
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