When Benjamin Tan was on the set of The Heartland Hero (邻里帮) one day, he overheard a passer-by exclaim to his friend: “He’s that gong kia (dumb kid in Hokkien) from the 7:30pm.”

The actor was amused by the remark. He’s also heartened that his portrayal of the dim-witted Jeremy in the long-running TV series has left a mark. Many aunties and primary school children who follow the drama have shared that they like his “cute” character.  

Benjamin Tan Heartland Hero
Benjamin Tan plays Jeremy, a dim-witted character in The Heartland Hero. Photo Credit: Mediacorp

At a recently-held mid-season virtual press conference, Benjamin Tan said he was excited when given a chance to act as Jeremy, a mentally-challenged and gullible man who’s raised by a single mother.

Heartland Hero
The Heartland Hero is a 130-episode Channel 8 drama. It tells the story of two ex-convicts who open a neighbourhood shop to sell second-hand goods. Benjamin Tan’s character, Jeremy, works in the shop. Photo Credit: Mediacorp

In preparation for his role, he watched many shows with similarly “dense” characters, although he said he tried not to copy other actors’ delivery directly.

“Reading through the script [and] understanding what the character went through in his life [also helped] a lot in my preparation,” Benjamin Tan said. 

To him, the main challenge was finding the delicate balance between his and his producer’s interpretations of how Jeremy should be like.  

“For example, I am not supposed to be too dim-witted for my role, [but] at the same time, not too bright when it comes to complicated situations or thought processes,” he said.

Benjamin Tan Tricked In Heartland Hero
Jeremy got tricked by his colleagues to pay for an expensive lunch. Photo Credit: Mediacorp

On the whole, Benjamin Tan feels that he’s done well in pulling off the emotional scenes in the drama. 

“That felt like a personal breakthrough because I’ve always felt that I’m lacking in ways to deliver emotional scenes,” he said.

Heartland Hero Male Cast
Da Da Ge (played by Elvin Ng) and Da Ge (played by James Seah) own the second-hand shop where Jeremy works at. They supervise Jeremy and take care of him in a brotherly way. Photo Credit: Benjamin Tan

Benjamin Tan made his acting debut in 2018. He scored a nomination for the Best Newcomer Award at Star Awards 2021 for his portrayal of a polytechnic student in My Guardian Angels 单翼天使 (2020)

In July last year, his mother fell into a coma and has been on life support. When asked about his mother’s condition, he said she’s still “in the same state”, adding that he’s grateful for everyone’s concerns. 

The Heartland Hero 邻里帮 is airing on Channel 8 at 7:30pm on weekdays. You can also watch it on demand on MeWatch

Proofread by Ruth Loo Hui En