His roles as a man in uniform in television dramas have captivated audiences for over a decade. But his most recent starring role, as correctional officer, Aiman, in Boo Junfeng’s movie The Apprentice, has elevated his career to new heights, what with the movie showing at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. The 36-year-old father of two has since returned to the stage, where it all began, as the lead in Prism, where he plays a cold-hearted housing official laden with the emotional task of evicting thousands from their homes and in turn, a part of their history, culture and lives.
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How did your acting career begin?
By chance, 16 years ago. I was in school and saw an audition call for a Malay play, and even though I had no formal training, something in me was yearning to just try it out. That set me on an inspired path for a career in theatre, before expanding into television soon after. I’ve been very fortunate.
You won Juara, a talent competition hosted by Mediacorp’s Suria in 2002. What do you consider your breakout role since?
I’ve played a number of truly diverse characters, but it was my role as Johan in Malaysian drama, Ramadan Jangan Pergi in 2014 that has made me who I am today. Having to engage and impress a brand new audience — which was much, much bigger than I was used to — pushed my limits as an actor, and gave me the opportunity to work and learn alongside established actors and producers from across the Causeway.
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What’s been the defining moment of your career so far?
Without a doubt, playing Aiman in The Apprentice — not only is it my first film, I got to play the lead, it premiered at Cannes, and got me a nomination for Best Newcomer at the Asian Film Awards. The first time I saw the movie, I cried. It was surreal and incredibly humbling, and the eight-minute standing ovation was one of the most moving experiences of my life.
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By Gerald Tan and Dana Koh
Photography by Gan
Styled by Windy Aulia
Hair and Makeup: Grego, Manisa Tan/PaletteInc, Red
Styling assistant: Gracia Phang
Fashion intern: Abielle Yeo