Principles of Azrel Ismail - Special Edition
jom, Bacakan artikel bonus tentang interview dengan Azrel Ismail pada akhir artikel ini!
“Principles are ways of dealing with reality to get what you want out of life”- Ray Dalio
That is just one of the many inspirational and motivating quotes from the author of the book ‘Principles’, Ray Dalio, who is one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs, shares the unconventional principles that has helped him create unique results in life and business of which any person or organization can adopt to better achieve their goals. Globally known successful people like Bill Gates, Mike Bloomberg, Mark Cuban and Tony Robbins has also read and believe the book has changed their way of life. How does one live without principles in life? Lost. Maybe difficult. But that’s not the case with local actor and model, Azrel Ismail who understands and knows the importance of living by them.
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“If anyone asks me to choose between working smart or working hard, I would choose working hard. Because everyone is capable of working hard but different people have different ways of working smart.” Azrel bin Ismail or famously known as Azrel Ismail is a soon-to-be 35 year old Capricorn who hails from the town of Taiping, Perak. His bearded and tanned good looks has stolen many hearts, but the start of it all wasn’t so glamorous.
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“Before I became a full-time actor, I was working in the hotel business for 8 years. I studied hotel management and tourism previously in Taylor’s and I have only been in the entertainment industry for 4 years.”
So how does one who have previously worked in hotels, catering to A-listers, wind up to become one of Malaysia’s hottest actors? For Azrel, he actually first started off as a model.
“I started off as one of the contestants for MASKULIN magazine’s Pencarian Lelaki Maskulin around 2008 but sadly only made it to Top 10. After that I went into modelling and commercial talent which is where the acting offers start coming in.”
I can’t help but asked if acting was something he always wanted to do as someone coming from a completely different background would have interest in the field.
“To be honest I never wanted to be an actor. I’ve always thought that I would be better in modelling. But then 4 years ago I received a really good offer from this production house as a leading role and it was the start of it all. It was a 3-month project, 26 episodes and it was shot in Uzbekistan. I had to shoot there for a month and it was paying me more than what I’ve been earning at hotels so I decided to resign.”
What a risk. After nearly 10 years of securing a job in hotel management to suddenly dropping everything to pursue a career in acting? It was a big leap of faith, especially in the Malaysian industry where acting jobs don’t come easily for those over 30.
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“At the time I did think to myself ‘what if I don’t receive any offers once this project is done?’ ‘What am I going to do?’ I was feeling scared. Reason because in the acting business, your career relies on your popularity of which I was worried I wouldn’t get.” He added, “So I thought if I don’t get any offers after the project ends I would just go back to working at hotels. I was definitely afraid. Because I had commitments of my own that I have to settle every month. And true enough - I had no acting offers for more than a month.” Success comes from taking risky steps and getting out of your comfort zone, which was exactly what Azrel did. The ‘try and error’ phase could mean the beginning or death of one’s career. The industry is already saturated with new faces so why was there a need for more, and furthermore, an older generation? He needed to stand out. “Not long after that I stumbled upon producer, Sheila Rusly, who then offered me a role in a drama for Media Prima - and I had no experience in acting.”
He continued, “So when I did the 26 episodes, which was my first drama, people said that my acting was ‘kayu’! (A Malay word for wood, which in acting means stiff). Everyone was condemning me and I felt very under pressured. Only after that, I slowly started learning from my co actors and actresses on how to act better.”He then stopped me before I continued with my next question by dropping the secret to become a good actor, “There is actually a formula that you can apply if you want to be a really good actor.” This definitely got me curious. Intrigued even. A secret a formula that could actually deliver quality-filled actors and actresses in Malaysia?
“There’s two steps in the formula that you have to follow. Firstly when you receive a role, you have to fully understand what the story is all about. For example if the story has 30 episodes then read all 30 episodes.” He added, “The second step is to do your own homework or paperwork. Break down each scenes, wardrobe, plot and through this you can build up your character well.”
Point taken, I thought. What an interesting formula one can adopt when pursuing a career in acting. In order to be good at something, you must put in the work and practice. Nothing comes in easy and it shows in Azrel’s journey in the past 4 years. Aside from television dramas, Azrel have also ventured in the movie scene with his latest film ‘Pulang’ that features a star-studded cast like Remy Ishak, Puteri Aishah, Erwin Dawson and many others.
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The movie is adapted from a real-life event that happened 60 years ago during the time of war and fight for independence. It tells the story about a man, Othman, who left his wife and son to sail around the world in search for a better future for his family. A tear jerker that has had everyone believe in romantic Malay movies again. The movie is now available on Netflix for those who missed out at the cinemas. Although already good looking, Azrel Ismail’s bearded facial features and sand-tan skin reminded me of an actor who similarly looks like him. “I was playing as Remy Ishak’s son in Pulang and yes, many have said that we look like and that playing his son was more than perfect for the role.” Yes, he was Remy Ishak’s look-alike!
With many newcomers flooding the entertainment industry, what makes him so different than the rest? You need to stand out in order to be seen by the many producers, directors and fans whom, can be safely said, has seen it all. “What differentiates me from the rest is that I don’t have anyone to help promote or market me. Other celebrities have managers to help them get to where they need to be, but not me - I do everything on my own.”4 years of being in the industry, this 34-year old actor to this date does not have a manager to help manage his career. A lone ranger trying to make a name for himself, by himself. “I have always liked to do things on my own. Any sponsorship and PR, I would do it by myself as it’s always been since my days in hotels.” He then explained how he arranges and coordinate his busy schedule.
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“When it comes to photoshoot, filming and etc I would lock the dates in my calendar or log book as I call it and have them set. But to be frank, I sort of already have it all in my head. I try my best to remember my appointments so that I’ll know where to go and what to do.”
Coming back to the topic of principles, he then shared his first: that is to know your worth and be selective on the jobs you take.
“During my first year in acting, I would just take in whatever projects there was but now I am more selective of them. I would first look into the story, the role I’m playing, and I would try my best to not act in the same storyline. I want to play roles that would challenge myself.”
He added, “Even for Instagram reviews, I have turned down many who wants me to try out or promote their food and brands. They want me to post them on my feed but I try to avoid much of it because I want to remain my exclusivity. I would only post reviews and campaigns that I believe are good and widely well-known. If a local product wants me to promote them or be the face of their product, they would have to pay a certain amount that I feel would be worth.”
In Malaysia, it is more often than not to find local celebrities and influencers posting their reviews on a local-made detox juice, desserts, even gold accessories for their followers to buy.
These reviews would cost within few hundreds or thousands for each post, depending on their number of followers but Azrel does not want to be a part of it. “I don’t want my face to be plastered everywhere in tv commercials and billboards. I am very selective with the brands I want to work with especially in endorsements.”He continued, “For example if a local brand is willing to pay RM100k, which is the amount I’m asking for to endorse in the brand, then yes I would do it.”
Anyone can act. With the right practice and guidance one could pick up different characteristics for different roles. It’s one thing to be famous and recognized among fans, but it’s another to stay relevant in the industry. “One of the challenges of being an actor in Malaysia are the tv stations that keep hiring or taking in the same actors or actresses.”
He added, “For example, there is a high viewership slot on the channel whom many actors and actresses want to be a part of but can’t because the station hired or put in the same face that has already acted in the slot before, just a different role - so it’s not fair to the newcomers who are actually good in acting.”
I can’t help but agree. The ‘hottest’ slot on local channels are between 6pm to 10pm which is usually the time when everyone is back from work and would most likely be at home. The high viewership of the tv dramas showing during these times created a perception that any actors or actresses acting in those slots would most likely be paid the highest and be recognized the most. An opportunity not everyone can have. “I still feel like the Malaysian industry goes for looks instead of talent. You could be the worst actor out there and be stiffer than a wood but if you have the look, they will still hire you - and that sucks.” Another principle in life that Azrel applies in life is to start your day early, really.early.
“I go to bed at 11pm, max. This is just discipline. Back when I was working in hotels they taught us discipline and how to act accordingly. I was working in a hotel in KL but I live in Damansara so I have to beat the traffic. I start at 9am but I would reach work at 7am - I leave right after Subuh (the Islamic prayer time at dawn before the sun rise).”He continues,”I leave at 6am and practice sleeping early and I’m also a morning person.”
Believe it or not, waking up early and being a morning person requires utmost discipline and consistency. Hence why it is a principle. Starting your day early means getting enough rest through the night, getting things done faster and having the whole day to plan your errands which is something we all can look up to.
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“The last principle that I apply in my life to add on to the list would be to try new experiences as many as you can especially playing different roles. Try out new characters that will challenge your capabilities as an actor and it will open yourself to many doors.” True enough, Azrel has played various roles like the lover, wife stealer, gold digger and even a beggar. In order to survive in the acting business, one should step out of their comfort zone and not only stick to the same signature role they play in every drama and film. And what’s better than love? Maybe money. But the actor’s love life has been the talk of the town lately especially after a major breakup. “For 4 years of being in the industry, there has been about 4 to 5 times where my co actor has fallen in love with me. They would be acting as the heroin alongside me and they would admit to have feelings for me off set, true story.” Now that’s something worth gossiping about.
Fans are suckers for scandalous off screen romances hence acting as lovers on screen excites them or in other words, higher ratings. But ladies if you’re looking for someone romantic, Azrel is not your guy. “I’m not a romantic person, I want someone independent.”
He added, ”I am looking for someone preferable not in the industry. I would want to date a non-actress. I’m quite particular or in other words, fussy, when it comes to choosing a partner. I need someone who’s really understanding of my schedule and career.” Everyone has different criterias when it comes to finding ‘the one’ and Azrel is set to be with an independent who understands the life of an actor. So ladies, that was an exclusive scoop on his love life as he’s aiming to settle down by this year or the next. Principles make up who we are as individuals. What we believe in and why we do them is what differentiates us from the rest. Azrel has shared his principles, what are yours?