Actor and devoted parent Hisyam Hamid opens up on his 10-year journey in Malaysia and shares about his New Year’s resolutions and outlook for 2023.
There are many reasons to believe that it was written in the stars for fireman-turned-actor Hisyam Hamid to be a modern-day hero from the day he joined the fire brigade after high school. Apart from risking his own life for the safety of others in harrowing, real-life situations, Hisyam has also spent the past 10 years of his acting career in Malaysia playing a fireman as well as a romantic hero in various productions.
On top of that, despite the long distance between him and his family in Singapore – the longest time apart being over a year throughout the pandemic – the devoted father of two has been constantly doing his best to provide for them and checking in on their well-being and growth.
In the wake of the New Year, Hisyam looks back on his decade-long journey from zero to hero, and speaks exclusively to Augustman Malaysia about his plans going forward and desire for change, self-care and new opportunities.
They say behind every scar is an untold story. We couldn’t help but notice the deep scar on your hand. Please tell us the story behind it.
(Laughs) I have scars all over my body, my face, my neck. What I can say is that I was a very naughty person when I was younger. I got involved in a lot of things (laughs). This one was caused by a cigarette burn from an argument. Others were from motorbike accidents, punching something, etc.
Those were the days (laughs). It’s a reflection of who I was when I was much younger. I was kind of short-tempered back then, easily triggered by little things. It’s not something that I’m proud of and share with others, but it kind of played a crucial role in shaping me into who I am today. As a kid, I grew up in a broken family. Life was pretty hard back then, but it also toughened me up and gave me the strength to face the challenges in life today. When I decided to be in Malaysia, the initial years were really tough, but thanks to the experience, I felt that whatever came my way, I was able to handle it.
What was it like to be a fireman and what do you remember most about it?
Being a fireman might seem like a horrific thing to do for most people, but for us, seeing dead bodies, people committing suicide, decomposing bodies, etc, is somewhat a norm. I often did a lot of self-reflection after attending to a case.
I remember very vividly one of my last incidents before I came to Malaysia – coincidentally, it was my last day of work when I was called to attend to a road accident that happened at around three in the morning. A luxury vehicle had crashed into a pillar and the car caught fire. En route to the location, we could hear people screaming, “Someone’s in the car!” The car was already ablaze. We knew at that point he wouldn’t make it. By the time we put out the fire and took him out, he was already fatally burnt and would eventually lose his life.
In what way did that incident change your perspective on life?
When I got back to the station, sitting alone in the locker room, I was thinking to myself – life is so short; you may have accomplished a lot in life, but all that can be taken away from you in an instance. It’s really important that you not only appreciate the things and people around you, but you love and take good care of your own self, too. I think that’s something I really need to work on. I always feel that it’s important to put others before me.
How have recent challenges changed your mindset and defined your New Year’s resolutions?
Being a parent, I tend to have this mindset that I don’t live for myself anymore and whatever I do is for my children, but recent events, especially the pandemic and the many challenges that came with it, have made me realised that it’s about time I start thinking about myself and spending some time focusing on my own needs and wants. I’ve even attended counselling sessions.
I’m in Malaysia on my own most of the time. In a situation like this, sometimes you get a lot of clouds in your head, so you just need someone neutral to talk to. I spent a lot of time in counselling this year, because I needed to get my head and conscience right. In fact, the counsellor advised that you should have a lot of “me” time. Even though I’m on my own, I’m mostly working.
Could this be the explanation behind your latest Instagram entry (posted on 12 December 2022)?
(Laughs) That was taken somewhere in Ulu Bernam, between the border of Perak and Selangor, a camping site of a friend. I had just completed a really tough project that got dragged on from three to five months. That was when I just wanted to chill and forget about the world and find peace of mind before resuming work. There were waterfalls and rivers; it was really peaceful.
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Please share about the challenges you faced in 2022.
The pandemic took a toll on us, financially and mentally. Initially, I thought 2022 was going to be a reset, but it wasn’t, plus I was away from my family most of the time, which was mentally challenging. I just sent them off, actually; they were in town for about a week, so now I feel alone again. Obviously, my children miss me, too, though they are 13 and 15 years of age now. They are not as expressive as when they were younger, but you can tell that they miss me as much as I miss them.
How have you been coping with being away from your children and wife for long periods of time?
We have a family group chat, and we always check in on each other, sometimes up to three to four times a day. I’ve inculcated in my kids since young that communication is really important and they always need to keep us informed. On top of that, I’ve also ingrained in them that we need to express our love, care and concern to those who are especially dear to us. I was too shy to express my affection towards my dad; I don’t want my kids to do the same to me. I’m just so glad that, despite being teenagers – you know what teenagers are like – they are still open with me. I would like to always be their first point of contact in any matter.
You started your family at a young age, too. Was it challenging and did it interrupt your plans?
I was a late bloomer back then. When I was about to enter the workforce as a fireman, I only had my O-Levels. When I got to know that my wife was pregnant, reality hit me. I realised I needed to do something about my life, so I set the target that by the time my daughter reached five, I should have a degree already. Back then, I would set short and long-term goals, and type and print them out. It sounds nerdy, but that’s me. I like to set targets and cross them out one by one, and carry forward the unmet ones to the next year. By the time my daughter was four, I got my bachelor’s degree in Business Management from RMIT.
My target was to get a degree and become a senior officer, achieve a higher rank, with a better pay, but along the way all that changed. I’ve never in my wildest dreams imagined I would be here as an actor. In Singapore, it’s a big deal to make it in Malaysia. In 2011, after getting my degree, I got a part in a joint collaboration between Malaysia and Singapore, after which I started networking with the producers from Malaysia and waited for another whole year before I finally got a call in 2012, so I jumped on it even though the offer wasn’t much. In fact, it was a total loss, but I just really wanted the experience – I was travelling up and down, taking leave up to three times a week, taking buses, slept in the coach, etc. Then another role came for a show that eventually became a hit on TV3 with about 4.5 million viewers and around 5,000 fans turned up at the meet-and-greet. And then it was like, “Whoa…” (laughs).
I spoke to my superiors and supervisors, but I was really surprised when they urged me to go for it even though, as a civil servant in Singapore, I was earning quite a decent salary, plus I just got promoted at the time and a new house. Things were already going so well for me, but I didn’t want to look back and regret, and decided to go for it. The rest, as they say, was history.
Did you pick up any new skills from recent shows such as Gunting and Star vs. Food?
I attended a two-day workshop, cutting real people’s hair, but my wife still doesn’t trust me and has warned me not to touch my son’s hair (laughs). Speaking of haircut, I recently got to adopt a very different look for an upcoming film.
Oh, please tell us more about this role?
I recently played an antagonist in a film, finally. I had a completely different, dishevelled look, with all my facial hair. I even asked the producers and director if I could smoke just to make the character look extra bad, and they said I could do whatever I wanted.
It’s something really refreshing for me as an actor. I hope it will be a hit when the film comes out next year. It’s called La Luna. I love playing a bad guy. You can actually explore a wider range. Once in a while it’s nice to be able to make someone hate you (laughs). As an actor, you want to take on new and challenging roles, so I think this one is really something that no one has seen me in before. I was blessed that the director allowed me to be free and go all out with the character.
Please share more about La Luna.
La Luna is actually the name of a lingerie shop, slated to open in a conservative kampung populated by a religious community. It created a lot of hoo-haa, but, at the same time, a lot of positive changes. I play the bad guy who’s opposed to the opening of the shop, and an oppressive husband. I was really brutal and there were a lot of emotions involved.
How do you think your acting skills have grown over the years?
In my first project, after seeing how receptive people were to my work and the different aspects that they appreciated, I realised that there’s more to acting than meets the eye and started paying more attention to detail. Since then, acting has transformed into a form of craft for me, and it’s not just about what I do with it, but about collaboration with the crew – everyone’s contribution is crucial to making the end-product perfect.
What’s your definition of a hero?
I try my best to be a hero to my children, be it at work or in my personal life, in the way I conduct myself and the decisions I make. It’s about setting an example for my children. I always believe in leading by example. When I have to stay up late and do some administrative work for my other side businesses, I’ll do it in front of them and let them see it. I want to show them that no matter how busy you are, for as long as you set your priorities right, you’ll get things done. I want to be the best dad for them; even if I can’t be there for them in person, I’ll find ways to get things sorted for them.
Besides self-care, what are your other New Year’s resolutions?
Dedicate more time to my children – I managed to spend two days with them in Singapore recently and in that short period of time we had so much fun; it was priceless. Take on new challenges – things that I’ve not done before. I’m in the midst of planning something to do with building and construction. We’ve completed the proposals and done the necessary pitching. If that goes through, I can shift a gear down from acting and try my hand at something new in 2023.
Photography by Xerxes Lee / Awesome Image Studio Assisted by Din Words by KC Yap Art Direction by Joyce Lim Make-up by Joey Yap Hair by Toms Tee / Wenawave Salon