Driven by his childhood dream, fuelled by creative passion and blessed with youthful enthusiasm plus a good a sense of humour, entertainment powerhouse Zizan Razak continuously pushes his limits to new heights, both on screen and on the race track.
Since breaking into showbiz as a contestant-turned-runner-up in the reality TV show Raja Lawak Astro (2007), Zizan Razak has effectively established himself as a bona fide star. Over the years, the talented artiste from Dungun, Terengganu, has racked up an impressive portfolio consisting of numerous television gigs and film roles, not to mention a mega fan base, as evidenced by his various Most Popular Artist awards and over 7.9 million strong social media following.
In spite of his success and meteoric rise to fame, the unassumingly down-to-earth Zizan is far from resting on his laurels, but constantly challenging himself with undertakings aimed at stretching his potential to different dimensions. As a matter of fact, the highly spirited star has been pushing his limits both on the creative front as well as athletically.
Though widely acclaimed for his comedic talent and loved for his amicable personality, recent years reveal that the actor, who is first and foremost trained in the fundamentals of theatre, has set into motion a steady expansion of repertoire to include more dramatic, action roles, breaking free from typecasting. Last month alone, in addition to leading the cast of the comedy-action sequel Abang Long Fadil 3 in his iconic role as the film’s eponymous hero to a box-office success of over RM18 million in just 45 days, Zizan was also cast in a more dramatic role as a dedicated policeman in the historic docudrama Juang, inspired by the challenges faced by frontliners in the face of the pandemic. The movie has since been listed in The Malaysia Book of Records for having the biggest cast in a feature film.
On the side, Zizan has also been making strides with his other more physically and mentally demanding passion and childhood dream – motor racing. Over the years, the avid driver has gone from go-karting to training professionally in endurance racing, mostly in between shoots, gradually powering his way to prominence, with his first major win at the 2016 edition of Sepang 1000km Endurance Race. Since noting his potential, Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR) has engaged Zizan to compete in their events.
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To date, the promising racer and driver of the sports-tuned Vios GR-S has emerged twice as champion at TGR, and credited auto racing for helping him develop better endurance, sharper senses, as well as tougher mental strength and focus. In the following exclusive interview with Augustman, donned in the Omega Speedmaster ’57 Co-Axial Master Chronometer and the latest fashion from the Fendi fall/winter 2022 collection, Zizan Razak opens up on his dual-career path.
How did you go from TV and film to motor racing?
When I first became an artiste, I did not give up on my passion for motor racing. Instead, I pursued my childhood dream on the side, starting with go-karting before gradually moving on to track days, to winning my first competition. Once I felt that I had a good grip on kart racing, I proceeded to endurance racing and won second place at my first race in Malacca back in 2016 as well as first place at the Sepang 1000 km Endurance Race in the same year. I carried on racing and was soon approached by Toyota Gazoo Racing. Over the years, I can really feel that my driving skills have grown a lot.
How intense is endurance racing and what important skills and challenges does it entail?
It’s imperative to have both technical skills and mental strength. A whole race could last up to nine hours, each turn about 75 minutes. When racing long distances, going around and around, and continuously making turns can easily cause anxiety, shortness of breath and even depression as you begin to question yourself, “What kind of work is this, going around and around?” So your mind and focus need to be strong, and you need to keep reminding yourself of your passion and intention, and set aside other thoughts.
How does racing/driving complement your career in entertainment and lifestyle?
The race track is where I release my stress. I’m not used to taking leave and haven’t been very good at just relaxing, so racing is what I do for fun when I’m not shooting; it’s my passion outside of work and my outlet for blowing off steam. And when it comes to travelling outstation, I prefer taking leisurely drives to taking flights. I like to make stops along the journey, relax, do some sight-seeing and nosh on some jambu, not to mention soak up some greenery, especially when I need to travel to other states or the countryside for shoots.
“It’s imperative to have both technical skills and mental strength… When racing long distances, going around and around can easily cause anxiety and even depression, so your mind and focus need to be strong, and you need to keep reminding yourself of your passion and intention, and set aside other thoughts.”
– Zizan Razak, on endurance racing.
“When it comes to travelling outstation, I prefer taking leisurely drives to taking flights. I like to make stops along the journey, relax, do some sight-seeing and nosh on some jambu, not to mention soak up some greenery.”
How do you like driving the Toyota Vios GR-S?
It has introduced me to a different style of driving. When you go fast, it’ll go slow, so you need to relax. Prior to this, I had driven various sports cars and supercars, from GT-R to Ferrari, where power typically comes as a standard with the high-performance engine. With the Toyota Vios GR-S, however, I’ve learnt that the trick is to relax and carry the momentum into top speed. You will be faster by a few seconds.
“For me, it’s about the physical relationship between car and driver – how to carry the momentum, bring the weight forward, pacing, braking, cornering and many more. There’s more finesse to driving the Vios GR-S than just cranking up the speed.”
What is the biggest challenge in juggling two careers at the same time?
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to juggling filming and racing is recalibrating my focus when I need to go from one to the other. I would usually take a bit of time to reset my mindset, or else I would feel awkward. I’ve trained my mind to just fully focus on one activity at a time, and then clear that away once finished in order to start afresh for the next task.
Speaking of mental strength, what is your advice in response to the rise in mental health issues among youths?
Just recently, I was asked by a friend if I knew any doctor who could prescribe his son some medication for anxiety. I advised him best not to take it unless necessary so as not to risk being dependent on the medication. Better to just keep it for emergency use only, but best to avoid using it altogether, if possible.
“I have been through anxiety and depression, too, until one day I had the presence of mind to ask myself honestly what I was really worried about, or afraid of, and the exact problem that was causing the anxiety, and then focus on finding a solution to the problem rather than dwelling on the anxiety.”
I sincerely ask all those affected to firstly relax and then search deep for the source of your anxiety, or depression. It could be family or relationship issues, or even self-neglect and personal mistakes that you might have overlooked, such as insufficient sleep, too much video games, overworking, chronic ailment, lack of exercise, or even unhealthy diet. Most importantly, please have enough rest and engage in productive activities.
How do you feel about the success of Juang and playing a part in the film?
I believe that movie will one day serve as a reference work on the Covid-19 pandemic for future generations. Filming was done during MCO. We were met with criticism for not staying home, but what they didn’t realise was that, with this movie, we were in some way hoping to capture these unprecedented times in the form of a docudrama. We were also worried about our health and safety, especially as vaccines had yet to be rolled out at the time of filming. But we pressed on.
“I believe the movie Juang will one day serve as a reference work on the Covid-19 pandemic for future generations… We were also worried about our health and safety, especially as vaccines had yet to be rolled out at the time of filming. But we pressed on.”
You mentioned about progressing into more dramatic roles. Given your iconic background in comedy, what is your strategy to expanding your repertoire and convincing people to take you seriously?
That’s the price that I have to pay. It was my choice to start in comedy so now I must educate filmmakers and the audience that there’s more to me than just comedy. I might need to pick a film where I begin by portraying a lighter side, with a dramatic arc that allows me shift into a more emotional performance in order to ease the audience in and warm them up to the transition. It’s the science of understanding audience psychology.
“It was my choice to start in comedy so now I must educate filmmakers and the audience that there’s more to me than just comedy.”
As a movie buff and an actor, how do you best enjoy a film, or media content?
I’m crazy about high-end sound systems. I’ve spent thousands furnishing my car with state-of-the-art systems. The sound is what provides the visuals with the mood and ambiance and triggers emotion in the audience. On set, I would play a tune or appropriate sound effects in my head as I act for a more immersive performance.
Words by KC YAP; photography by XERXES LEE/AWESOME IMAGE STUDIOS, assisted by DIN; art direction by JOYCE LIM; grooming by JOEY YAP; timepieces by OMEGA; outfits and bags by FENDI
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