While the majority of Malaysians finally have something celebratory to shout about this Merdeka Day, what with the recent turn of events during the 14th General Election that took place back in May, we have reasons to be proud of some of the individuals who have taken their respective leaps of faith overseas, and thrive in their varying careers in different parts of the world.

This week, our three-parter focuses on nine talented personalities – from fashion to theatre to music, and from entertainment onscreen and behind, who have given us reasons to be proud to share the same nationality as them.

 


JON CHEW
Actor/Writer
London


Photo credit: Gabrielle Boudville

 

What are you currently working on over in London?
I’m on the West End! I’m in The King and I, playing Prince Chulalongkorn, heir to the throne of the King of Siam, played by Ken Watanabe. Our Anna is played by Kelli O’Hara, a Broadway musical theatre legend. Some Malaysians will remember the recent movie version that starred Chow Yun Fatt and Jodie Foster, and many local thespians. We opened towards the end of June, and the feedback has been mega encouraging so far!

Which projects would you say that you have done in the past that you are personally proud of, ones which even the people back in Malaysia can be proud of?
Well, The King and I definitely took a measure of sacrifice and hard work along the way, so I’m proud to have been cast in it. That being said, I’m personally proud of so many projects done in Malaysia in the theatrical arena, from the play I did in February called The Bee, to our staging of Angels in America a few years ago, to shows like Klue, Doh! and Cock… all showcased the immense talent of Malaysian actors, directors and theatremakers, something I’m even more convinced of as I venture outside our shores.

It was the dawn of a new era for Malaysia during the General Elections back in May.
How did things change for you where you are, especially after hearing the news?
It made me miss home more. It made me want to return to experience the joy, see the faces, witness the celebration of those who worked so hard to make this happen. Then, it made me focus back on this season of learning, so that I can do whatever part I can in helping with the progress of our nation when I do return to Malaysia Baru.

What do you miss most about Malaysia while overseas?
Oh, where do I even begin? Food. Family. Food. Friends. Food. The theatre scene. Cendol. Driving to Penang. Indomee goreng at a mamak at midnight. Open houses during celebrations. Curry puffs. All the different races, different faces in our midst… and banana leaf rice.

What are your personal hopes and dreams for the “New Malaysia” in the coming days, months, or even years?
That we would have the patience to not lose hope, even as we work out what Malaysia Baru looks like, and could be like. That the changes we see could also extend to the arts scene, in terms of building an infrastructure that could sustain artistes from all spheres, and one that could encourage more local, original works of all kinds to flourish. When we see more stories about Malaysia Baru reflected in our arts, I think it’ll be a sign that we’re heading in a good direction.

Read also: Locals Gone Global: Atikah Karim, Pearly Wong, Sheena Liam

 


SHIVA KALAISELVAN
Actor/Producer
New York


Photo credit: Della Bass ; Make up: Zoe Simone

 

What are you currently busy with over in New York?
After years of theatre in New York (Brian Kulick’s Nathan The Wise, and Tyne Rafaeli’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), as well as recurring guest roles on television series such as Gotham and The Originals, I’m finally working on creating my own content right now. I’m in pre-production for a web series that I will be producing. Fingers crossed that we get to go into filming some time this month, with the aim of releasing a finished product by the end of the year.

Which highlight in your career that have come to past would you say you are personally proud of, and which even the people back in Malaysia can be proud of?
I would have to say getting the role in The Originals, in which I played Ivy, a witch and Oracle, in the fifth and final season of the series. Technically, it was my first television series role, so it was a really big thing to me when I got it – everything that I have worked for and fought for was finally acknowledged. It was the first time on a TV set as well, a first for me to learn about how to work in this medium, since I come from a theatre background.

It was the dawn of a new era for Malaysia during the General Elections back in May.
As a Malaysian residing overseas, how do you think this “New Malaysia” affects you as a Malaysian, and in your career?
I definitely feel more pride than I have before. I’ve always been happy to call Malaysia my home, and it was beautiful to see Malaysians take part in this election, and that we could all come together and make a change that was necessary. Seeing people waking up early, lining up in the hot sun and travelling far just to have a say in the country’s future… I’ve always been proud to be a Malaysian, and will always be too, but I was definitely prouder to be one that day.

What are your personal hopes and dreams for “New Malaysia” in the coming days, months, or even years?
I’m hoping that we can keep one another in check more: call things out that are wrong and unfair, and do what is best for everyone in the country. Perhaps, more investment in the education system, as well as the humanities and arts. Hopefully, this will be a start that leads to equality for all Malaysians.

Read also: Locals Gone Global: Rendra Zawawi, Shanon Shah, Yuna

 


HERO TAI
Actor/TV Host
Beijing


Photo credit: Andrew Loh

 

What are the acting projects you are currently working on?
So far, I have finished shooting two drama series this year: Secret Lover, which is already to watch in its entirety on the Choco TV app, as well as the China-based drama Love Protector, which we have spent two months on set filming in Taiwan. I have one more drama lined up for the year, which I am in the midst of shooting now in Beijing.

What would you say was your greatest achievement by far that you are personally proud of?
It would have to be the biggest drama project I was a part of last year, The Death book of the Xi Xia Dynasty. I had the privilege to work alongside renowned Chinese actors like Jiro Wang, Jia Qing and Ares Wu, on this big budget series which grosses at more than RMB200 million! It is said to be akin to a China version of Indiana Jones, as the show explores the ancient city of the Western Xia Empire, with all sorts of archaeological adventures and mysteries.

It was the dawn of a new era for Malaysia during the General Elections back in May.
Personally, how has things changed for you where you are, after hearing the news?
It did strike a chord in me to hear that close to 12 million voters (out of the 14 million eligible to vote) make the effort to come out and vote on Election Day; personally, I flew back home to vote, before flying back out to Taiwan again on the same day due to a shooting in progress!

It goes to show that the Malaysians do care about our own country, and we do believe that Malaysia deserves a change. It may be something as small as the 0% rate in GST, or new ministers heading the governmental departments, but I do believe that we are on our way to a better future if we keep on the right path of doing the right things for the country.

As a Malaysian residing overseas, how do you think this “New Malaysia” affects you as a Malaysian, and in your career?
Most of the investments that go into the entertainment industry comes from big business corporations. Thus, I do hope that as our country’s economy thrives for the better, it can also mean more opportunities for me to work on locally produced films back home. Personally, if I were to choose between an acting project based in China and in Malaysia, I’d choose the latter, despite the vast financial differences. Malaysia is my home, it’s a place I grew up in, and I will always feel indebted to do my best in my career that can garner a positive reflection back to the country as a whole.

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