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Sean Ghazi, a renowned name in the Malaysian music industry, speaks about his struggles when he tried to live the 'American Dream' in the United States before returning to embark on more satisfying projects. — TRP pic by Azrol Ali
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SEAN Ghazi is not an unfamiliar name when it comes to jazzed-up classic Malay songs and soulful singing.
His ability to woo his audience with his James Bond-ish style and suave looks, and deliver an enchanting performance when he’s on the stage, have always been the talk of town.
This award-winning singer, actor and performer has travelled the world and is currently back in Malaysia to pursue his next adventure.
Q: You have been quiet in the local entertainment scene for some time. What have you been up to these days?
A: I left the country in 2009 and I’ve been away for about six years, but I have always been travelling back and forth to Malaysia for shows and family matters. I came back in March this year. I was living in Portland and Oregon for 3 years. Prior to that, I was in Los Angeles.
Q: What were you doing there?
A: I was working closely with a musical group called Pink Martini in Portland. I covered their songs in Malay. Ku Impikan Bintang from my album is actually Pink Martini’s song, so when they heard my version in Malay, they liked it and invited me to work on something together. I grabbed the opportunity and performed on their tours while they mentored me.
Q: What made you decide your move to the United States (U.S.)?
A: Well, it’s the “American Dream” and I just wanted to try and live it. I have a Green Card and experience working in Hollywood productions, so I just wanted to see what else I could do.
Q: Were you looking for something in particular?
A: Let’s just say I needed an adventure. In 2009, my mum passed away because of cancer. Right after that, I told myself that I needed to do something out of my comfort zone.
Q: When you say that you were chasing the ‘American Dream’, what were you actually looking for in the U.S?
A: I wanted to do more screen acting. I love acting on TV dramas and films. That has been my ambition since I was a kid. I wanted to be a Hollywood actor. After Anna and the King in 1999 where I played the role of Khun Phra Balat – and after I got my Green Card and all sorted – I pursued my dream. I tried it and I did one independent Hollywood movie titled C.O.G. with Jonathan Groff.
Q: What sort of challenges did you face in Hollywood?
A: These Hollywood people don’t seem to know who Malaysians are. They look at us and think we are Hispanics. So I had to compete with other Hispanic actors. I thought it was pointless. Why would I want to compete with a real Hispanic if they want a Hispanic character? They might as well hire an original Hispanic than me, a Malaysian, trying to fit into a Hispanic character. They tend to get very confused when they see me and it gets difficult when they want to cast me. I end up getting weird roles and had to play random roles like a Bhutanese character.
Q: What else did you do in Hollywood?
A: Besides the independent movie, I acted in TV commercials and whatever it took to pay the bills and make up for the month. The struggle was a priceless experience, but I don’t think I’d do it again. I tried it once in London, once in Germany and then in the U.S., and I think I have tried enough.
Q: Would you describe yourself as a struggling artiste when you were travelling?
A: Well, let’s put it this way, there were some days that you were just poor. There were some days when I would wonder what I could eat that day and become very creative with whatever I had although it’s only a protein shake for breakfast and some eggs for dinner. People find the struggles hard to believe after all the recognition I had in Malaysia.The fact that I chose to be a struggling artiste in a foreign country taught me a lot of lessons. I see things in a much broader perspective now. Yes, it was partly foolish but it was also adventurous and brave.
Q: What about your involvement in the local entertainment scene here? Was it not up to your expectations?
A: I don’t really see myself fitting in the local entertainment scene 100 per cent. And it’s not anybody’s fault. It’s not my fault and it’s not entirely the industry’s fault. It is difficult to fit into the big screen here when you have mixed features like me and speak Malay with a certain accent. There are almost no roles for people like me unless I write it myself. Plus, I think our entertainment industry has been running on the same formula for many years. It’s always the same script with different actors.
Q: What genre of film do you see yourself fitting into?
A: I like a character-driven movie and when there are intelligent compositions. Like psychological thrillers or things that drive audience to think about the story. I think our Malaysian audience is quite sophisticated. They have Netflix and they watch Interstellar, where it requires them to concentrate, listen, sit and think. But the local scene somehow harps on something that’s very easy and typical that doesn’t really require our audience to think more.
Q: I understand the Instant Café Theatre (ICT) alumni is having a One-Night-Only Gala and you are part of the party. So what are you going to showcase that night?
A: Yes! That is one of the next projects that I am looking forward to. Most of tickets are already sold out and we have started rehearsing with the team! I will write and do some acting. It will only be a short one as quite a number of names are performing that night
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