Ummi Nazeera was only 17 when she made her acting debut in RTM drama Pesona Bintang. After that, she has been playing “kampung girl” roles in hit series like Takdir Yang Terindah and Dinasti Bilut. She has also starred in a similar capacity in notable stage productions like Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa and Penanggal.

Now the 27-year-old actress is looking to break away from the very role that has made her a much sought-after talent in the local entertainment industry.

“I’ve been doing that (kampung girl role) for 10 years. I don’t want to keep doing the same thing,” she said during an interview in Kuala Lumpur recently.

The 27-year-old actress was also worried about what the audience would think if she took on another kampung girl role.

“It has come to the point where I know that I’m just repeating myself. Everything from the clothes to the scene feels like I’ve done it all before. So, if I can feel this way, then I’m sure my peers and viewers at home would think the same too,” she said.

When Ummi reflected upon the many roles she has played in the past, the word “victimised” comes to mind. So much so that she feels a need for a different kind of representation.

These days, Ummi has no problems turning down roles that she no longer feels comfortable portraying.

“Why is it that kampung girls are often portrayed as helpless? It’s as if when something bad happens to them, it’s their fault. I don’t want to keep delivering that message,” she explained.

Making an exception

Ummi Nazeera

Ummi Nazeera stars alongside Jalil Hamid in Bisik Pada Langit. Photo: Astro Shaw

However, in her latest film Bisik Pada Langit, Ummi, once again, plays the part of a kampung girl. But there’s a valid reason, she claimed.

Ummi made the exception because of the opportunity to work alongside notable actors such as Jalil Hamid and Beto Kusyairy, under the direction of Kabir Bhatia.

Then again, Hajar, the role played by Ummi in the film, is quite different from the ones she has played before.

“Hajar is a bright kampung girl who is fulfilling a dream to study in Australia. She’s also a stubborn girl who loves adventure! Then she ends up becoming the cause of all the sadness in the movie when she gets into an accident,” she said.

Ummi thinks of herself as a “confident actress” now: “When I first started at 17, I remember feeling scared. I didn’t want to make mistakes. I ended up not being able to give ideas or talk to the director. Over time, I realised that some directors would love to hear opinions from actors.”She also hopes for roles that would better represent who she is.

“I’ve always wanted to play someone who is not scared to get physical. I think we can still do it even with the hijab. Imagine me playing a Muslimah superhero … a strong female character.”