It’s been a slow and steady rise to fame for actor Ben Amir, and he doesn’t mind it. Ben got his first taste of showbiz in the male modelling competition, Hero Remaja, in 2012 and was immediately drawn to a career in acting.
But while a number of Hero Remaja contestants from his cohort catapulted to fame relatively quickly after the competition – namely, Fattah Amin and Syafiq Kyle who placed first and second respectively – that wasn’t the case for him.
Ben worked as an extra for two years before nabbing his first supporting role in his third year. “When I was an extra, I observed everything that happened on set. I would sit next to the director and see what he was doing and learn from him,” he recalls in an interview with StarLifestyle.
“Not only did I learn how to be a director, I learned to be a producer, how to take care of catering, wardrobe, everything. I learned how the system works.”
He believes his experience as an extra was invaluable, allowing him to pick up skills both in front and behind the camera. Ben finally landed his first lead role in a drama series in 2017’s Semusim Merindu – the first of many.
“The target I set for myself was to land a lead role within my first five years. Now that I’ve achieved that, in the next five years, I’m looking at starring in action films.”
Currently, Ben can be seen playing foreman Zaki on Spanar Jaya X, a reboot of the beloved 1990s TV sitcom set in a motor shop. He talks about acting on the show he grew up watching and recounts his acting journey so far.
1. Spanar Jaya X is your first sitcom. What was that like?
I grew up watching Spanar Jaya and I remember talking about the show the next day in class. I loved everyone on the show. The first time I met Opie Zami (who plays Mat Rock) was during rehearsals. I asked myself if I was really acting on set with him. It was so surreal. He’s such a cool guy and he taught me a lot.
Acting on a sitcom, sometimes, I do worry that this other character is very funny, and mine isn’t funny. But that’s someone else’s character. My character isn’t like that. Everyone wants to be funny and make jokes and deliver punchlines, but that’s not how a sitcom works. You have to know your role.
2. Do you remember your time as an extra? What did you learn?
I was an extra for about two years. I had no lines at all. I’d just be walking around in the background. At the same time, I was helping out with my family’s business so I didn’t focus on acting completely. Whenever there’s a job, I’d go for it.
After one year, people started to notice me. I got promoted to supporting extra. I had some dialogues. In an episode, I might be in one scene. In the next episode, I might not be there at all. In my third year, I got my first supporting role, in which I played the lead character’s best friend.
In any career, you have to start from the bottom and learn everything, whether it’s acting or lighting. I didn’t have the luxury of studying acting formally. Those few years were my “diploma”.
3. Did you ever feel frustrated seeing other actors, who started out around the same time you did, nab lead roles quicker than you?
I think everyone has their own time. I don’t think everyone comes up at the same time. This year, this person’s name will go up. Next year, another one. It depends on the projects you’re in. And in this business, it’s not about how fast your name goes up, it’s about how long you can sustain yourself.
I don’t want to enter in the industry and be famous in two to three years, and then I’m gone, I have no jobs. I don’t want that. I want to be relevant in this industry for a long time.
4. You’re currently undergoing martial arts training to prepare yourself for action roles although there aren’t any offers to play one yet. Why is that important to you?
Going into action films, it’s a goal I have in mind. And if I want to achieve it, I have to start now. If I get an offer but I’m not ready, it’s going to look bad on me and the production. People may say, “how can this guy star in action films but have no basics in martial arts.”
Besides doing Muay Thai, I just started taekwando two months ago. I used to do it in school but I’m starting with the white belt again and I’ll work my way to a black belt.
In the end, if I don’t get offers for action roles, I’ll do it myself. I’ll start small and do a web series and show people what I’ve got. I have to make my own opportunities.
5. You’re rather quiet when it comes to your personal life. Is that something you’ve always practised?
I try not to expose my personal life. It’s hard, and if people know about it anyway, there’s nothing I can do. I don’t want people to know me through a piece of gossip about me with someone like, “oh this guy is with this girl.” I want people to know me for my acting career, not my personal life.