In a scene from local soap opera Idaman, fashion designer Khalid, played by Sean Ghazi, was having a meeting with a business associate in his office and was asking his secretary to bring in two cups of cappuccino – wait a minute – with an imaginary intercom?
“I was improvising my script. I was hoping the camera wouldn’t show that. There was nothing there, I was just pressing the table. And they showed it in the final cut!” recalls Sean, 46, with a laugh.
“We were under such stress to shoot so many episodes, sometimes mistakes were left in.”
Indeed, Idaman – billed as the country’s first Malay-language, multi-camera soap opera – aired in 1998 on Astro Ria and had a whopping 156 one-hour episodes.
Production for the glossy soap opera took a year to complete, shooting up to five episodes a week at a set in Selayang, Selangor.
“A soap opera is a marathon,” adds 48-year-old actress Deanna Yusoff who played twin sisters Yasmin and Zulaikha. “Go on set, finish your scene, run to change your wardrobe, read the script and go back on set – it’s a factory.”
Idaman lets viewers in on the workings of a glamorous fashion house, Butik Mansor, ran by the ruthless but very dashing Datuk Mansor, played by Datuk Jalaluddin Hassan. After a heart attack, his daughter Yasmin returns from overseas to run the company. She slowly uncovers all the dark (and oh-so-juicy!) buried secrets … that no doubt lent to the show’s appeal.
Jalaluddin, 61, shares candidly he was excited to work with Deanna on the opulent drama: “She started out with Selubung (for which Deanna won Best Actress at the Malaysia Film Festival). She was a movie star. So I was thinking, ‘Oh my god! Deanna Yusoff!’”
Deanna, on the other hand, was hesitant to star in the series initially because of its intense production schedule but eventually worked out a deal that allowed her off days to fulfill her other commitments.
Meanwhile, Sean wanted to star in the show to improve on his Malay-language proficiency and glean some experience from working on a multi-camera production. “As soon as I read and they listened to my pelat Malay (Western accent), I thought they would realise they had made a mistake in hiring me,” he remembers feeling on his first day on set.
As the show gained popularity (eventually spawning a sequel, Idaman 2, and a spin-off, Astana Idaman), so did its stars.
Jalaluddin was on his way to a filming location once when a limousine pulled over. He shares: “A Malay driver wound down the screen and said, ‘Hi.’ I thought he was my fan. Then, the window by the backseat wound down and it was a Chinese guy.
“He said, ‘you are Jalaluddin Hassan. I never watched a Malay show before, but one day, I went home and turned on the TV and Idaman was on, and I saw you. You’ve got style.’”
The fan went on to invite the actor out for drinks, but as Jalaluddin still had filming to do, he even waited for him.
Sean and Deanna agree the show garnered viewers from all races and ages, often bumping into fans from all walks of life. “I don’t think many shows in Malaysia, especially made in Malay, attracted that kind of demographics,” says Deanna.
Since then, the show has propelled the cast members’ individual careers forward. Jalaluddin says the show led him to more opportunities such as his iconic hosting stint on Malaysia’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Today, he is still actively involved in the local film and TV landscape.
Sean went on to star in 1999’s Anna And The King and released his debut album in 2006. The singer-actor has just returned to Malaysia after spending six years making a name for himself in the United States.
Deanna also starred in the Jodie Foster flick and picked up a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for 2007’s Chermin at the Malaysia Film Festival. She will star in the upcoming Singapore’s independence day film, 1965, besides being the brand ambassador of Swiss skincare line Qamare.
She reflects: “People were surprised that a movie actress was coming over to do a soap opera, but the experience put my name right up there. It was that one show that everyone knew.”