When Daler Yusuf first came to Malaysia more than four years ago, he could only speak a few words of Bahasa Malaysia.

Daler, who was born and raised in Uzbekistan, started carving out a modelling career at 19 which took him to countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

“My mum has Malaysian roots, so I feel more comfortable in Malaysia,” the now 24-year-old Daler says of his decision to settle down here when met at a press event in Kuala Lumpur recently. Besides pursuing modelling, Daler furthered his studies in a private institution in Selangor.

Born to an Uzbek father and a Kelantanese mother, Daler began harbouring hopes of trying out acting here but was having trouble mastering Bahasa Malaysia.

“I couldn’t find a suitable teacher. So two years back, I started learning the language by myself. I watched dramas, read newspapers and mixed more with my Malaysian friends,” says Daler who can now speak, read and write in Bahasa Malaysia.

Last year, Daler got to test out his acting chops, landing a minor role on rom-com series Tuan Anas Mikael which starred Aaron Aziz.

“When you model, we usually don’t need to speak, you just act in front of the camera. So it was very difficult for me in the beginning to have to talk in front of the camera,” he says of his transition from modelling to acting.

Now, Daler is starring in a lead role for the first time in the TV series Lip Lap Raya. The budding actor shares a number of similarities with his character Adam.

Lip Lap Raya actress Sari Yanti praises her co-star Daler, saying hes a very fast learner and he can act very well. Photo: HyppTV

Lip Lap Raya actress Sari Yanti praises her co-star Daler Yusuf, saying he’s a very fast learner and can act very well. Photo: HyppTV

In the 30-episode HyppTV series, Adam, who is also of Uzbek-Malaysian descent, is a student from Uzbekistan who signs up for an exchange programme to Malaysia in order to reconnect with his mother’s family here.

“His mum was married to a guy from Uzbekistan, but her family was against it. She followed her husband to Uzbekistan (anyway). She always wanted to come back to Malaysia to say sorry to her family, but she couldn’t. Before she passed away, she asked Adam to go to Malaysia and find her family and hand them a letter she wrote,” explains Daler of his character’s motivations.

Daler reveals it was difficult to play the part initially. “In the beginning, when I tried to speak in front of the camera, I always fumbled or I’d forget my dialogue. Maybe I was too nervous. But I practised a lot and I hired an acting coach who really helped me to lose all that nervousness and feel more comfortable,” he shares.

As filming, which took three months, progressed, he soon got the hang of it.

“At first, if I didn’t memorise my dialogue, I couldn’t speak in front of the camera. After a while, I could read the script on set and I was ready. I could ad-lib. I became more comfortable.”

His co-star Sari Yanti agrees. “Because he was new, he was a bit stiff. But he’s a very fast learner and he can act very well. Whatever direction that was given, he learned from it,” she praises him.

The actress plays Annisya who meets Adam while studying at the university.

“There is a love story,” Daler teases. “But Adam doesn’t want to focus on having a relationship. He doesn’t want to have a girlfriend before he achieves his target of finding his mum’s family. Still, after some time, he starts to fall in love with her.”

After Lip Lap Raya, the actor is literally going places as he will be travelling to Santorini, Greece and England to film a local movie.

Lip Lap Raya airs every day at 6pm on HyppSensasi (HyppTV Ch 116).