Before 'Apprentice', Fir Rahman almost gave up on acting

Marcus Goh
Fir Rahman.
Fir Rahman

Fir Rahman, who plays lead character Aiman in Boo Junfeng’s “The Apprentice”, has become a familiar name after that role earned him a nomination for Best Newcomer at the 11th Asian Film Awards.

The 36-year-old actor also stars in Channel 5’s “Lion Moms”, and recently completed a successful run in Toy Factory’s stage play, “Prism”.

But there was a time when success did not come so smoothly for him.

“I did give up once,” Fir told Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore in an interview.

Fir Rahman at work.
Fir Rahman at work

Fir got bitten by the acting bug when he was studying in Temasek Polytechnic. He answered a casting call for a play, “Selasihku Sayang” in 2002.

“The next moment, I found myself in the room auditioning and I had to sing. I aced it and got the role!” he said. After that, he entered Suria’s “Juara” later that year, and won in the Acting and Hosting category.

But he had to enlist for his National Service a few months after winning that title, and could not commit to projects for two and a half years. He completed his National Service in 2005.

Fir Rahman (Fir Rahman)
Fir Rahman (Flit Media)

“But by that time, [Suria] had more fresh faces. So I found a full-time job while doing theatre at night,” Fir said.

He continued getting supporting roles in Suria and other one-off appearances in shows like “Crimewatch” during this time.

Fir told his friends he felt like giving up. “I was a winner, but for many years I did not have the opportunity to be the lead. So in 2010, I got a job as part of the cabin crew for Jetstar.”

“If I’ll be flying, how will I act? So I thought that’s it, that’s a close to my acting career. But it was short-lived. I only did that for about a year.”

Fir Rahman in
Fir Rahman in “Apprentice” (Meg White)

Fir’s elder brother passed away suddenly in 2011, while he was on a trip. By the time he got home, his brother had already been buried.

Before that, his elder brother had been taking care of their parents, who had several health issues. His parents passed away a few years ago.

A return to acting

Fir finally got his first big break in 2011. A few months after he stopped flying, he managed to get the main role for a Suria drama, “Nine Lives”, and has been acting non-stop ever since.

“I think it’s all predestined. After that, I got role after role, drama after drama.”

He clinched his first film role for “Apprentice” in 2012. And in 2014, he got his first major role in a Channel 5 drama as Reza in “Lion Moms”.

But there are differences between acting for film and for television, Fir said.

“The demands are higher, and the character profile is stronger than compared to TV roles. It’s very dark, following the journey of Aiman [the character that Fir plays]. We spent a lot of time researching with [Boo] Junfeng, Mastura [Ahmad] and Wan Hanafi Su to get our characters and chemistry correct.”

Fir Rahman in
Fir Rahman in “Apprentice” (Meg White)

One big difference between film and television was the type of Malay spoken.

“We get to use colloquial, conversational Malay in the film. It’s unlike some dramas on Suria, where some of the dialogue is not as conversational.”

Proper Malay is usually spoken in Suria dramas, whereas “Apprentice” made more use of everyday Malay words.

He gave the example of the question “What do you want to do now?”

In proper Malay, it would be phrased as “Apa yang ingin kau lakukan sekarang?”

However, it would be “Kau nak buat apa sekarang?” in colloquial Malay.

The local media industry ‘needs money’

When asked about what he felt the local industry needed, Fir’s response is very grounded.

“Money. Seriously,” he said.

Fir explained that in order to make more critically-acclaimed films such as “Ilo Ilo”, “Sandcastle”, and “Yellow Bird”, more funding would be required. Unlike more commercial films like “I Not Stupid” or “Ah Boys To Men”, films from the former category usually do not attract as many sponsors or investors.

After all, you hardly see any product placement in “Apprentice”.

Fir Rahman.
Fir Rahman

“We also need more collaboration. We have a lot of good actors, good directors in our industry,” the actor said.

“It’s not easy to be successful, especially in this industry. But if you think that this is your passion, don’t give up. Don’t do things halfway. You never know who is watching you.

“Regardless of whether it’s a supporting role or a lead role, do your best.”

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for Police & Thief, Incredible Tales, Crimewatch, and Point of Entry. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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