In Dain Said’s Interchange, Shaheizy Sam plays Detective Man who is looking into a series of murders that’s not making much sense to him. In his relentless pursuit for the truth, Man is not beyond breaking some of the rules or even taking a beating.
This isn’t the first time Shaheizy plays a police officer on screen – his previous role just before Interchange was Inspector Khairul in the hit movie Polis Evo, directed by Ghaz Abu Bakar. Polis Evo is the No. 1 film of all time in Malaysia with earnings of RM17.47mil at the box office.
“Comparatively, Detective Man is more light-hearted than Inspector Khai who is really intense,” says a relaxed Shaheizy at an interview in Kuala Lumpur recently.
“It was quite difficult for me to go from Khai to Man, not only because the two films have different directors with different demands, but because Man’s investigation has a supernatural and mystical twist to it. It was quite challenging to ensure the character’s expression remains neutral to his colleagues and yet to hint subtly to the audience that he is confounded by the findings.”
Shaheizy looked to his father for inspiration when playing roles as a law enforcer; his late father, Abdul Samad Jaaman, was once Selangor’s deputy police chief.
“I do think about my father in these roles, to be honest,” the youngest of five children admits. “This is how he must have worked … and I think about the challenges he had to face daily as an officer of the law.”
Although Shaheizy’s dad passed away when the actor was just 12 years old, his parenting style was kept alive by Shaheizy’s mum, actress Khaty Fauziah Musa.
“My mum carried on with how my father had wanted to raise us. She taught me to respect people in the same way I want to be respected, and that discipline is very important. I still turn to her for support and advice, ” shares Shaheizy, 34, who married model-actress Syatilla Melvin in February.
With a mum and a sister – Zizie Izette – in the industry, acting seemed like a natural path for him. But when he entered the scene, it was as a member of the short-lived musical group A To Z.
After completing his tertiary education, and with time to spare, Shaheizy started watching movies, and it was then that he realised he loves acting. He pursued his passion and started acting in a variety of films including Songlap, Evolusi KL Drift 2 and Kongsi, for which he won the Best Actor award at the 24th Malaysia Film Festival.
“I just wanted to act. I didn’t expect to be where I am today,” he says.
It’s probably the discipline that his family instilled in him, more than ambition, that drives him to go the extra mile when it comes to bringing a character to life on the big screen.
He has become known for changing his physique (he lost 8kg for Pinjamkan Hatiku and hit the gym five months prior to filming Polis Evo), and delving deep into the character, hashing out the ins-and-outs of the role with the directors and learning new skills where possible, before filming commences. It is all these that makes Shaheizy Sam a sought-after actor in Malaysia.
1. How do you choose a role?
When I started out, I took on any role because back then it was all about money and survival.
Of late, I started to be a little choosy and take on the kind of films I want to do – more ambitious and higher-budget projects like Interchange and Polis Evo.
It’s the way these directors work, which is how I want to work; they look into the details way ahead of filming and have a dependable team and a good script backing them. I had similar experience working with directors Fariza Azlina and Effendee on Songlap, and I loved it.
2. You’re known as a method actor. How far would you go for a role?
Every actor has a method. I am an introvert – I don’t talk much, and rather observe people. When I act, I adapt myself to be a certain character.
As to the extent I would go for a role, I would change my physicality if it is necessary. Not to the extent of going against my religion’s guidelines but I wouldn’t mind being the total opposite of who I am like, for example, playing a woman.
3. Is there an actor you admire?
I adore so many actors in Malaysia. An international actor I have always admired is Al Pacino.
This is an industry that focuses on good looking people, one has to look like a supermodel to be noticed – everyone wants tall actors who are Pan-Asian. I am neither. Al Pacino is not tall either but he is an Oscar-winning actor.
I realised acting is not about looks but talent, and self-confidence.
4. You are going to be a father in May. Are you ready?
I love kids. I have nephews and nieces, and love them like my own. I am looking forward to becoming a father.
Tilla and I were excited when we did the pregnancy scan and saw the baby’s heartbeat.
5. What do you do when you are not working?
Most of the time I just chill at home, watch a movie. Sometimes I go for a holiday with my family – a simple holiday, somewhere close – just to spend time together.
There are a couple places that are my favourites. Most recently we went to Pulau Perhentian and I love visiting Sabah.