Currently, Emma Maembong has back-to-back acting projects lined up all the way till next year. But, the pragmatic actress is aware that that may not be the case one day.
“There’s a time when you’re new and everyone wants you, and then there’s a point where your career stabilises and you get to play the heroine (consistently).
“One day, other actresses will play the heroine and I will play (the supporting role). That’s how it is,” shares Emma at the launch of Mood Republik’s annual Hari Raya festival.
Emma, 26, made her acting debut in the 2012 drama series Kau Yang Terindah and her popularity has risen ever since, with hit shows like Isteri Separuh Masa, Jodoh Sebelah Pintu and Awak Suka Saya Tak.
The Malay-Scottish actress, whose real name is Fatimah Rohani Ismail, believes one’s longevity in the industry boils down to one’s passion for acting.
She says: “I’ve spoken to veteran artistes and I’ve asked them why they still act, although they’re not playing the (lead). They say they just can’t sit still. They want to work. They miss the atmosphere of being on set.
“They’re not doing it because they want to chase popularity but because acting has become such a part of themselves that they have to do it.”
As of now, the job offers have not petered-out for Emma. She has just filmed the Hari Raya edition of Awak Suka Saya Tak and is getting ready to shoot Astro Oasis drama Cinta Kelas Satu.
“As long as I don’t spend a month waiting around for jobs, then I’m OK. My schedule is packed. I’m grateful,” she notes.
Asked what she thought about being labelled a class “A” artiste, being at the top of her game now, Emma replies: “I’m just being myself and doing my work as usual. I don’t think of myself as this class or that.
“People call me Emma Maembong during filming and at press events. But outside of that, I’m Fatimah. My parents call me Timah. I’m still an ordinary person, I don’t demand for a higher pay or anything.”
Aside from acting, Emma devotes a lot of her time to her numerous business ventures, ranging from shawls and make-up lines to slimming solutions. Emma, who is ninth from a family of 11 children, delegates her businesses equally to her siblings to look after them.
“If my businesses succeed, my whole family succeeds, if my businesses fail, my whole family fails,” she says.
As such, Emma takes stringent measures to make sure the businesses thrive.
“My concept is when I get into a meeting, I’m not your sibling anymore. So if I get angry or say something harsh, there’s no sense of a younger sister disrespecting an older sibling. Business is business.
“In fact we have signed a contract. If you break the contract, I will not hesitate to issue a summon, even if you’re my sibling.
“For example, when I look at the bank statement and I see money going out, I would ask where did this money go? They have to provide me with the details. If not, they would have to pay for it.”
Emma adds the contracts were drafted “not because I don’t trust them. I’m doing it to show that we’re serious about our business”.
“These businesses are our rice bowl. You can’t say, ‘It’s OK, she’s my sister, I can do anything I want. If I don’t show up on time, that’s OK.’ No business will be successful if you do that.”
The actress admits it was difficult mixing family and business together initially.
“In the beginning, there were conflicts. Someone will get angry and complain to my mum. But I sat down with them and explained the reasons and they understood,” Emma said.
With so much on her mind, can Emma focus on embodying her role on set?
“It never affects my acting. When I first started acting, (actress-director) Erma Fatima was my teacher. Whenever I came to the set and I just had a fight with someone on that day, she would say, ‘No, if you have family, relationship or business problems, when you get on set, you throw all that out and focus on your work’.”
If anything, the stress from her businesses help her cry easier during sad scenes, she adds tongue-in-cheek.
So does Emma have time to get to know anyone romantically these days, what with her busy schedule?
She recently posted a photo of her with the newly-elected Muar MP Syed Saddiq on Instagram, which prompted netizens to accuse the actress of trying to get close to him after his win at GE14.
Emma says she has known Syed for two years. Her personal assistant was such a fan of the charismatic debater, she decided to contact him and ask if he could surprise Emma for her birthday. The two have been friends ever since.
When it comes to love, the actress, who was previously linked to Jodoh Sebelah Pintu co-star Kamal Adli, says she prefers to focus on her career now and leave the rest to fate.