Although the local entertainment industry has been experiencing stop-start progression due to multiple lockdowns in the country, it seems like actor Zul Ariffin has managed to keep himself pretty busy throughout.
Aside from a short period away from the screen – in 2019 audiences saw him in the film Sangkar and TV3 drama Setelah KuMiliki – the 34-year-old starred in two drama series Bidadari Kiriman Tuhan and Ryan Aralyn in the later part of 2020.
In March this year, he appeared in the horror flick Penunggang Agama.Directed by Syafiq Yusof, the film earned RM2mil within 18 days on Astro First.
This month, the actor – who rose to fame after starring in the 2014 drama Rindu Awak 200% – has two new projects out.
J2: J Retribusi – the sequel to his hit 2017 film J Revolusi – started streaming on Disney+ Hotstar on June 1. Also premiering on the same platform on June 25 is the 16-episode drama series WiFi Sebelah Rumah.
During a virtual press conference, Zul described the much-awaited J Retribusi as more aggressive and action-packed than J Revolusi.
“The first one, the audience enjoyed it but they wanted more action. The second one is exactly that... it has non-stop action, ” he told StarLifestyle.
He wasn’t kidding – the film gets into action mode 15 minutes into its running time and continues to keep up the pace till the end, with a climactic sequence that includes guns blazing and big explosions.
One reviewer even compared the action scenes featured in J Retribusi to Hollywood films because of the camerawork and the choreography effort poured into the fight scenes.
According to Zul, he had wanted to follow the blueprint of successful franchises such as Die Hard and Bourne with the J films. Besides creating great action sequences, he thought of making more films revolving around the protagonist.
Zul shared: “I definitely hope to continue playing this character in future films if possible. That was the plan from the start anyway.
“But this all depends on how audiences respond to the film. If the respond is encouraging then we would want to continue.”
He added: “Films like this are popular with the younger generation; it is exciting and at the same time it has a good story.”
J Retribusi follows Jay Zulkarnain (Zul) – a former special force soldier – who now works as a bodyguard for young girl, Nadi (Ainin Batrisya), the daughter of a millionaire (Datuk Rosyam Nor).
When a group of terrorists led by Taufiq (Ashraf Sinclair) takes Nadi as hostage, Jay puts his Special Forces skills to use in order to save the little girl.
“The character is driven by a different set of motivation than in the first one, ” explained Zul.
Another thing he wanted to do different with J Retribusi was to create a complicated villain, instead of a typical bad guy. And Zul thought of Ashraf for the role.
Ashraf, who passed away on Feb 18 last year, and Zul had known each other for a long time. But they never had a chance to work together.
Zul told StarLifestyle: “We met accidentally at the airport one time and I asked him to work with me on a project.
“Then when J Retribusi was in development, I thought of him for the role as we needed a really elegant, good-looking and sophisticated villain. So, I suggested Ashraf to the team.
“And Ashraf himself didn’t want to play a person who would fight my character; he wanted to be more like a mastermind... So yeah, it’s not a role catered to Ashraf but more like tailored for him.
“I’m glad I got to work with him in J Retribusi.”
While Zul is definitely in his element in the action genre, he seems just as comfortable – excited even – to be taking on the comedic role with series WiFi Sebelah Rumah.
“This project was totally unexpected, ” said Zul. “I like romantic comedy; I like light comedy. But whenever I was offered a (comedic) role, I was never free.
“But I have wanted to do something like this for a long time. Finally, I got the opportunity to play a role like this because I enjoy watching such shows.”
Directed by Shuhaimi Zulkefli, the story centres on Ghaz (Zul) and his neighbour Mira (Ruhainies).
He might share his Wi-Fi password with her but Ghaz can’t seem to muster the courage to tell Mira that he likes her.
Things get complicated when the oblivious Mira considers marrying a suitor.
Actress Ruhainies (Hello, Mr Perfect!) confessed she wasn’t sure if Zul could portray the character Ghaz at first.
She said: “I have never seen Zul play a character like this before. He’s only played violent characters.
“But you know what, in some of the scenes where he has to act silly, he was so funny on set that he had the whole team laughing.”
Other than these two projects, Zul has also completed four other movies – Talbis Iblis, Polis Evo 3, Abang Long Fadil 3 and Juang, which wrapped up production in April.
Late last year, Zul had filmed another drama Love Elsa (which is airing now on Astro Ria) besides putting in time to be a judge on Astro’s variety programme Muzikal Lawak Superstar.
Before the current lockdown was put in place, Zul admitted he wasn’t doing much. However, he said, he was hoping to shoot a new TV drama soon.