Malaysian actor Sean Lee working to expand his resume to include writing, directing and running a cafe

The social media personality believes in creating opportunities for himself and making things happen. Photo courtesy of Sean Lee

Sean Lee is not one to sit around and do nothing, waiting for something to happen.

The 28-year-old content creator, actor and host told StarLifestyle that for every opportunity he’s gotten so far, it was because he made a choice.

“It’s not by chance or whatever. I chose to be in this field. I chose to make videos. I chose to create content for my YouTube channel.

“(These decisions) led to an internship at a radio station and then later a meeting with a director who offered me an acting job in the mini web drama Road To Ramlee,” shared Lee, whose full name is Sean Lee Jia Ern.

“This was followed by a call from a producer for a local TV drama. My first drama was with TV3 (Keluarga Pontimau in 2015).”

Just when it seemed like Lee was well on his way realising his dream of becoming a professional actor, having had steady roles in a couple of Malay dramas and telemovies, the calls stopped coming.

“I was jobless,” he recalled.

“So, I decided to create more content (on social media) instead of waiting for potential offers.”

Using all the skills he learned from his Diploma in Performing Arts at Sunway College, Lee started putting out engaging content including travel logs resulting in him accumulating decent followings on social media and becoming an “influencer” of sorts at a time when there were only a handful in Malaysia.

“Although nobody called me for acting jobs, people started calling me for hosting and emceeing gigs.

“They weren’t my main focus, but I thought you know, it’s a blessing that God gave me, I shouldn’t waste it and I should do my best.

“I honestly think I was unconsciously guided, you know?

“And my hosting jobs gave me opportunities to start acting once more. This was after two years, and it was for a telemovie. Then nothing again,” Lee said.

As per his style, Lee went back to doing his own personal content on social media platforms, while handling whatever emceeing jobs that came his way.

Needless to say, the door to acting opened again and, this time, he made an impact. Lee has become a somewhat familiar face in Malay dramas, with Malaysian netizens dubbing him “Oppa Sean”.

In the drama series Demi Rindumu, co-starring Janna Nick. Photo: AstroIn the drama series Demi Rindumu, co-starring Janna Nick. Photo: Astro

Among the hit dramas Lee has starred in are My Coffee Prince, Celop, 7 Hari Mencintaku 2 & 3, Romantika 4 Hari 3 Malam, Demi Rindumu and Tarik Aku Ke Syurga.

In August, he is one of the actors in new TV3 serial titled Cinta Buat Dara, starring alongside Riena Diana and Syafiq Kyle.

He’s also known as the host of the Malaysian version of I Can See Your Voice and TV3’s on-going variety show MBuzz.

In 2020 and 2021, he was one of the emcees of the prestigious music awards event, Anugerah Juara Lagu.

This year, the Subang native chalked up his “biggest career milestone” yet when he got to voice a character in a Hollywood animated film alongside Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Keanu Reeves, John Krasinski and Ben Schwartz. Lee is the first Malaysian to land this gig.

His voice was heard in the special edition of DC League Of Super-Pets, available on HBO Go, for a Boston Terrier named Waffles.

Sean Lee was cast to provide the voice for Waffles in the recent Hollywood movie, 'DC League of Super-Pets', for the Malaysian version. Photo: Warner BrosSean Lee was cast to provide the voice for Waffles in the recent Hollywood movie, 'DC League of Super-Pets', for the Malaysian version. Photo: Warner Bros

Warner Bros, the studio behind the movie, pinpointed this existing character in the movie to give the film a Malaysian spin for the local market.

Hence, Waffles speaks with “various Malaysian slang” and even hails from Subang, just like Lee.

“It was a really surreal experience... hearing yourself in the cinema feels very different from watching yourself on TV or even on mobile and tablet,” Lee said.

“Achievement-wise, this is the biggest so far. But for me, I rate the experiences I’ve gained from this as far more valuable. It’s not the job alone. I think the journey is important as well. I hope there are even bigger milestones for me to achieve.”

And you know it, if those milestones don’t come his way, Lee will just create his own.

Lee admitted he has a couple of things he wants to do in the near future.

For one, he wants to assemble a team to continue creating fun content on YouTube, which the public can enjoy for free.

“I like making people happy and I like seeing people laugh. I like entertaining people,” he said.

Secondly, he wants to get into producing and creating content for free-to-air TV.

“I see a gap in the local market in terms of content and quality. I believe that I can bridge the gap (by creating content) that pushes the boundaries a little bit.

“I believe I have the capacity and talented people around me to do that.”

And thirdly, he mentioned: “I want my movies in the cinema next time. That’s one of my goals too. I’m working towards my goals one step at a time.”

As of now, he’s already taken on the task of crafting a script for a telemovie.

“This year, I am taking a bit of time off from other jobs to focus on this telemovie for next year.

“I want to co-produce it with somebody, direct it and cast new talents. Hopefully, it will come true.”

Although he didn’t divulge any details about the script, Lee revealed that it would be a comedy as that’s where his strength lies.

“I am trying to keep it as realistic as I can, to fit my capabilities.

“I don’t want to put too high of an expectation because if I did and it failed, then it would be too hard to get up again.”

At the same time, Lee described himself as someone who can work on a problem and make it happen.

“And I would make it happen in the easiest way or the smartest way. I am always the guy who finds a solution, in the simplest form. Things need not be complicated; there’s always a smarter way to do it.

“That’s always been my approach whenever I am faced with problems.”

Sean Lee (centre) in the Malay drama '7 Hari Mencintaiku 3'. Photo: Sean Lee/InstagramSean Lee (centre) in the Malay drama '7 Hari Mencintaiku 3'. Photo: Sean Lee/Instagram

However, do not be mistaken that Lee takes the easy way out.

For whatever product or project he uploads online, he confessed he goes through it “1,000 times” before putting it up.

“Even if it means cutting down one frame to improve the content, I would do it.

“To me it makes a difference, even if it doesn’t to anyone else.

“So my personal struggle is learning how to be OK with being imperfect. Obviously because things in life are not always perfect.”

Coping with disappointments when not everyone loves his content was something he learned early on.

He also recalled having to handle negativity at the beginning of his journey as a social media content creator.

“Everyone is free to comment on social media. The first hate comment I ever received got me really down that I thought about quitting YouTube,” he said.

But upon realising that haters will hate and that it will be a vicious cycle if he were to engage, Lee figured the best way to handle all the negativity would be to ignore trolls and just carry on with what he does best.

Believing in creating a space where people can come together without any judgement in real life, Lee started a cafe four years ago when he was “jobless”.

“I wanted it to be a place where people just hang out, doing what they want and kind of be themselves, you know.

“I felt there weren’t many places like that for people my age. And food is something that brings people together and I see the beauty in that.”

Thus he established Atap Rooftop Cafe at Sunway Mentari, Bandar Sunway, where “there were a lot imperfect things in there that made the cafe perfect”.

To Lee’s surprise, the cafe attracted not only people his age but people from all walks of life.

“It was very nice to see that. I felt I really created a place for everybody.”

But when acting job offers started to roll, Lee decided to close the cafe, and it stayed closed as the pandemic happened.

Now that everything’s back up again, one of his friends who relocated to Ipoh suggested that Lee revive Atap Rooftop Cafe there.

At first, the actor wasn’t interested in the idea as he was committed to his many creative ventures. But when the friend offered to be a partner in the cafe business, Lee agreed.

Looks like Lee is going to be busy for long while.

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