Up close and personal


Aaron Aziz

Award-winning actor Aaron Aziz is the first Asian to get the spotlight on the biographic series E! Special.

IF you dream hard enough (and of course, work hard towards your ambition), your dreams could turn into reality. And this has been Singaporean-born, Malaysian-based actor Aaron Aziz’s recipe for success to become one of the current generation’s TV darlings.

Now, fans have a ringside view of the charming personality on E! Special: Aaron Aziz, airing today at 8.30pm on E! (Astro Ch 712).

In this personal scoop of Asia’s biggest stars, E! speaks to the most pivotal people in entertainment to chronicle Aaron’s ascent and how he’s become one of South-East Asia’s most prominent actors.

E! gains exclusive access to every aspect of the heart throb’s life – from the highs of his multiple award wins to the lows of the controversial government investigation into his work in Malaysia.

Aaron is honoured to be the only Asian celebrity to have his own Asia-produced E! Special.

“I was speechless. I am truly humbled by NBCUniversal’s (a media and entertainment company that owns E!) selection to be part of the special. Although I have received many acting accolades over the years, being on E! must be one of the biggest of my career,” said the friendly actor during an interview in Kuala Lumpur recently.

Acting biography

The special – recorded over two days in Kuala Lumpur – features Aaron onset in his directorial film debut, Romeo Kota, as well as an interview with E! New Asia’s host Marion Caunter.

“The whole process was a memorable one. The producers did their homework very well and asked questions (on things) which I thought they never knew,” explained the 37-year-old, who has showcased his acting prowess in over 10 films (including Ombak Rindu, Evolusi KL Drift and KL Gangster) and more than 40 TV dramas (Adam dan Hawa, Jiwa dan Lara and Saqid & Co, among others). His acting chops were further acknowledged after bagging two awards — most popular film actor and most popular artiste at last year’s Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian and popular male celebrity award at the 2012 Shout Awards. In 2010, he clinched the best supporting actor award at TV3’s Anugerah Skrin.

He added another feather in his cap with his victory over Singaporean actress Fann Wong, clinching the most popular actor (Singapore) Award at last month’s Social Star Awards. On Facebook, Aaron’s fan page has over 1.7 million “likes” and unsurprisingly, he has more than 1.1 million followers on Twitter.

Aaron hasn’t watched the biographical show yet and is looking forward to it. “I have no idea what has been revealed by my friends, but hopefully, it’s all good (laughs). Through the special, viewers will get to see my background and the hardships I’ve endured to be where I am today.”

The special also gains insight to the real Aaron through exclusive interviews with people closest to him – buddy and Singaporean rapper Sheikh Haikel, who reveals why Aaron is akin to a “brother he never had”, actress Lisa Surihani, who starred alongside the actor in blockbuster film Ombak Rindu and, his wife and manager Diyana Halik, who will shed light on their family – comprising children Danish Anaqi, 9, Dwi Ariana, 7, and Dahlia Arissa, 3 – and the couple’s working dynamic.

Aaron hopes the special will also give more prominence to homegrown talent and the Malay film industry.

“I feel blessed to represent an industry that’s relatively unknown across the globe. While Hollywood may be well versed with films from Korea, Bollywood and Thailand, very little is known about our own box office hits. Hopefully, the exposure on E! will boost the scene here and put the Asian film industry on the world map,” said Aaron, who has also showcased his versatility in theatre, acting as first parliamentary Opposition Leader, the late Dr Burhanuddin Helmi in Erma Fatimah’s Natrah.

Two years ago, he made his foray into feature-length directing with telemovie Kekasih Awal Dan Akhir.

He is currently in the post-production process of action comedy, Romeo Kota, which he also stars in. He is hosting the second season of game show Fear Factor Malaysia and plays Cikgu Malik on comedy-educational programme Oh My English! on TVIQ (Astro Ch 610).

Tough life

Viewers will get to hear first-hand from the talented actor as he touches on the life experiences that have shaped him. He reveals his childhood memories and emotional difficulties after his parents’ separation. The programme also explains how Aaron – who lived with his mother after the separation – had to juggle between odd jobs and studies to supplement his family’s income.

“I came from a broken home and life was tough. To help out with finances, I took on many part-time jobs – waiter, cleaner at Changi Airport, technician and helping my mother sell chicken rice. After high school, I opted to work instead of furthering my studies and became an insurance agent and car salesman to help ends meet,” recalled the former Ping Yi Secondary School student, who grew up in the Siglap neighbourhood in the eastern part of Singapore.

Aaron, the third of four siblings, also worked as a waiter and rose up the ranks to become assistant manager at fish and chips eatery Harry Ramsdens in Singapore. He eventually grew tired of the mundane routine in the F&B business and decided to “spice up his life” by signing up for Singapore’s Manhunt competition in 2000.

“People thought I was crazy when I quit my job to enter the contest. During the competition, I was approached by talent agencies who sponsored me for acting classes. There, I met Singaporean actor Lim Yu Beng, who taught me the tricks of the trade and his help propelled me to my acting debut in the TV series War Diary,” recalled Aaron, who won the subsidiary titles Mr Charming and Mr Personality in Manhunt.

Soon, a string of TV hit shows, such as Heartlanders and an award-winning performance in Cinta Bollywood, followed. But it was a chance spotting by top Malay director Erma Fatimah, who persuaded Aaron to break into Malaysia’s film industry, that eventually took him to the top.

“Cementing my career in Malaysia was far from smooth sailing. Some people commented that I had the looks but no talent. Plus, I received a lot of flak from my elder sister, who was against my decision to venture into the entertainment field.

“I took it all in my stride and persevered. My goal back then was to learn the acting ropes, earn money for the family and prove my sister wrong. All the hard work has finally paid off and I am blessed to represent Malaysia and Singapore in the acting arena. The stint on E! has thrust me into the limelight and made my dreams come true,” he concluded.

E! Special: Aaron Aziz premieres on tonight (8.30pm) on E! (Astro Ch 712).


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