Chasing Hollywood dreams

02 Dec 2019 / 10:50 H.

MAYA KARIN has an impressive body of work that would be the envy of any actress. Over the past 20 years, she has proven herself to be one of the most versatile actresses in the Malaysian film scene.

She made her film debut in 2000 with Seri Dewi Malam, directed by Aziz M. Osman, and landed a few minor supporting roles afterwards.

But it was her turn as the doomed vampire Meriam in the 2004 blockbuster horror-drama Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam that really catapaulted her to stardom.

Audiences were captivated by her stunning good looks and by her terrifying, moving performance.

A string of films followed, with Maya taking on a variety of roles such as a gorgeous mermaid in Duyung, a tomboy in Anak Halal, a submissive rape victim in Ombak Rindu, a disturbed killer in Jwanita, a vengeful wife in Nota and most recently, as a mother protecting her son from evil spirits in Munafik 2.

Directors have praised her professionalism and commitment to her craft, and this year, Maya is taking her career to the next level by heading to Hollywood.

In July, she flew to Los Angeles to shoot Alone, a zombie film in which she plays a scientist trying to stop the infection from spreading in the city. She will share the screen with TV star Tyler Posey (of Teen Wolf fame) and Hollywood veteran Donald Sutherland.

The film is due out next year, along with Maya’s second Hollywood collaboration, the supernatural thriller Kingdom/Alam, which was shot in Malaysia. She will also be seen in two popular local film franchise sequels, Abang Long Fadil 3 and Munafik 3.

Maya is seriously toying with the idea of relocating to Los Angeles next year to focus on finding more film opportunities in Hollywood.

She also wants to be a film producer, and to tell stories she finds interesting.

In this exclusive interview, Maya tells theSun about her experience with Hollywood projects, ageing gracefully and her latest role – as an environmentalist.

Tell us about your experience working on Kingdom/Alam.

“They had a strict schedule, where they only shot for 12 hours a day. We could go home, get enough sleep and see our loved ones. I wish we could implement that [time limit] here.

“Some film productions in Malaysia have long hours on set. I remember that for one film, I [was shooting] from 7am to 10am the next day. It was more than 24 hours. It was super exhausting.

“Crew members [have it worse]. There was a runner for one film who had to send the whole cast home, including me. The runner could not go home [himself] because there was not enough time. His next call time on set was [just] six hours later.

“So he parked at the nearest petrol station to get a few hours sleep. He had to wash himself at the station’s toilet before reporting to work the next morning.”

Why do you think the hours are long on Malaysian film sets?

“Sometimes, a director walks on set not knowing what he wants to shoot. He goes for a smoke break while figuring out what his next move will be. We [have to] wait for him.

“We have gotten used to the culture of long hours, waiting and working at a slow pace. If we have [the policy of a] 12-hour shoot day, then everything will move at a faster pace because we have a deadline to meet. I believe everyone will be more prepared before coming on set.”

You just turned 40. Most actresses are afraid of losing good roles as they age. Do you have this fear?

“Now, I have found more energy within myself to take care of myself ... to exercise ... and to find new projects. My ‘rezeki’ has not stopped. I still get lead roles.

“Look at Sandra Bullock. She is in her 50s. She looks great for her age [and] still gets lead roles. Attitudes are changing in the Malaysian film industry, too. Malaysian audiences are looking for good stories.”

Some actresses resort to plastic surgery to look young. What about you?

“Many times I have looked at some women who have done plastic surgery, and it does not make them look any younger. Getting older is natural and normal.

“I work out. I never touch soft drinks. Once in a while, I will take a sip of Milo Ais because I miss it. I am a vegetarian.

“Age is in the eye [of the beholder]. I have seen 28-year-olds who look like they are in their 40s. There is no spark in their eyes.”

You have never acted in television shows. Why?

“It is a conscious decision. I want to maintain my status as a film actress. I hear too many horror stories about television productions.

“Some actors are forced to shoot 22 scenes in one day. As a result, some actors do not act. They just change their attire and ... say their dialogue. The actors are also forced to buy their own wardrobe.

“I [am not looking] down on people who are doing TV shows. I understand their predicament. They do not have a choice. Everyone has to ‘cari makan’. They have to accept TV offers.

“Luck has been kind to me and I have [been able to choose to work] only on films. But there are some TV productions like Juvana and Nur Kasih who look after their cast and crew very well.”

What is your biggest challenge as a Malaysian actress?

“I am a low key person. By nature, I am an introvert. But the thing is if you are not well known and popular, you will not get good, challenging roles, and I look forward [to those].

“My job requires me to be an extrovert. I am constantly finding a balance between being an introvert and an extrovert.”

What is happening with your love life?

“I wish I knew. Absolutely nothing. I have not gone on any dates at all.”

Did your divorce (Maya was married to schoolteacher Steven David Shorthose from 2008 to 2010) affect you and make you unable to trust in love?

“I did have a boyfriend for two years after my divorce.

“It was a long distance relationship. He was not willing to give up his career, and I was not going to give up my career. He was a businessman based in the United Kingdom and he wanted me to move to England.

“But even if I were to become his wife and live in London, I would only [be able to] see him twice a week, [because] he travelled to Europe constantly for his business.

“I was so in love with him. It really hurt, [but] I had to call it off.”

In January you were made the ambassador for the River of Life project. Why are you so passionate about the environment?

“[Growing up,] my weekends were about swimming in rivers, having bonfires on the beach, and climbing trees. I was also exposed to recycling. Why are we ignoring the fact that we have only one earth? We need to protect what we have.

“As the ambassador of River of Life, my job is to [teach people to] appreciate our rivers and keep them clean. We have a terrible mentality where we believe the river is like [a rubbish bin] and we can throw any rubbish we want into the river.

“Did you know the government spends RM500,000 every month just to clean our rivers in the Klang Valley?

“I really believe we should have a subject in school where we can educate young minds about our relationship with nature.”

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