After three years on Channel 5’s Tanglin, Fauzie Laily makes his return to the Singapore stage in A $ingapore Carol. He chats with us about how working in the theatre helps him learn and grow as a performer.
Tell us about the character you’re playing in A $ingapore Carol.
I’m playing Robert Aloysius Santa Maria de Crachit, S.K. Loo’s personal assistant. He’s the longest-serving member of the billionaire’s staff, and was around even before S.K. Loo’s career took off. He’s very loyal to S.K. Loo, for reasons only he knows, and he will tahan whatever he kena from his boss. It’s quite interesting to play because, when de Crachit is at home with his kids and wife, he takes control. But he becomes a different, smaller person whenever he’s at work.
What’s it been like for you to return to the theatre?
It’s a challenge that I really appreciate, partly because it’s so different from acting on TV. There’s no room for mistakes in the theatre. You have to always be on point. That’s why we need so many rehearsals and so much practice. I’m treating this experience as a brand-new training ground – an opportunity for me to start from scratch. Whenever I come onto a new project, I like to make myself a blank slate. That way, I can re-learn whatever I think I know, both as an actor and a singer. I must confess I hate learning choreography, but I’m also being forced to dance in this show, which is good for me! [laughs]
That’s really refreshing to hear, from someone with your experience!
There’s always room to learn, and you can always improve. And that’s not just because I’m working with people who have more stage experience than I do. There’s also room to learn from young people, like Rachel Chin, who’s in the ensemble. I like to observe and learn how other people approach their craft. My bottom line is that, whatever you do, try to be a better version of yourself. I’ve always believed that you’re only as good as your next project.
Tell us about working with your director, Hossan Leong.
We know each other quite well – I’ve worked with him on some other shows, like President’s Star Charity. But I had no idea what he would be like as a director. I’m glad to say that his personality has really rubbed off on all of us. He’s very positive, and doesn’t put anyone down. He knows our weaknesses and strengths, and he knows how to make all that work for the show. As an actor, I really appreciate that a lot. Also, he buys us food! What more could we want from a director? [laughs]
You’ll be working closely with Siti Khalijah Zainal, who’s a veteran of both the theatre industry and the W!LD RICE pantomime. What’s that been like?
It’s fantastic, because I’ve always wanted to work with her. And now she’s playing my wife in A $ingapore Carol! To me, Siti is a good role model – she’s proven herself, time and again, and is so well-respected in the theatre industry. It’s even more impressive when you know her backstory: how she graduated from ITE, and theatre just wasn’t considered an option for someone with her background. But she did it. So it’s great to get to work with someone I look up to. And it was awesome to discover that she’s also really down-to-earth!
Fauzie hits the recording studio to make beautiful music for A $ingapore Carol!
Let’s talk a little about Tanglin, which ended its run in September after 823 episodes. How did you juggle that schedule and stay fresh as a performer?
The schedule was definitely intense. I did the show for three-and-a-half years, and we were shooting Mondays to Fridays. Performing in Tanglin definitely challenged me as an actor at different points over the years. But, as an artist, I always want to keep challenging myself, to keep doing new things. So, while shooting the show, I worked concurrently on my own album – Tunggu, an EP that I released last year. I produced it myself, and wrote songs that were based on my own story and experiences.
Were you sad to say goodbye to Tanglin?
Yes, I was. Usually, I don’t have an emotional attachment to the projects I do. I figure that I’ll see the people I work with again on other projects. But we worked with the same people, the same crew, for three years on Tanglin. We were like family.
And I’m proud to have been part of a show that was a milestone in Singapore’s TV history. People can say what they want about Tanglin – that it’s predictable and all that. But, for the first time, the show gave minority characters the same amount of stories and screen time. That happens more often in the theatre, but it’s still very rare on TV. Also, the show gave struggling artists in Singapore hope. I hope it’s helped to change parents’ perceptions of whether there’s a future for their children in the entertainment industry.
Especially for young Malay performers and talents?
Absolutely. When I was growing up, I watched Malay performers like Najip Ali and Suhaimi Yusof, and they served as examples for me. I felt that I could make a living as an artist because they did. So now that I have the same responsibility, I take it very seriously. My objective is to show the next generation that there is a future for them in entertainment. Even today, the mentality in the Malay community is along the lines of: ‘Sign up for the Home Team, and you’re set.’ As a Malay celebrity, I always get asked: ‘Eh, you never go Malaysia ah? How to survive like that?’ Because they think we can’t sustain a career unless we go overseas. So I’m thankful and proud that I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and I’ve survived doing it all in Singapore!
Fauzie Laily makes his pantomime debut in A $ingapore Carol, which plays at the Victoria Theatre from 23 November to 15 December 2018! Find out more here!