Remember Aaron Aziz? You know, Vincent Ng’s policeman sidekick in popular Ch 5 drama Heartlanders, which ran from 2002 to 2005? Since turning his focus to projects across the Causeway more than a decade ago, the 41-year-old Singaporean has sealed his status as the go-to-leading man in Malaysia. But despite being away from the Singapore showbiz scene for many years, Aaron still managed to win the Singapore's Most Popular Actor in the Social Star Awards in 2013. The actor now boasts an impressive 2.3mil followers on Instagram (in comparison, Fann Wong has 305k followers). The multi-tasker also runs his own management and production company, where he grooms young talents.
Now, he has his eyes set on the wider Asian region. In Hongkong, where he starred in movies like 2016's Special Female Force, he was dubbed “Malaysia’s Andy Lau” by the local press. He recently wrapped up filming for upcoming Indian Tamil space thriller flick Tik Tik Tik. But he's not forgotten his roots. As the actor puts it: "Ch 5 is the place where my career was born." So come end April, he will make his Ch 5 comeback in Meet the MP as the idealistic, newly-elected MP Danial Razali.
8 DAYS: You’re back on Ch 5 with Meet the MP, a sitcom where you play Danial Razali, a newly-elected MP. We haven’t seen you on local TV for a while now.
AARON AZIZ: On [Ch 5], yeah. But Suria acquires a lot of my programmes from Malaysia, so the Malay community here still see me quite a bit. In the beginning, filming Meet the MP was a bit tough ’cos it’s been a while since I did a sitcom and comedy is not my forte. But, luckily, I’m supported by a great cast. We actually did the pilot back in 2015. I was much thinner back then (laughs).
In one ep, you’re reunited with your Heartlanders co-star Vincent Ng.
It was very funny when we had to do a basketball scene. When we did those scenes on Heartlanders, we would wear singlets. But now, I can’t wear a singlet ’cos I’m twice the size (laughs). But Vincent still maintained his physique. It was a pretty awkward moment doing that scene. The director wanted us to just keep on playing basketball. But, unlike 13 years ago, our stamina has decreased and our movements aren’t as graceful as before (laughs).
Your last Ch 5 appearance was on 2007’s Police & Thief. What memories do you have of making a Ch 5 show back then?
I miss those days when I’d take a cab or the MRT to Caldecott Hill where I’d get my make-up done. Vincent and I would then take the bus to the void deck to shoot some scenes for Heartlanders. I have a lot of memories at Caldecott Hill. Those were my tough days when I had just gotten married and acting opportunities were scarce. Pay-wise, I couldn’t demand much and had to take whatever was given to me. Sometimes, I’d sit down in some corner in Caldecott, thinking (sighs), “What’s going to happen to my life? How am I going to raise my son?”
Was that why you left for Malaysia in 2005 for greener pastures?
I went there ’cos I wasn’t getting much offers here. After I won the Most Popular Award [at Pesta Perdana, Suria’s version of the Star Awards] back in 2001, offers started pouring in from Malaysia. It took me two years to break into the Malaysian scene. Those were the really tough days when I had to shuttle between KL and Singapore almost every day for two years — and I was getting paid in Ringgit. And there were big-time actors who looked at me like, “Who are you? There are so many other male actors here who can do the job. Why are you here?” Back then, they didn’t provide lodging, so I slept in cars and took showers at petrol stations to save money (laughs). I did that almost every time I had to film in Malaysia ’cos I was drawing about RM4,000 (S$1,300) a month. How else was I going to survive? After two years, in 2007, I finally got a contract with [Malaysian cable channel] Astro and I got to receive a monthly salary. That was when I could afford to rent a place in Malaysia and bring my wife and kids over. Even then, the place I rented only had a TV set; we slept on mattresses and there was no furniture. It was a tough beginning. Now, everything’s good and my kids are in international schools, so everything was worth it.
As one of the top actors there now, did your success draw jealousy from your Malaysian peers?
(Laughs) Yeah, of course. But there will always be critics and not everybody will like you. Some of them said there should be more actors whose [success] should be based on their talent and not on their looks. I have won the Most Popular Artiste award twice over there. When I won the first time, one critic said, “Why are we nominating a non-local?” But I get it from here as well. In 2002, when I won the Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role at the Pesta Perdana, the artiste that I attended the awards with — whom I thought was my buddy — actually said, “If Aaron wins, I’m not going to act anymore.” (Laughs) He was jealous. That was when I started to understand some artistes don’t know when to stop acting: They act nice in front of you, but say things behind your back.
Can you walk on the streets in Malaysia without getting mobbed by fans?
I can’t, and I really pity my kids. Sometimes, my kids would go, “Dad, can we go cycling?” I say, “Sorry, I can’t” and I’d tell them that we can go at a certain hour [when it’s less crowded]. When I’m out with my kids, they would look around and see if I’ve been spotted. They would say, “Daddy, someone to your three o’clock has noticed you.” I’d tell them, “It’s okay, just keep on walking.” In the past, when I was out with my family and people wanted to take pictures with me, my youngest daughter would get upset ’cos she wanted to spend time with me. But I explain to my kids, “Do not be angry at them. They’re the reason I’m able to provide for you right now.”
What’s the craziest thing your fans have done for you?
During the Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian awards, my fanclub in Malaysia, Aaronators, would snap up the newspapers for the ballot forms inside. They would buy enough Berita Harian papers to fill up an entire room. They actually rented bungalows to store the papers, and six or seven members would take turns after work to fill up the forms. They even fed their babies while doing it. This happened over a period of six months. Think about how much money and time they wasted. Three years ago, when I saw what they went through just to vote for me, I told them to stop doing it and use the money to buy Pampers for their kids instead. Since I’ve won that award twice, I don’t want them to go through that again. That’s why in the past two years, I wasn’t in the running for that award. I’m not boasting, but I’ve already reached my peak. I’ve already experienced the feeling of winning, so that’s enough lah.
We hear you’re usually cast as the romantic hero in the Malaysian dramas.
People just like me in those kind of roles ’cos 80 per cent of my fans are women (laughs), and they love romantic plotlines. Sometimes, people would say to my wife, “Wah, you so lucky ah. You have a husband who is so sweet.” I’d say, “Hey, that’s acting leh.” Many years ago, I played a very sweet husband on a drama and some viewers petitioned the TV station to stop casting actors in such roles. ’Cos after watching the show, the wives would ask their husbands, “Why can’t you be like [my character]?” I was like, hey, it’s not my fault — I’m just acting (laughs). Haiyah, my wife also says that to me after watching Korean dramas lah (laughs).
Meet the MP premieres Apr 26 (Wed), Ch 5, 9.30pm.
PHOTOS: KELVIN CHIA/CH 5