Interview of actor Samir Malik by Anaf Lello / go back to Issue 5
Samir on the set
Samir Malik is an actor from Melbourne, Australia with whom the editors of Ogina came in contact earlier this year through Melbourne's Oromo Youth Association. In recent years, he has been cast in both television and film roles and has had the opportunity to work with some well-known Australian directors. He will be appearing in the soon-to-be-released satirical movie Eliminated! (also titled Who Wants To Be a Terrorist?), whose promotional website and preview you can see by clicking [here]. He is collaborating with singer Ali Birra on an upcoming project, which Ogina will cover in a future issue. Read as Anaf interviews him about his experience, his aspirations and asks him what advice he has for other aspiring artists in the Oromo diaspora.
Anaf: What sparked your interest in acting?
Samir: Ninja Turtles and Thunder Cats. As a kid, I thought life was like a cartoon... you can be anything you want at that age... you’re fearless.
Anaf: Who are some of your inspirations?
Samir: My mother, a very active and strong women. Raised myself and five others (teenage cousins) single handedly. I sometimes wonder how she did it.
Anaf: Why do you think it’s rare (or seemingly rare) to find Oromos pursuing acting as a career?
Samir: I think religion and culture has a lot to do with it. Minimal opportunities back at home (the motherland) and most of us now are still in the post refugee phase... the new generation are more open to diverse job opportunities. You don’t just have to be a doctor anymore to be successful.
Anaf: What are some of your greatest accomplishments?
Samir: Travelling, film works, co-writing my own feature film Hitmen Don't Dig. Three years and still writing, hopefully someday I'll shoot it with some financial support... from a miracle investor.
Anaf: Which role would you say has been your favourite thus far?
Samir: I don’t have one that stands out at the moment. I think it'll end up being the one that changes my life... forever.
Anaf: During the shooting of Eliminated!, you had the opportunity to work with Dee McLachlan, who has made a name for herself through directing, writing, producing and editing several films throughout the last decade or so. How was that experience?
Samir: I’ve worked with Dee before on her previous feature – The Jammed. Although I had a very small role. I remember just being really comfortable with her style and approach. She really gives actors the space needed to do their job. I think I just had a lot of trust in her due to that experience, so it made me worry less about everything else and think of the smaller picture, my role. Sometimes an actor can get really distracted if he’s thinking about the movie in its entirety. If you don’t have much faith in the script or the people you’re working with, it can really affect your performance. I felt like she wouldn’t be wasting her time on making rubbish, so I put all my negative thoughts aside. Dee gave me the freedom to create my own character from scratch and just run with it.
Anaf: How would you say you've progressed as an actor since you began?
Samir: I think an actor is always learning, you know, there’s no ending. There’s probably a beginning, but never an ending. There’s always room for progress. The crazy thing about acting is, you don’t actually know when you’re doing a great job... or if you’ve gotten better so to speak. The only time you notice anything major is when you see yourself in previous works.... and you just cringe!! I’m always cringing. Sometimes I think the people who hire me for work are crazy. That they’ve got the wrong guy for the job, and I’ve played this big trick on them. I’m never satisfied and I guess that’ll always be my drive.
action shot from
Anaf: Do you think growing up in the Diaspora – namely, in Melbourne – has given you any advantages or disadvantages, or influenced your style?
Samir: I think in everything I do they’ll be a reflection of my roots. My features, the colour of my skin will always tell you where I’m from. I don’t think it’s given me an advantage in Melbourne. Not much is written for people of my type. Australia is a very young country, the film business is slowly growing. Our population can never be compared to that of L.A. for example. That city’s population itself is equivalent to the whole of Australia. Having said that, I think when you have an African-Australian working in this industry... it’s a unique and fresh look.
Anaf: How did working on a television series differ from your experience with films?
Samir: Television is more fast paced. I think you have a lot more time to get it right with film. Both in rehearsals and on the job, the stakes are higher on film... Directors are more lenient. I haven’t done too much TV work though; most of my experience has been in the theatre or on a feature film. I like it that way.
Anaf: What advice do you have for other young Oromo artists trying to pursue their craft?
Samir: I think the best advice for any artist, without getting too mushy about it, is persistence. If you keep doing something long enough, someone in your field is bound to "need" you. It’s the inevitable. Also knowing that life is much more then what you’re running after. So when there’s a drought, stress less. I love acting, but it’s not everything. I’m much more fascinated by people. Acting is about playing different roles, walking in foreign shoes. It becomes less work and more fun when you understand people.
Anaf Lello is a student living and working in Toronto, Canada. She became involved with Ogina after attending the Oromo Youth Leadership Conference in 2008.