Tony Eusoff (born on April 3, 1977 in Kuching, Sarawak and raised in Siburan) is a Malaysian male actor with a successful career in local television, theatre and film dramas, he’s also an accomplished singer and musician. Tony’s talents now place him firmly into the international spotlight.
In an exclusive interview with HOMME Magazine Tony speaks openly about his latest project Shadowplay. Directed by the young and talented Tony Pietra Arjuna…
HOMME: You have two features premiering back-to-back this month: Shadowplay on August 27 as a digital release in North America and Revenge of the Pontianak theatrically on the 29th in Singapore. How would you pimp both films as a summertime, Tony Eusoff double bill?
A: Tony Eusoff the double mystery! I’m shit at captioning, but both films have full blown elements of mystery, and I’ve been told that I’m quite the man of mystery in real life.
HOMME: With your own thoughts, how do you describe Shadowplay and your role as its protagonist?
A: Shadowplay follows the journey of Anton – a rookie detective with a child’s curious mind, as he takes on a case to find the missing Lamya. As he dives deeper into the mystery, his universe takes a wild turn – in order to find Lamya, he is forced to revisit a dark past and overcome its demons. But as the psychedelic plots unfold the line gets blurred further between what’s real, and what is fantasy. All this over an intriguing, retro soundtrack reminiscent of 80’s synth pop. This movie is quite a trip. Be ready.
HOMME: In what way is the film different or unique from your other work?
A: Shadowplay is rare in that I’m in almost every other shot. This is the most amount of airtime I’ve ever had in a feature thus far. It’s also the first neo-noir experience for me, and perhaps for most on the project. High on neon, the story takes you through a labyrinth of unexpected places and dimensions.
HOMME: How in the world did you get roped into it?
A: I met Tony Pietra Arjuna back in 2008 while shooting a TV series called ‘Ghost’, when Tony was filling in as director for one of the episodes. He told me about Shadowplay – a detective mystery thriller he thought I’d be perfect for. He also handed me the first draft of the script then. A few more drafts and a couple of false starts later, the film was finally made.
HOMME: Can you give some insight into your acting process; i.e. did you channel any of your past/recent experiences to bring this character’s psychological complexity to life? Were there influences involved?
A: My approach to the character is simple: read it, study it and imagine it. Put myself in the character’s universe and try to manoeuvre in that realm. Always seeking the truth in that character no matter how surreal the story. There’s definitely a bit of David Lynch there somewhere. Meeting the director’s vision, at least half way, is always the most fun part of acting for me.
HOMME: Every classic hero has a leading lady, so tell us a bit about newcomer Juria Hartmans and collaborating with her.
A: Juria has been nothing short of a trooper to work with. Not a day of our round the clock filming did she ever complain or throw diva fits. I’ve worked with many a newcomer in my career but she is pretty way up there in terms of commitment and dedication. I’m pretty sure her modelling background has been instrumental in her professionalism. She is perfect as the Ethereal Lamya.
HOMME: The director was inspired by American noir cinema when making Shadowplay. He was hell bent on casting you because in his mind, you’re the only Malaysian star who embodies the old-school, rugged masculinity of icons like Steve McQueen or Robert Mitchum. What is your view on this?
A: I would say he (Tony Pietra) needs to go out and socialise more. Having said that it’s always an honour to be likened to a classic persona. I grew up watching such icons from secretly raiding the VHS tapes cabinet of the catholic priest my mother was working for as a housekeeper. An early exposure to a combination of classic Hollywood cinema and British TV has played a pivotal role in my acting vocabulary. I only started acting at the relatively late age of 27, so it was an influence I realised later on in life.
HOMME: On that note, the movie was positioned for an English-speaking niche with designs on an overseas audience. Sure enough, it’s getting OTT distribution in the USA’s indie market.
Do you think that by risking a limited viewership locally, it’s worth testing your exportable/universal appeal with this small but significant step?
A: I’m not sure if the limited local viewership was a thoroughly thought out plan or rather a move for the lack of options, but hey, we need to roll with whatever the punches here. Satisfying a niche market is always risky, but in the case of Shadowplay it may just work in the name of cultism. While noir cinema may have a limited appeal locally, the OTT distribution will make it very accessible to fans of the genre worldwide.
HOMME: With your co-starring appearance in Viu Malaysia’s series Jibril and now Shadowplay, do you see the online/streaming platform as a new frontier for your career and perhaps this industry to evolve?
A: Online platforms are the way of the future whether we like it or not. It’s just one of those global changes that we need to get with. Stubbornly clinging on to yesterday’s formats may cost you your career in the long run. You either get with the times or get left behind. The choice is yours.
HOMME: Our HOMME readers would like to know what are you doing now and what is next on the professional horizon?
A: I’m currently filming a horror flick in Sarawak, and hoping to be part of an international project in the not too distant future. I promise you’ll be seeing more of me next year and hopefully even more in the years to come. The goal is world domination. So far so good.