Interview: Actor Aric Hidir Amin, on His Leading Role in ‘Sacred Guardians: The Audio Drama’7 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
For Aric Hidir Amin, acting boils down to one word: believability. For the last 15 years, the 36-year-old has been honing his craft throughout Southeast Asia. Notable works under his belt include starring roles in anthology film 7 Letters (2015), HBO Asia series Folklore, and Malaysian neo-noir series Devoted. Being trilingual has enabled Aric to take on projects in English, Malay and Mandarin, all while bringing a depth of authenticity to each role.
It is this attention to his craft that scored him the Best Actor Award at the National Youth Film Awards 2020 for his heartrending portrayal of a father fighting to move on from his troubled past in What We May Be, directed by Ashwind Menon.
With his role in Sacred Guardians: The Audio Drama, Aric was presented with the unique challenge of humanising an immortal being through voice acting alone.
Supported by National Arts Council’s Digital Presentation Grant (2021) and published by Asiapac Books, Sacred Guardians: The Audio Drama is a one-to-one telling of the graphic novel of the same name, penned by Aydeel Djoeharie. Sacred Guardians is part of the Sacred Guardian Singa project, an endeavour by tokuAsia to realise Singapore’s very own live-action superhero, and serves as the prequel to the upcoming live-action series.
The comic book and a slew of Sacred Guardian Singa merchandise are available on the project’s website. Sacred Guardians: The Audio Drama is now streaming on Spotify, Soundcloud and Audiomack, and will soon head to Mixcloud, Storytel, Libby (OverDrive) and YouTube.
In it, Aric voices Dev, an immortal protector of our realm who seeks and unites the five Sacred Guardians to defend the world from a demonic invasion. With his performance, he solidifies Dev’s role as an unwavering champion of men, creating an enveloping and enigmatic character that brings readers and listeners on an exciting journey across ancient Southeast Asia.
The multi-hyphenate first found out about the Sacred Guardian Singa project at Singapore Comic Con 2019. He was impressed by the project’s concept trailer and its fight choreography.
Aric recalls: “As a third party, I was just glad to see that there was such content happening in Singapore. A few months later, I got the call from [TokuAsia CEO Basil Yeo] and I was shocked. I thought I was just observing from afar.”
“Basil said that he has been following the TV projects and short films I was working on, even my work in Malaysia. I thought, ‘Wow, this guy follows my work? I’m just a regular actor, man!’ I felt very blessed and appreciated. I was more than happy to take on the project.”
Sacred Guardians: The Audio Drama is the second audio drama the lifelong listener of the format has worked on and his first in English. He looked to bring his approaches towards acting to the project. Aric makes it a point for every role to not only change the way he looks but also his mannerisms and habits to try to achieve a level of authenticity in his body language, often requiring days and hours of preparation and homework.
In preparation for the audio drama, he referred to animes to study how voice actors delivered their dialogue. He shares: “I just kept listening and listening. I realised that there’s this level of pacing that is authentic to every character. Like [anime character] Naruto is always very fast, he doesn’t speak very calmly… from there I realised that both the voice and pacing of the character must be authentic because that’s the only way you can create a voice identity.”
Given the differences in personalities, Dev’s character was initially hard to grasp. He shares that he considers himself a loner (“I’m a gamer, bro!”) and is very reserved about his personal life online. The similarities between him and Dev mainly came with their laid-back attitudes.
Aric explains: “Dev has been around for hundreds of years. I believe he has seen a lot of humanity so he tends to be more empathetic. For example, if a young person’s friend lies to them, they might get angry. But someone like Dev would be more understanding and monk-like. Even people cheat you, you relax only.”
Aric was frank about the differences in the level of empathy Dev has as compared to his. “Dev has this innate desire to take care of things; to take care of civilisation and mankind. I don’t have that. I’m empathetic towards my friends and loved ones but I don’t have that same level of empathy towards strangers… It was hard to get that energy inside me [for the performance].”
Due to his busy schedule, he was unable to physically join the rest of the cast during the recording sessions. Thankfully, having majored in music and being involved with his own music productions meant that Aric was able to record his lines from his home studio. To match the energy of the cast and for reference on the graphic novel’s atmosphere, Aric visualised himself within the evocative visuals of Alan Bay’s illustrations.
After receiving feedback from Aydeel, who is both the comic’s author and its audio drama’s director, Aric realised that the key to humanising Dev was to bring out the old soul inside of him. He shares: “I cannot see what Dev has seen because he’s not human. So the only thing I can do is to try to be the person who is at peace with a lot of things and basically accept things for what they are… I tried to envision myself to be the most empathetic person I can be.”
He adds: “I really think this audio drama will bring a different life to the comic book. Usually, people who read books imagine stuff and how characters behave in their head. With this audio drama now, readers can feel more than just visuals.”
Following his experience with Sacred Guardians: The Audio Drama, future audio dramas are not off the table for Aric, who is selective about the work he takes on. “It depends on the script, actually. I don’t take on a lot of projects every year… I try not to take on too much work because whenever I work, I put in [my] 200%. For me, it’s more about the craft.”
“To really excel in one’s craft. You need to be obsessed. You cannot just have passion. You need to be obsessed with your craft. That is what I feel.”
The multi-talented performer is currently working on music and hopes to release a new single in the near future. Aric will also be involved with more producing and directing work. More recently, Aric worked with Hariz Zulkifli to co-direct and co-produce A Short Film for my Son, which is nominated at this year’s National Youth Film Awards.
The short film, starring veteran actor Daeng Amer Omar, is both a documentary of the pandemic’s effects on the Geylang Serai Market and a touching story of a father’s efforts to get closer to his ever-busy son. A Short Film for my Son will be screened next month at the Geylang Serai Film Festival.
Sacred Guardians: The Audio Drama was released on 17 June 2021, with a virtual screening party and Q&A session held on 20 June 2021 featuring Aric, Aydeel, artist Alan Bay and Chong Lingying, manager of Asiapac, to celebrate its launch. Check it out below:
Banner image credit: Aric Hidir Amin / tokuAsia