RAISING HIS GAME. Morgan Oey continues to raise his game as a big-screen actor, even as he continues to dream of an epic musical comeback
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When he was first featured in the magazine, Morgan Oey was still a member SM*SH, a popular pop-dance boy-band that helped shape Indonesia’s music scene in the early 2010s. That, however, was a good five years ago. Today, Oey is an accomplished actor with around 10 big screen titles to his name. And that is on top of his TV appearances which are almost too many to count.
Interestingly, Oey has also become part of the Indonesian film industry’s push into web series through a new show titled “Switch.” “I got a call from [director] Nia Dinata who wanted to cast me as Richard, a barista,” he says of his involvement in the show. “It’s a web series, but we’re treating it like a movie; so the story has to be good— and the storyline is great—as is the direction team.” then he adds: “and the character is also challenging.”
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As it turns out, Oey’s role in “Switch” is that of a barista. So, he was sent off to a workshop to learn about coffee, coffee-making and the intricacies of latte art. Still, he was quite happy to go through all that. “I like it when in a project, besides making new friends, I can also pick up new skills,” he explains. “Besides, Richard is a fun, loveable and charming character.”
Furthermore, he’s also quite optimistic about the prospects of web series in Indonesia. “The Indonesian market is very reliable,” Oey elaborates. “We love to watch Korean soaps, right? This follows the same concept, only we air it through video-on-demand.” Consistency and continuity, however, remain an ever-present challenge, especially as the on-demand format often forces the crew to shoot in a non-chronological order. “So, after shooting for, say, episode three scene eight,” Oey recalls, “the next scene we do is for episode eight scene five.”
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It was quite interesting to hear Oey mention Korean dramas as before “Switch,” his biggest film project was “Sweet 20.” “This is an official adaptation of the Korean film ‘Miss Granny,’” he goes on. “I’ve watched the original and the storyline was so good and I’m happy to play with a real ensemble cast.” The movie went on to attract more than a million moviegoers—still the magic number for Indonesia’s movie industry and a first for Oey after spending three years in the business.
Of course, Oey can also recount quite a few other “memorable firsts” that became the major milestones of his acting career. Indeed, his very first movie appearance in “Assalamualaikum Beijing” also resulted in his very first movie award— for favorite newcomer at the 2015 Maya awards. “I had no background in acting, I was completely self-taught, so this achievement made me really happy,” he recounts. Oey would then find his second major milestone in “Mooncake Story,” where he had the opportunity to work with Indonesian movie maestro Garin Nugroho. “He raised my game,” Oey said simply.
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The game, it would seem, is still rising for Morgan Oey. “I actually have finished shooting several movie project,” he goes on. “There’s one action movie, there’s ‘Cooking Camp’ where I’m playing as a chef and working with Ifa Isfansyah and then one more that I can’t talk about yet.” Then he adds: “there are still so many characters I have to try.”
Our conversation then veered into music. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that Oey was part of a new wave of pop that took Indonesia by storm. In the early 2010s, SM*SH was virtually everywhere. Even today, he still performs off-air once in a while, and when we talked about his goals for the future, after mentioning about new characters to explore, he added, “but in music, [my goal] is definitely a comeback, my first single. But it’s still mostly wait-and-see.”
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When pressed for details or leaks about his planned comeback, he replies: “well, there’s really nothing to leak yet because we’re still only talking about it; it’s still in the conceptual stage as I haven’t found a producer who’s a good fit for me.”
Still, his musical hiatus also allowed him to find new passions. “Since I’ve learned how to cook for my role in ‘Cooking Camp,’” he says, referring to an upcoming children’s movie that has garnered a lot of attention lately, “I’ve been thinking about creating my own business.” Not that this comes off as much of a surprise, though, as plenty of Indonesian actors and singers have gone into the restaurant business to establish their own eateries. Quite a few of them have been successful.
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There is, however, one final passion of Oey’s that has gone quite beyond the concept stage—partly thanks to his acting career. See, also like many of his contemporaries, Oey has been an avid traveler. At the same time, many Indonesian movies now take place in foreign countries or at least feature multiple scenes shot abroad. Put the two together, and you get one very happy actor who thoroughly enjoys the way his work requires him to spend a lot of time away from home.