Screen Kings: April/May 2023 Cover Story ft. Jeremy Thomas, Surya Saputra, Ferry Salim & Marcelino Lefrandt

In an intimate rendezvous, four great talents from the golden age of Indonesian showbiz–Jeremy Thomas, Surya Saputra, Ferry Salim, & Marcelino Lefrandt– take a trip down memory lane while talking about their acting journey in the entertainment industry.

On Marcelino Lefrandt outfit by Versace; on Ferry Salim and Surya Saputra outfit by Givenchy; on Jeremy Thomas outfit by Ermenegildo Zegna

Jeremy Thomas

Between his enviable success in cinema and television, running his own production house, his high enthusiasm for personal fitness and his role as an entrepreneur with a mission, Jeremy Thomas is a persona of endless talents.

The legendary actor sits down with DAMAN following a fun photoshoot with his peers and shares his journey, what makes him who he is today and what the future looks like.

Outfit by Zegna

Championing the TV industry

Having accomplished everything he set out to do so far, the Portuguese- Filipino-Dutch mixed actor understands Indonesia’s rich entrepreneurial landscape, including show business, a field he entered at the young age of 22. Since then, thanks to his agile character, Thomas has evolved to master multiple endeavours.

“I’m thankful to have developed an agile personal trait. After starting as an actor, I decided to start my own production house and other businesses. I don’t particularly appreciate following templates in my personal and work life. I’m always looking for something new and different,” says Thomas.

Having experienced show business early on, Thomas explained how the industry is unique compared to other fields of work and that there is no particular apex or standpoint to his career, “There is no stopping, no such thing as an ex-actor and no retirement or age limitation to create. Look at Michelle Yeoh saying there is no limitation to what women (or anyone) can achieve. Show business is an industry where anyone can be a champion at any age. You could have a turning point on a monthly, weekly, even daily basis.”

He mentions a unique point in his career where there were only four private TV stations and how this helped him dominate, most times, up to 80% of the national ratings. “There will never be another moment like that in show business, and it is something I’ll never forget. The industry these days is very volatile. New starts would remain on top probably for a year or two before the next big name replaces them.”

The Entrepreneur

The next level of his growth was starting his own production house. At age 30, Thomas became well-versed in the industry’s off-screen aspect and began understanding how to spot and recruit potential talents.

The upgrade was challenging. As an entrepreneur, Thomas needed to develop a more holistic point of view of the lifestyle show business, as opposed to an actor, who is only responsible for his role on-screen. “It was no longer just getting paid, coming to the set, acting and wrapping up. An entrepreneur must also account for other emotional and intelligent factors around him. You need to conquer all these elements to upscale.”

Drawing on his experience on and off the screen, Thomas shares his perspective regarding the local TV and film industry, “There is ample room for growth. In terms of demographic, considering we have a population of 270 million or so, right? Yet, hitting a target audience of 14 million, or roughly 5% for a film, is still very challenging. And why is that?”

Thomas explains that the industry’s mindset is the most crucial factor, “We need to look at India or Korea and their global mindset. Beyond just budget, the industry needs to think about the endgame and the direction. Underline this: film is the only platform through which a nation can channel its soft diplomacy power. A movie is a means of soft diplomacy. Through it, Indonesia can escalate the culture, the beautiful people, the arresting natural landscape and take it beyond borders out into the world.”

Thomas stresses that the industry and the authorities should invest in these strong points without holding back. He further elaborates that it is time to gradually upgrade the perspective from the mainstream horror genre just because it’s guaranteed to generate more returns.

According to Thomas, there is much room for improvement in the television industry, “It is unfortunate to see the emphasis on negative sentiments, destructive elements and toxic segments in television these days. Highlights include criminal acts, shocking, attention-grabbing stunts and wrongdoings. People no longer praise positive accomplishments, achieving athletes, or for example, the extraordinary charms of Bali. It’s all about exploitation and gossip to satisfy consumption parameters.”

Film and television have the power to educate and change consumers’ demands by shining a positive light on produced content. “It will take effort and time, but if India or South Korea have managed to do that, then I see no reason for us to do the same,” says Thomas, “And as for the government? Suppose budgeting support like those two countries is out of the question. In that case, they should at least provide a safe, conducive, facilitative environment for the industry to thrive positively.”

Future Aspirations

Thomas is looking towards the future with much enthusiasm. He has acquired more than 20 intellectual properties with great potential, with titles for both movies and series to develop. “I’m a very romance-driven individual. I have major plans to develop titles that touch the senses of romance, happiness, joy and other emotions positively,” says Thomas, “One of these titles, coming out in August, is Romeo’s Broken Vow (Romeo Ingkar Janji). More than just a typical romance flick, this film will incorporate mental health, psychological, and deep-seated emotions.” Thomas is also developing three more titles on adult relationships, father-daughter relationships, and undisclosed work-in-progress. Beyond the screen, the energetic entrepreneur also aims to empower local resources. One of these is his own premium cigar brand that aims to add economic value to the local industry by using responsible, locally sourced tobaccos.

Producing films against a backdrop of Indonesia’s diverse landscapes, exporting locally-sourced premium cigars, and promoting new local talents, are some of the prolific actor’s contributions that add value to local communities, businesses and cultures. And he’s not stopping anytime soon. With multiple intriguing titles in development and business enterprises for a good cause in the works, Jeremy Thomas will surely be on everyone’s list to watch out for this year and beyond.

Surya Saputra

These days, the presence of Korean girl groups and boybands is felt everywhere in Indonesia. Back in the ’90s, however, we took pride in Indonesian vocal groups, as they ruled the music scene with names like Coboy, Trio Libels, Cool Colors and M.E who charmed audiences nationwide. Singer and actor, Surya Saputra, can certainly attest to that.

Outfit by Givenchy

Making his debut in the entertainment industry in 1994, Saputra started as a member of Cool Colors, a boyband with Ari Sihasale, Johandi Jahja, Teuku Ryan and Ari Wibowo. “Back in college, I met Teuku and he asked if I could sing,” he reminisces, “We talked with Emilia Contessa and met Ale [Ari Sihasale], and then eventually, we formed a group. In 1994, we launched our first album titled ‘Tataplah’, which was well received. Following a personnel change, we launched our second album, ‘Satu yang Pasti,’ in 2000. Ari [Wibowo] joined the group at that time, replacing Teuku Ryan.”

It was in 1995 that Saputra first dived into acting. He was cast in the Christ Helwedery-directed series “Harkat Wanita” alongside Asrul Zulmy and the late Ully Artha. Despite being born into a family of actors, he was initially unsure about his acting skills. “I only appeared in two episodes because I was scared,” says Saputra, “Turned out, it was an exciting experience. I became another person and eventually received appreciation from the director and my fellow cast members.” His first acting experience definitely came as a challenge. For the first day of shooting, he had three pages worth of monologues, “I remember how Ully came to me and said, ‘You’d better do it well. Don’t waste my time,” Saputra recalls

The actor’s stroke of luck didn’t stop there. In 2004, Saputra landed his first movie role for “Arisan!” Written and directed by Nia Dinata in collaboration with Joko Anwar, the story follows a group of best friends who regularly attend lavish arisan—a very Indonesian social gathering—as each character faces their battles. Saputra plays Nino, a young gay director who is the love interest of Sakti, played by Tora Sudiro. “It was thrilling to play a character I had no idea about. Playing Nino was a whole new thing,” he says, “‘Arisan!’ truly posed a challenge because I had to change how I walk, look and talk.”

The most challenging and memorable “Arisan!” moment for Saputra was the kissing scene with Tora. “Arisan!” was deemed controversial as it was the first Indonesian movie to show a kissing scene between two men. “It was wild. On D-day, everyone came to the set to tease me,” Saputra recalls, “But thankfully, we did really well, and Nia was happy with the result. Tora and I still delivered the message and the feelings in the scene.” As a testament to their grit, Saputra won Best Supporting Actor at the 2004 Indonesian Film Festival for the role, which he considers one of the most significant achievements in his acting journey. Saputra would then appear in the movie’s sequel, “Arisan! 2,” and the series.

In the following years, Saputra’s filmography expanded with titles such as “Gie” (2005),” “Long Road to Heaven” (2007) and “Milly & Mamet” (2018). His latest project includes the ongoing TV series “Ikatan Cinta,” that has taken the Internet by storm. In the series, Saputra plays Surya Lesmana, the father of the main protagonist Andini, played by Amanda Manopo. “I experienced different levels of emotion in the series,” says Saputra, “For instance, while shooting an episode, I never imagined I could feel deeply hurt and cry in pain.”

When asked about actors who inspire him, Saputra mentions Mel Gibson, Al Pacino and the late Didi Petet as his muses. However, he looks up to his late father as the role model of his life. “My father passed away when I was three years old, so I only heard stories about him from other people,” he says, “He is truly my role model, and I want to embody his character, keeping his legacy alive. In looking up to him, I want to be an amazing father for my kids and a great person for those around me.”

For now, Saputra is busy with several projects, including a mini-series for Prime that will begin filming this April and another project that will commence in June. He also looks forward to contributing more to the entertainment industry and educating young upcoming talent, hoping to be a good role model. And with his hard work, perseverance, and great work ethos, his dreams will surely come to fruition.

Ferry Salim

Ferry Salim, known for his captivating performances on both the big and small screens, is a household name in the Indonesian film industry. He started his career as a model in 1990, then debuted as the lead in the popular soap opera “Kembang Setaman” and the critically acclaimed movie “Ca Bau Kan,” which catapulted him to stardom and established him as an esteemed actor in the industry.

Outfit by Versace

These breakthrough moments have led to more prominent roles across film and television, showcasing his versatility as an actor. “At that time, I already loved the fashion and entertainment industry. And with the success of my debut soap opera in 1998 and my movie in 2002, I think that’s when I established myself in this industry,” says Salim.

His breakout role in “Ca Bau Kan” established him and garnered critical acclaim and recognition from local and international audiences. The film tells the story of a Chinese-Indonesian family’s struggles during the post-colonial era, which resonated with viewers and earned Salim numerous nominations for awards, including Best Actor at the Asia Pacific Film Festival.

Salim has also received recognition for his philanthropic work, particularly his involvement in promoting education, raising awareness about children’s rights, and speaking out on issues affecting young people in Indonesia. He has been a UNICEF National Ambassador in Indonesia since 2004. Despite his success, he remains grounded and committed to his craft, constantly seeking new challenges and opportunities to grow.

To this end, his journey to success wasn’t just about luck and talent but also about hard work and perseverance. Despite his busy schedule, he recently finished his education at age 56, earning a law degree. This achievement reflects his commitment to personal growth and development, not just as an actor but also as an individual.

“Thanks to hard work, support from my wife and children, as well as determination and determination, I finally managed to finish my studies and was entitled to hold a Bachelor of Laws degree,” Salim shares, “With my return to college, I also encourage my children to continue learning without seeing age as a limiting factor. Thankfully, it can also encourage my young friends. And I hope the knowledge I obtain will become a blessing for many people.”

Furthermore, Salim’s success in the entertainment industry is even more impressive when you consider the challenges he faced early in his career. Back then, working hours in the television and film industry were notoriously long and unpredictable, with shooting schedules that could run from morning until the wee hours of the morning. But despite the grueling demands of catch-up soap operas and other productions, he remained committed to his craft, putting in long hours and hard work to hone his skills as an actor.

Over the years, he has shown remarkable range and versatility, taking on roles in various genres, from drama to comedy and everything in between. However, despite his diverse portfolio, Salim’s favorite genre remains drama, where he can showcase his acting chops and delve deep into complex characters and stories.

With a career spanning over two decades, he has become one of the most sought-after actors in the country. As he looks to the future, Salim is also aware of the challenges and opportunities of the fast-paced and ever-evolving industry. He hopes to continue to inspire others and contribute to the growth and development of the Indonesian entertainment industry.

“Indonesian film audiences should not be bored. Therefore, producers must continue making good quality and cool films as industry players,” says Salim, “Apart from that, many cities in Indonesia still do not have cinemas. We need more access so that the distribution of films can become wider. I hope the government can play a bigger role in providing more for the Indonesian film industry.”

He also believes that it is essential for actors to keep honing their craft, exploring new roles and genres, pushing boundaries, and keeping the momentum. “The Indonesian film industry is excellent now. Every production house makes films of different genres, and our writers are improving. Our directors and actors are also great. Local film lovers keep growing,” says Salim.

As one of the most talented and respected homegrown actors in the local entertainment industry, Salim has come a long way from his humble beginnings. From his breakout role in “Ca Bau Kan” to his recent educational achievement and philanthropic work, Salim has proven that he is not just a gifted actor but also a role model for the next generation of talent.

Above all, Salim is committed to being an inspiring mentor for younger actors, sharing his experiences and knowledge to help them succeed in the competitive entertainment world. Ultimately, the journey is far from over for Ferry Salim and we can’t wait to see what he will achieve next.

Marcelino Lefrandt

Indonesia saw a boom in action TV series in the ‘90s. Titles such as “Perjalanan” and “Gerhana” added much-needed punch to the industry. Combining martial arts and enticing storylines, the genre skyrocketed in popularity. In the middle of this phenomenon was Marcelino Lefrandt. The multi-talented actor has a stellar filmography, beginning his acting journey in 1994. And unsurprisingly, for an action star, Lefrandt is a prolific martial artist.

Outfit by Lanvin

Martial arts have always been part of Lefrandt’s life. He took up judo and taekwondo early, “My father is a cardiologist, but he has always been into martial arts,” says Lefrandt, “I am the youngest of four. My father picked judo and taekwondo for all his children to learn.” In 1986, Lefrandt participated in the Junior National Judo Championship and later won first place at the 1988 Regional Judo Championship in Manado. The upcoming years saw more victories on the mat, but eventually, Lefrandt decided to leave his favorite sport.

In 1992, Lefrandt dived into modelling. He participated in Aneka  Yess! magazine’s Top Guest contest won first place, putting his name on the radar. During this time, he was introduced to the acting world, debuting two years later in an action series titled “Deru Debu” alongside Willy Dozan and Ari Wibowo. “I participated in the project because I was an athlete, and the genre was closely related to martial arts,” says Lefrandt. Then he eventually joined the cast of another action series titled “Jacklyn” in 1996 and its sequel two years later.

The year 2000 marked another significant milestone for the actor. Lefrandt was cast in the family-fantasy TV series “Bidadari” alongside Marshanda, Moudy Wilhelmina and the late Cecep Reza. In the series, he plays a young father whose daughter experiences abuse at her stepmother’s hand. This role would truly catapult his name into the realm of stardom. “It was quite a challenge for me because I was 27 years old, and I had to play a fatherly character,” Lefrandt recalls, “To play this character, I needed special preparation. I also had to change my gestures and tone of voice.” His effort paid off, and his character became a fan-favorite. “People also really thought that I was a father, but I wasn’t even 30 years old at that time,” he adds.

Beyond the show’s popularity, Lefrandt felt touched by the series’ positive impact on its audience, especially young viewers. “Some characters [in “Bidadari”] are housemaids, nannies or people coming from a low-income background. There was an actual case of a child who watches the series and then came to their nanny to apologize for their bad behavior,” the actor happily recalls, “So, I would say that starring in ‘Bidadari’ was a major turning point in my career. I am also forever grateful that it has become a barometer of great TV series for children.”

Challenges are inevitable in every journey, and Lefrandt is all too familiar with this adage. As a self-described perfectionist, he is always willing to learn, “I want to keep learning. I don’t want to reach a safe zone and stay there. I am willing always to be a blank paper to write on because that enables me to learn from whatever I do.”

Besides martial arts and filmmaking, Lefrandt is also passionate about promoting the splendor of Indonesian culture to youngsters. To that end, he and several of his friends founded Skylar Comics, “With comics, we can provide educational content while, at the same time, entertaining. We choose superhero comics as a platform to introduce the cultures of Indonesia since the genre is so well-received,” says Lefrandt. When creating the comic characters, his team took inspiration from Indonesian folklore, figures in wayang and more. So far, Lefrandt has written and published titles, including “Volt” (2012) and “Valentine” (2015).

Lastly, Lefrandt has also found joy in acting as a health influencer. He has dived headfirst into content creation making videos about healthy lifestyles. He wants to show positive examples for middle-aged and younger men through his content. “I believe that prevention is better than cure,” he says, “I want to help people take care of themselves and their families.”  Ending our conversation, Lefrandt shares his personal greatest hope, “I have to stay healthy, strong, creative and productive as long as I can. I am here in this industry for a reason, and that’s what I am still looking for.” Lefrandt also wishes that he can contribute even more to Indonesia’s entertainment industry, mainly through empowering and recruiting young talents interested in martial arts and acting. Through these initiatives, he believes he can contribute to a more dynamic film industry in Indonesia.

On Marcelino Lefrandt outfit by Versace; on Ferry Salim and Surya Saputra outfit by Givenchy; on Jeremy Thomas outfit by Ermenegildo Zegna

Outfit by Zegna
Outfit by Givenchy
Outfit by Versace
Outfit by Lanvin