Fresh from his breakout role in Projek: High Council, the actor, model and all-around storyteller talks about his sudden success, the state of filmmaking, and leaving behind a lasting legacy.
Shirt: Sandro Paris.
Twenty-seven-year-old Nadhir Nasar is the moment. You'd have to live under a rock not to notice the internet buzz and, often, real-life commotion he and his Projek: High Council (PHC) castmates have been making since the debut and, subsequently, the finale of the 10-episode high school-based drama on Astro.

It is the fourth day of Raya when we convene for BURO's May cover shoot, and Nadhir shows up right on time at Bukit Tunku, despite having to cut his celebrations short. "I just got back from Kuala Kangsar at 7am this morning," he tells me with a boyish smile. "It was a long drive, but all is good, though. I took a nap and am all geared up for the day," the actor replies from the makeup chair when I apologise profusely for conducting the photoshoot within the first week of Eid.
Meet 'Lucky Boy'
For the uninitiated, it may seem like Nadhir is an overnight success, having gained recognition from his breakout role in PHC. However, real fans know of his early beginnings as a model in the local entertainment and fashion industry. Standing at 183 cm tall and blessed with a slim, lean physique, the self-proclaimed Lucky Boy (it's also his TikTok handle) first entered the scene through Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week 2016.

"After SPM, I worked at a retail store called Crossover because I'm really into streetwear. Because of this job, I was able to meet all sorts of people in the fashion industry. From there, I worked with homegrown designers like Kit Woo and then walked in KLFW for three years, from 2016 to 2018. During that time, I did a lot of campaigns for local brands such as Supercrew, Nerd Unit, and TNTCO when the brands themselves were just starting out too," he divulges.

"While I love modelling, I quickly realised that a full-time model—especially men—in Malaysia is always seen as an accessory, whether it's for a cover or a campaign. That wasn't enough for me. I've always viewed myself as sort of a storyteller—I am always watching movies, writing stories and directing short films," says the Mass Communication graduate of Universiti Teknologi Mara. "So I told myself I needed to level up and do things differently."
Sweater: Gucci Jeans: Sandro Paris
The door of opportunity
Armed with a burning passion for acting and filmmaking, the determined young lad went to more than 10 open casting calls and auditions in hopes of finding his first big break. Alas, he was turned down for the same reason every time. "I'm going to be transparent here," he tells me. "I would always hear from casting directors that I had the talent but my social media following was too low. At the time, I had around 1,000 to 3,000 followers. However, to make it in this industry, I was told I'd have to have a significant amount of followers as well. It was frustrating, to say the least."

Undeterred, he told himself not to waste his God-given talent. As a result, to expand his fanbase and gain exposure, there was only one option—joining the local talent competition-cum-reality TV show Hero Remaja in 2020.
"To be completely honest, I did not like the idea of joining it at all, but it was the only thing I could think of. Many of my friends teased me when they found out I was entering the competition. If you're constantly surrounding yourself with people who grew up consuming Western content, you might not feel the need to change the local industry because that's what you're used to. But if you do want to change it, you need to start somewhere. And Hero Remaja is a really great platform to do that.

"I also told myself that it would be my last casting. If I didn't get past auditions, I would continue working behind the camera. But I did get in and ended up winning! I felt like God was telling me that I would only receive things when I was ready. While I've wanted this for as long as I can remember, maybe I wasn't in the right mindset at 21, or too busy having fun and getting distracted. But at 24, perhaps I was more settled into myself. So I'm super glad that I joined—in fact, it was my mum who encouraged me. Mothers really do know best! I think the journey of it all is quite beautiful," he shares.
Top and shorts: Hugo. Shoes: Zegna
Blessings upon blessings
Immediately after winning Hero Remaja, offers started pouring in, and Nadhir couldn't be more grateful. "One of the first few projects I worked on was the telemovie Abah with some of my idols—Beto Kusyairy, Nadia Aqilah, Wan Hanafi Su and Fatimah Abu Bakar. They were all Malaysia's A-list actors and absolute legends that I could learn from up close," he says with excitement.

"I always think back to how hard it used to be to get a role—in fact, I used to cry at night about how much I wanted to be in front of the camera. Alhamdulillah, it became a reality. God just wanted me to take it slower than what I yearned for. Timing really is everything."

We go back to the topic of PHC's success and if he anticipated the overwhelmingly good reception upon its release. "I kind of expected it, but I didn't want to hype myself up too much. I didn't want it to get to my head. The drama covers heavily on school bullying and is very raw and relatable. I felt that the script was very solid. Before I sign on to any projects, I usually need a few episodes of the script to get a feel of the characters and the plot. From the first draft, I already felt that this was a story that people would latch onto. The writer and director of the series, Anwari Ahsraf, said he saw me in the main character, Naim. He locked me in for the role eight months before shooting actually began," he reveals.

Despite the show's accomplishments, Nadhir does not want to be typecast for the rest of his career. "For sure, the show has some authentic fans, but there are those who are really obsessed with us—the cast—and miss out on what I'm trying to do as an actor in the story. I just want people to see the work that I put in and what I'm fighting for in this industry, and not as an object to fawn over, if that makes sense. If it's not for my benefit, it will be for the future of budding actors. It's complicated. I just want people to treat me like a normal human being," he confesses.
Shirt: Sandro Paris. Pants and sneakers: Louis Vuitton. Accessories: Nadhir's own
Taking it slow
Having reached a certain level of fame at such a fast pace, Nadhir is carefully strategising his next move, given our small film industry. "I need to pace it out and let people discover me for who I am and what I can offer at different intervals. Sometimes you need to take a break from being on TV to create interest. Like what I said earlier about hype—it's short-lived. When someone else comes along, you're out. That's why you need to sort of control your exposure.

"I would love for my growth to be organic. I don't want to be stuck in this box where I end up having one or two million social media followers, and then I suddenly disappear from the scene. That is not my intention. I want to tell people's stories. I always hold these words from the late Yasmin Ahmad close to me: 'Whatever you do today is a story. Your life is a story. When you tell other people about your life, it is not just about you, but about your surroundings'."
Nadhir has big hopes for the local film industry with the dream of taking it to the global stage. "Young kids these days are exposed to amazing content online and streaming platforms. I'm not saying to do shows like Stranger Things or Euphoria that go against our morals. But we can still create content that shows the authenticity of Malaysian stories—we're big on the horror genre, and we often talk about religion, race, and so on. With fresh, young talent, we can do these from a new perspective so that local viewers can see that it is possible. Look at Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. They've already levelled up in that regard and Malaysia has actors who've made it to Hollywood, so I believe we too can do more of that one day."
Shirt, crochet sweater, jeans and shoes: All Sandro Paris
Learning to let go
Despite his current popularity, the actor views himself as an introvert who values his quiet time. "It's hard to express that because in this industry, you have to be extroverted, and perhaps that's the reason why I wanted to become an actor in the first place. It can get tiring being myself in social situations. It's like I need to take breaks from my own persona, which is why I like becoming another person. I don't know if that makes sense," he muses out loud.

One major thing Nadhir has learnt from being in this fast-paced work environment is the art of acceptance: "I've learned that life is like a ship flowing in the ocean. You may need to follow the current, but you are the captain of your destiny. The only way is to cruise along."

While the star's acting journey is far from over, Nadhir wants one thing to come out of it: "One day, whether I'm still an actor or have become a director, I want people to remember me for my contribution to the arts. As the Malay saying goes, 'Harimau mati tinggalkan belang, manusia mati tinggalkan nama,' which loosely translates to 'A good deed is never forgotten'. I would love to be in an evergreen project, where 20 years from now, people would still talk about how great it is—that sort of legacy is what I hope to leave behind."

Only time will tell, but until then, Nadhir's next big role will be in a feature film by Studio Kembara, the same people behind Mat Kilau: Kebangkitan Pahlawan—the highest-grossing Malaysian film of all time. It's slated to release in 2024. "I'm excited about my first official movie. When you do something that you love and are very passionate about, it will come from the heart and everyone will see that," he concludes.
Shirt and T-shirt: Zegna
Videography / Dennis Kho
Makeup / KF BONG