Bob goes Bad

SINGAPORE - He's playing his first baddie role, but will you hate him for it?

Singapore-based US actor-deejay Bobby Tonelli is starring in Suria show Munah & Hirzi: Action!, which made its debut last week.

He plays Jacob Summers, the money-minded manager of the pair Munah and Hirzi (see other report), and he schemes to break them up for personal gain.

Not only did the drama trend at No. 1 on Twitter in Singapore, it was No. 3 on Twitter worldwide when it premiered.

The eight-episode show is based on the wacky antics of local YouTube sensations and best friends Maimunah Bagharib (Munah), 24, and Hirzi Zulkiflie, 23.

Tonelli, who speaks English on the Malay programme, had turned down roles that asked him to play villains in the past because he didn't want local viewers to see him as one.

He says he knows what viewers' wrath can be like after his character in recent Channel 8 drama Double Bonus made the transition from "nice" to "not so nice" on screen.

In Double Bonus, local actress Zoe Tay played a woman who is possessed by spirits.

The cast also included Malaysian actress Tracy Lee and Tonelli played her on-screen boyfriend (in his first full-fledged Mandarin-speaking role), fending off a love rival played by Hong Kong actor Tom Price.


Tonelli, 36, told The New Paper: "The Channel 8 audience are very invested in the characters that they watch on TV, they really believe these shows.

"When my character was good, I received lots of compliments. But when his insecurities caused him to be less amiable (he wasn't even a bad person), I started hearing that my Mandarin sucked on the show.

"On Munah & Hirzi, I get to be the biggest jerk there is so I'm prepared for people to dislike the character."

As for the criticism, Tonelli said he would take it into consideration and work harder to perfect his craft.

"Yes, it did sting, especially when I worked so hard on my Mandarin. But I can't be listening to everyone (and be affected by it), I'll never get better this way. "I'm taking on my first bad guy role because I'm hoping that local viewers kind of know what I'm about already," he said.

In the US, he recalled how his friends and family would watch soap stars on TV and "detest" them because of the villainous characters that they portrayed.

The good guys that he has played on-screen include Jeanette Aw's character's suitor in Channel 8 blockbuster drama The Little Nyonya (2008) and Rui En's character's suitor in Channel 8 drama Joys Of Life (2012).

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