Jefri Nichol is, to put it mildly, one of the hottest young actors and a rising star in Indonesia. And it’s not exactly hard to see why. At 21 years old, the Jakarta-born actor certainly has an impressive résumé compared to most of his peers. For one, he nabbed the Best New Actor trophy at the annual Piala Maya film awards for his role as classic heartthrob Nathan in “Dear Nathan.” The awards have been likened to the United States’ Golden Globes, with Piala Citra standing in for the Academy Awards.
Since that moment, Jefri Nichol drew more and more attention. Underlying that statement are the two movies that he starred in this year: Netflix’s “Seperti Hujan yang Jatuh ke Bumi” and more recently “Jakarta, City of Dreamers” which will have its world premiere at the Black Night Film Festival in Tallinn, Estonia.
Particularly for the latter, Nichol mentioned that delving into his character as a drug courier named Dom was quite a journey. “He’s a struggling actor who lacks experience in the movie industry,” says Nichol, opening the conversation. “For him, the more experience that he gets, the better an actor he will be. Hence, he took the chance to become a drug courier in order to get those experiences that he needed.”
Moreover, he also shares about what was going through his head when he heard the news about the movie finally will be making its debut. “After more than two years in post-production, when I heard that ‘Jakarta, City of Dreamers’ will have its world premiere at the Black Night Film Festival, I was so excited and happy that I felt as if my head was going to explode,” Nichol exclaims. “It’s my first movie that will go to a film festival. I’m so glad and I hope it will be appreciated.”
Aside to that, Nichol would also be joining the cast of the Bumilangit Cinematic Universe (BCU) — which is essentially the Indonesian equivalent of superhero movie franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) — alongside some of the country’s most popular actors like Dian Sastrowardoyo, Nicholas Saputra, Tara Basro, Christine Hakim, and Reza Rahadian. “It felt surreal, because never in my career would I have thought that I would be joining this big project,” explains Nichol. “I feel so lucky to be able to be included in the Bumilangit Cinematic Universe and work with some of the greatest people in this country’s movie industry.”
Acting, however, was not the only thing that Nichol is passionate about. The actor uses his fame to speak out on the issues he cares about and uses his platform on social media to promote the causes he believes in. For instance, he’s very passionate about raising awareness on current issues, namely online movie piracy in Indonesia, critiques of the government, deforestation in Papua, and even the controversial Omnibus Law. Particularly for the latter, Nichol was spotted by multiple fans in the middle of the streets, amidst the demonstrations in Jakarta. Wearing a mask, he was spotted showing his solidarity for the protest over its feared impact on the environment and labour rights.
“My position on this important matter is clear; I’m with nature and also the people,” he begins. “For the Omnibus Law and deforestation, whether it’s in Papua, Sumatra or anywhere, I feel like there are some of the laws that potentially weaken the instruments for civil rights, environmental protection, and will potentially have a negative impact on the environment. Case in point: The government’s obligation to maintain a minimum 30-percent forest area based on watersheds and/or islands, sadly, has been removed.”
“This is unbelievable,” Nichol continues. “There might be a possibility that in those forests are many indigenous tribes and many sacred places for them as well. If all the forests were destroyed, then there won’t be anything left. Is that what we really want? No forests whatsoever?”
While grateful for the support he receives for this particular matter, Nichol admits that due to the fact that fake news spreads so fast on social media, it’s always important to fact-check in order to avoid spreading misinformation that might cause even more problems in the future. “To be honest with you, if I got the wrong information, and then tweeted that, I’m afraid that I will get cancelled,” Nichol points out. “Because thanks to cancel culture, you can be cancelled for something you said or did on social media. Nonetheless, I try my best to stay informed.”
In closing, when asked about what his hopes are for the country amid today’s crisis, Nichol replied, without hesitation: “I just hope that the government and public officials can hold the urge to corrupt and fight against it instead. I mean, how much money do you really want until it’s enough?” Lofty aspirations, for sure. But then again, the world can always use another artist with a passion for his craft and compassion for his world.