Actor-TV host Vhong Navarro belied the rumor that “Toda Max” costar Robin Padilla left the gag show because he was receiving a talent fee lower than his.
“Robin doesn’t seem to be the type who cares about money; In fact, he gives it away to the needy,” Vhong told the Inquirer during a recent set visit to the ABS-CBN studios in Quezon City.
He added: “I’ve been with ABS-CBN for 17 years. What I’m receiving is enough for me to take care of my two sons, but I don’t think it’s more than what Robin [is getting] for the show.”
He clarified reports that Robin was asking for a love interest on “Toda Max.” Vhong has a successful screen partnership with Angel Locsin on the show.
“The production team was really looking for the perfect leading lady for Robin,” he explained. “Cristine (Reyes) was supposed to be it, but she was pulled out because of her current soap series. Valerie (Concepcion) was considered but this didn’t push through, either. However, his character, Tol, is really a family man. Tol never needed a love angle.”
He said he was disappointed that Robin had to quit the show, saying he (Robin) wanted to focus on his other priorities.
Robin is currently working on the biopic “10,000 Hours,” an entry in the 2013 Metro Manila Film Festival. Shooting the film took Robin to Amsterdam where most of the film’s important scenes were shot. The action star is also working on a film based on the story of the notorious Kuratong Baleleng Gang.
“Robin also said he wanted to concentrate on drama for now, and take a break from comedy,” Vhong reported. “It’s sad; the show began with the two of us.”
“Toda Max” will celebrate its second anniversary in November.
“Honestly, nakakapagtampo. We had a really good working relationship,” Vhong said. “He didn’t talk to any of the cast members about his decision. He just sent word that he was no longer coming back and that he hoped we understood. He said he needed to prioritize some things.”
Vhong, however, said he and Robin were keeping in touch. “We communicate via our Instagram accounts. He sometimes asks how I’m doing. I’m flattered by that gesture. Getting a personal message from someone of his stature is really something.”
What he liked most about working on “Toda Max,” Vhong said, was that actors were allowed to participate in the creative process. “I always suggest ideas. Those that the production team liked, they incorporated on the show. We help each other. We’re always looking for stories that keep viewers interested. We also make sure our antics on the show are suitable for young viewers.”
He admitted that it was hard to maintain a top-rating sitcom. “Shows like ours aren’t like the old sitcoms that featured slapstick comedy. We create funny situations based on our characters’ personalities. We don’t get too physical, unlike in the old sitcoms. Times have changed drastically for situational comedy.”
He considers the show one big and elaborate experiment. “It marked the successful return of the sitcom on local television. I’m just happy that viewers have supported us up until now. I’m glad that although some characters left and new ones came along, our viewers remained loyal.”
Vhong is also proud that “Toda Max” was able to feature comedians identified with rival network GMA 7, like Anjo Yllana, Keempee de Leon and Ruby Rodriguez.