When it’s time to relearn actingBy Marinel R. Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Critically acclaimed actor Pen Medina, who is also an acting coach, always advises his students “to always be truthful and sincere to their audience.”
The veteran thespian, however, concedes that he does not always practice what he preaches to his students in his acting workshop, “ReINTRODUCTION: A Different Approach to Film and TV Acting,” which he first conducted in 2009.
Medina explains: “In TV shows, lalaki ka pero paiiyakin ka (you’re a man but they make you cry). I’m not being truthful in the sense that I’m personally not used to displaying emotions. What I’ve realized was that I don’t always practice what I preach. So I felt that it was time to relearn acting myself.”
What he does, Medina says, is “discover my character’s inner dialogue. What does he always say to himself? ‘I’m handsome’ … ‘I’m cute’ … ‘I’m extremely shy.’”
He continues: “What you say to yourself is reflected in your actions. Then I try to learn his life story and understand why he talks to himself the way he does. Did he grow up in a loving family or did he always get beaten up?”
For his role as Mother Ben in the latest GMA 7 drama series “Aso ni San Roque,” Medina had to do a lot of research. “It’s not easy for a straight guy to effectively portray a gay role,” he pointed out.
Below are excerpts from the Inquirer interview with Medina.
So what’s his character’s inner dialogue?
“Maganda ako!” “Seksi ako kahit pilay ako!” Whatever you say to yourself, your body follows. Of course, you should also ask your director what he wants out of the character. There are directors who just leave you alone—it’s up to you to find out.
Is there any role that you still find difficult to do?
I don’t think of myself as a good actor. Actors are like violinists and pianists. We have to practice regularly. Dapat laging nasa kundisyon (We should always be in good shape). We constantly listen and observe; even veteran actors do this. On a movie set, there are many distractions—people walking and talking, cameras and other noisy equipment needing to be moved around. There are times when I’m ready to act out a scene but the crew members aren’t yet. When this happens, I lose my concentration.
Do you watch your work?
Sometimes. Now that I’m older, I want to collect them. Of my 30 years in the industry, I have copies of only three films, and they’re all gifts from friends.
What kind of fulfillment do you get from being an acting coach?
Nothing compares to the feeling of seeing my student finally deliver well what was required of him in a particular scene. A lot of actors are used to the singsong delivery of lines. This is like an epidemic! In my workshops, it has become my crusade to change this. Dapat maging totoo ka muna (You should be true to yourself first) before you can act well.
Good actors are called such because they are natural in front of the camera, they are able to connect to their audience, they’re truthful and sincere. If you’ve mastered this, then you’re already 80 to 90 percent on your way to being a good actor.
Can you name some of your students that you find impressive?
I don’t remember their names. Most of them managed to correct the singsong delivery during the workshops, but this comes back when they resume taping their teleseryes, especially if their directors don’t take notice. I meet a lot of talented young actors who are forced to perform poorly because they’re always in a rush to beat airing deadlines. Oftentimes, they don’t have enough time to learn about their characters or how to best deliver their lines.
Three of your five sons (Ping, 29; Alex, 27; and Victor, 22) are also actors. Have they attended any of your workshops?
Ping used to think he’s too shy to be an actor. I don’t know what made him consider acting on TV and film. Ping and Alex are natural actors. They don’t come to my workshops, they just ask me stuff like, “How do you attack this character, Dad?”
You didn’t mind them joining show biz?
I would support them even if they chose to become sexy dancers. I don’t see anything wrong with working in show business. If it’s what they want, they have the talent for it, and the work suits them, then I have no qualms.
Exactly how do you support them in their endeavors?
They don’t live in my house anymore, so they tell me what to watch out for through text messages. It’s funny because sometimes they don’t want me to see their projects. ’Di sila proud (They’re not proud). They’d say, “Dad, ’di ako magaling dun. (I didn’t do well there.)” I would say, “Never mind. I’ll still see it and then we’ll discuss it over dinner.”
Any recurrent advice that you give them?
I always say to them: Go for whatever your heart desires. Do what you enjoy doing, but make sure to do it to the best of your abilities.
(“Aso ni San Roque,” which premieres Wednesday night on GMA 7, is written by Jun Robles Lana and directed by Don Michael Perez. It features Mona Louise Rey, LJ Reyes, Paolo Contis, Gardo Versoza and Angelika dela Cruz.)
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