WHILE reviewing the initial takes of newcomer Benjamin Alves on the first day of his taping for the local adaptation of the popular 2007 Koreanovela, “Coffee Prince,” director Ricky Davao reminded the 23-year-old model-turned-actor, “Nagpi-Piolo (Pascual) ka dito ah.” Up close, GMA 7’s newest heartthrob looks and talks (and even laughs) like the Kapamilya network’s premier heartthrob, although he can hardly be blamed for the eerie physical resemblance. After all, Benjamin is Piolo’s nephew!
Alves isn’t just another pretty face. In fact, while we could hardly sit through last month’s doppelganger tale, “Guni-guni,” the fresh-faced actor acquitted himself well alongside Lovi Poe and Empress Schuck in Tara Illenberger’s confounding big-screen chiller.
If his formidable mix of “beauty,” brawn and stellar pedigree is impressive, his brains will blow you away: BJ, as he is fondly called (“There are three PJs in our clan”), graduated summa cum laude last May with a degree in AB English from the University of Guam—a four-year course that he finished in only two years!
The handsome comer’s acting mettle will be tested further when he shares the spotlight with Aljur Abrenica, Kris Bernal and Max Collins in GMA 7’s “Coffee Prince” (its telecast begins on Oct. 8), where he portrays Errol, the priggish and more responsible half-brother of impulsive Arthur (Abrenica).
BJ’s eyes playfully lit up when we asked him how he relates to his role: “Like me, Errol is very successful—joke (laughs)! Seriously, I’m responsible, and I know what needs to be done. I take every bit of information in before I express myself—but, this is due to Errol’s sad back story, which involves Collins’ character breaking his heart.”
Benjamin is no stranger to heartbreak and rejection. In 2006, after finishing high school in Guam at age 17, he found himself dabbling in modeling on Manila’s catwalks and runways! But, like his famous uncle, what he really wanted was a career in show biz. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as intended. So, after three difficult years, he went back to Guam and decided to get a college degree.
He recalls, “It was a devastating decision! It was hard for me to watch GMA Pinoy TV or TFC, because I could see my contemporaries making something out of themselves—and doing what I wanted to do! But, in retrospect, I’m glad that I went through those struggling years, because I can now fully appreciate the big breaks that are coming my way.” Indeed, good things come to those who wait.
What should a girl do to catch his attention? He replies, “I’m not big on serendipity—I can’t date someone I hardly know. You know what my biggest weakness is? Girls who can sing well—perhaps because I’m inadequate at singing. But, I’m not comfortable with aggressive girls—they terrify me (laughs)!”
If he were to turn a book into a movie, which novel would it be? He answers, “I’d love to see another screen adaptation of Kobo Abe’s 1962 novel, ‘Woman in the Dunes,’ about a bug collector who gets stuck in a sand quarry with a young widow, who becomes his lover.”
What advice from his uncle Piolo has he taken to heart? He shares, “Because of the unstable nature of this profession, he cautioned me to save for a rainy day. I shouldn’t scrimp, but I shouldn’t spend beyond my means—that’s Kuya PJ’s best advice!”
Kuya? “Yes,” BJ beams. “He doesn’t want me to call him ‘tito’—baka magalit.”