Playing gay is on to-do list of award-winning actor Ronnie Lazaro

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ON THE set of “Juana Change the Movie” (from left): writer-producer Raymond Lee, actors Ronnie Lazaro and Mae Paner and director Jade Castro

Ronnie Lazaro, the award-winning actor who bared all as a live-sex performer in Tikoy Aguiluz’s 1985 drama film “Boatman,” dons an archbishop’s robes in Jade Castro’s forthcoming comedy “Juana Change the Movie.”

The social satire, which top-bills activist and Internet sensation Mae Paner (aka Juana Change), is from the same team behind the hit indie “Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington,” director Castro and writer-producer Raymond Lee.

Lazaro told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that his latest transformation, as a high official of the Catholic church, was a breeze.

“It was fun,” he said of the shoot. “Mae was hilarious.”

Unlikely role

But who was his inspiration for the unlikely archbishop role?

“If the scene was about a priest who receives a Pajero as gift, then I guess it’s a giveaway. But it’s a statement on the religious who have become materialistic,” he explained. “That they are also human.”

It’s not the first time for Lazaro to push himself as an actor.

For Benito Bautista’s “Boundary,” he portrayed a taxi driver even though he loathed motoring around Manila’s chaotic streets.

“I interviewed taxi operators and talked with cab drivers to prepare for the role,” he recalled.  “I wanted to tell their story as accurately as possible.”

If you ask Lazaro, however, the brass ring remains elusive: Playing a gay character.

He was supposed to play a drag queen in Richard Somes’ “Mariposa (Sa Hawla ng Gabi),” but scheduling conflicts got in the way. “I had already done my research. I was ready to play an all-out woman and had tried to figure out how to walk in high heels.”

Wish list

While being gay remains in his to-do list, he was able to cross out another long-cherished dream.

Lazaro had his start in the biz on the popular gag show “Champoy,” which also featured Mitch Valdes, Cherie Gil and Tessie Tomas, in the 1980s.

Lazaro finally got to attain a life-long goal on the set of “Huling Biyahe,” an entry in the second Sineng Pambansa, mounted by the Film Development Council of the Philippines in Davao last November.

“Huling Biyahe” director Sigfreid Barros Sanchez recounted: “After the shoot, Ronnie exclaimed: ‘I finally bedded all three women of ‘Champoy’!’ Turned out Miss Tessie was the missing piece in Ronnie’s collection.”

Lazaro had previously romanced Gil and Valdes in Peque Gallaga’s 1982 war epic “Oro, Plata, Mata.”

“Well, it’s a lot better than having a bed scene with (another “Champoy” comic) Gary Lising,” Lazaro joked. “It was easy because Tessie and I are friends.”

Tomas won best actress in Sineng Pambansa for “Huling Biyahe, which stars other “Champoy” cast members Valdes, Lising and Noel Trinidad.

Lazaro last worked with Sanchez in “Mga Kidnaper ni Ronnie Lazaro,” for which he won best actor with costars Epy Quizon, Nonie Buencamino, Dwight Gaston, Raul Morit, Soliman Cruz, Hector Macaso and Mon Lee in the first Sineng Pambansa last July.

Sanchez is currently subtitling “Huling Biyahe,” which he hopes to send to festivals abroad.

“Huling Biyahe” will be shown at the Iloilo Film Festival, to be held in SM Iloilo from Jan. 24 to 25. Sanchez hopes to set its  theatrical run in next month.

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