TV-film producers’ casting choices are often the height and depth of predictability, with studios pairing contract stars with one another in an automatic, serial manner, hoping that one such combination will click with the viewing public.
When that happens, several movies starring the love team are made until its popularity wanes due to over-exposure.
The studio then tries out a fresh tandem. If that doesn’t get the fans excited, a studio may “import” a big star from another talent pool or “stable,” hoping that the unusual, unexpected pairing delights viewers.
Once in a rare while, more innovative casting choices are made that get viewers really worked up and raring to watch a production on the big or small screen. This season, the inspired casting coup is the decision to tap Vilma Santos to play a movie bit player in her first indie starrer, “Ekstra.”
Vilma generally plays more accomplished women on the big screen, so her “lowly” character in the new film project immediately attracts attention and interest as a fine example of unconventional casting.
In addition, the ploy is inspired because it gives “ordinary” viewers a lot to empathize with, since Vilma is in a way “representing” them.
In the past, that was more the turf of Nora Aunor, Vilma’s arch “rival.” With “masa” movies like “Atsay” and “Bona,” Nora vivified the “ordinary” and “faceless” Filipino better and more credibly than anybody else.
Can Vilma rise up—or go down—to that masa-empathetic level by way of her latest role?
Well, Vilma is no pushover when it comes to effective, believable characterization, as her unexpectedly apt portrayal of an activist nun in “Sister Stella L” proved years ago.
Of course, there’s the additional factor and possible problem of age. Now a mature actress, she may not be all that credible as a “faceless” screen talent who has remained an extra for many years, without moving up to bigger parts.
But perhaps the film’s script has an explanation for this, so Vilma’s first indie outing is definitely still a should-see production in our book—and we urge film buffs to see it when it plays in the coming Cinemalaya indie film fest at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
‘Apoy’ on TV
Another noteworthy casting choice is on TV, in the teleserye “Apoy sa Dagat,” where Piolo Pascual is cast in his most macho role ever as a muscular and sensually potent fisherman and fishmonger.
The unexpected casting plot not only opens up Piolo’s latest TV role to numerous physical and sensual possibilities not pursued by his more laid-back and even cerebral roles in the past—and serves to silence the “doubters and haters” who have occasionally questioned the actor’s macho projection.
To heat the screen up even more, Piolo’s leading lady is the similarly smoldering Angelica Panganiban, so fans are savoring their sensual love scenes—well, up to a point, since they can only go so far on TV!