Fil-Am actor jumps from popular teen shows to first major film
LOS ANGELES—“It’s the Filipino genes, man,” said Allen Evangelista, who stars in Paramount Pictures’ sci-fi/thriller “Project Almanac.” Onscreen and in person in a conference room at Paramount’s studio lot, he looks 16; actually, he’s 33 years old. Wearing a sharp black Kenneth Cole suit, he can pass for a hi gh school student, which he plays in the movie, going to the prom. Instead, he is on his way to attend “Project Almanac’s” premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s Chinese Theatre) but dropped by the lot for a chat.
Mop-haired, blessed with curious round eyes, Allen is an appealing presence on the screen. He plays Adam, the tech-savvy guy among a group of high school friends (Jonny Weston, Sam Lerner, Sofia Black-D’Elia and Virginia Gardner) who find secret plans of a time machine and build one.
The Wrap is right on in its review of “Project Almanac”: “The characters and story line are compelling in a smart teen film that’s more ‘Final Destination’ than ‘Looper.’ Produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes, ‘Project Almanac’ is an agreeable and entertaining teen time-travel thriller that’s equal parts Ray Bradbury and John Hughes, as our five teen leads unlock the secrets of ‘temporal relocation’ and then trample through the delicate space-time continuum in pursuit of riches, repair and romance.”
“Project Almanac” is the LA-born Allen’s major feature film debut, and the first full-length movie of director Dean Israelite. Before this big movie break, Allen had been lucky in his TV career, finding steady jobs, including roles in some of the most popular teen shows in the last decade, “Zoey 101” and “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”
Allen’s parents, Alfredo and Aurora
Evangelista, are from Manila and Pampanga, respectively. The actor remembers going fishing for the first time in Pampanga on his only trip to the Philippines when he was 7 years old.
This teen-looking dude is already a dad to Hudson, his 3-year-old son with wife Christina Burhoe. “He is a crazy guy,” Allen said fondly of Hudson as he showed us photos of the toddler on his phone. Below are excerpts from our interview:
Let’s go sraight to the obvious question, inspired by the movie’s story: If you could, what would you redo in your life?
Nothing, really. Everything I’ve done, good or bad, has led me to where I am today. If I did anything differently, I might not be here, doing an interview with you today. I consider myself lucky. Maybe [I’d want to] win the lottery once. But that’s it.
In a sense, you are able to go back in time, especially in this movie where you get to play a high school student, thanks to your youthful looks.
I thank my parents, I guess. It’s the Filipino genes, man. I also sleep… a lot!
Are you also a techie, like your character Adam, in real life?
A little. I’m pretty decent with computers and video games. But definitely not to the extent Adam is.
You got to shoot at Lollapalooza. How much “hard work” was that? Was it your first time?
It was my first time. I definitely shouldn’t be calling that “work.” We had a blast. We got to jump on stage, see a lot of cool bands and experience the festival in a way not a lot of people get a chance to do. It was amazing.
If you do win the lottery, what are the first five things that you will do or buy?
1) I would put a lot in a savings account, especially for my son.
2) Pay off any outstanding mortgages for my family members.
3) Invest in property because that seems to always be a sure thing.
4) I would buy the best electric/hybrid car available.
5) Buy Lakers season tickets!
Your character is Asian and, of course, smart. How much fun do you have with that typical perception about Asians?
I think it’s a great stereotype to have, being considered smart and technically savvy, especially with this generation. Nerds are in!
But I also want to do sports, and be good at sports. I am actually good at basketball.
Did you attend regular school? What were you like as a student?
I was pretty good. I went to Bishop Amat High School in the (San Gabriel, California) Valley. I did football there. I also went to Cal Poly for a little bit. I still do take acting classes once in a while. Always gotta stay sharp.
What are your friends like in real life? And what kind of a friend are you?
My friends are loyal. We joke a lot. My three closest friends are of Filipino descent. We don’t live in the same cities anymore but we keep in [touch] online and sometimes in person. I consider myself very loyal, too. I may be a little introverted at first, but once you get to know me, that’s when the jokes come.
What were your first memories of being interested in becoming a performer? Anyone in the family who inspired you to become an actor?
No one [else] in my family is in the business. But I always knew that I loved entertaining people, no matter what it was, whether acting, singing, dancing, etc. I’d do anything to get a laugh.
Were your parents supportive of your passion to become an actor?
As much as they could be. They definitely have a realistic view about the career and that has helped keep me grounded. They kept telling me to keep doing other stuff and that I should make sure there is a steady income coming in. They helped me a lot.
I was very lucky. I got booked in the first three auditions I went to. After that, my parents became more confident that I could make it. They are very proud of me now.
What was your experience like growing up in a Filipino household?
It was normal, at least to me. We ate rice everyday, which seems to be something different from the other nonethnic households. My parents were strict but fair. I got a little more slack than my sister, which was great.
Have you visited the Philippines?
I went when I was 7 years old. I don’t remember much but I do know it was a rural area in Pampanga. My mom’s family lived there. They were not in the richest area but I remember the openness of the place. It is really hard to recall now.
I had not gone fishing before in a river so it was a nice experience. I have no plans yet to visit again because it’s pilot season and with the movie, my schedule has been crazy. But I definitely hope to. I’ve thought about it a lot.
What are your standout memories of working with Shailene Woodley in “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”?
She was always so gracious and fun to be around. We worked together for five years. I already saw her new stuff and I am happy for her. She is a very talented and truthful actress. I’m very proud of what she has accomplished.
Looking very young is a blessing but do you find that sometimes it’s a disadvantage because you are not considered for older roles?
It can be but it’s all in the head. As an actor, especially an ethnic actor, you can’t let negativity get to you. This business is tough enough as it is, even [if you’re not] ethnic. But I love it.
You were on some of the most popular TV shows for tweens and teens in the last decade. What are some of your most memorable experiences involving fans?
I’ve definitely been lucky with the jobs I’ve booked. At the prime of these shows, I would get recognized a lot. It would be difficult to go to shopping centers without being stopped. I always appreciate the attention, though, even if I’m not having the best day. If someone is interested in you, that means they are one of the reasons you have a job.
Now that “Zoey 101” is back on TV, I get more fans who are watching that show. It is now getting more popular.
What’s your advice to young people who dream of becoming actors?
It’s a numbers game. Every “No” is just one step closer to a “Yes.” Continue to work hard and do your best. It’s bound to happen. If I can do it, you can do it.
Finish this sentence, to paraphrase a line in the movie: “If it was the end of the world tomorrow, I would…”
I would skydive. I would jump out of the plane. Somehow, if I die, it would be okay. I would try that once.
What’s next for you?
I have a recurring role in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” They are the nicest cast [members] I have ever worked with. And I am enjoying this “Project Almanac,” which is my first big studio movie. Let’s see where this takes me. It’s been an amazing ride.
(Email the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at https://twitter.com/nepalesruben.)