Maricel Soriano: Why she continues to shine like a diamond
You can’t talk to Maricel Soriano about her experiences as a movie queen without mentioning such luminaries as Dolphy, Nora Aunor, Ishmael Bernal, Aga Muhlach and Fernando Poe Jr.—after all, she is just as iconic as those aforementioned names.
When we finally crossed paths with Maricel last week, our one-on-one chat with the 54-year-old actress didn’t just end up becoming one of our favorite interviews ever, it also demonstrated why there’s nobody more snug fit for the Diamond Star appellation than Maria herself.
We met the actress to discuss her role in Frasco Mortiz’s “The Heiress,” the horror drama she topbills with Janella Salvador and “Darna” star Jane de Leon for Regal Films that begins its theatrical run today.
But we ended up talking about more than just casting spells, curses and incantations against people who displease her character as a mambabarang.
We were swept off our feet not just by Maricel’s sharp wit and sense of humor, but also by her warmth.
Another treat was when she would mouth some favorite lines from her movies, like Joel Lamangan’s “Filipinas.”
She says she has already “mellowed down” considerably as the country’s so-called Taray Queen, but her spot-on opinions and observations, devoid of fake niceties and cloying artifice, remain as straightforward and potent.
Yes, nothing escapes Maricel’s gimlet-eyed honesty— which is already a rarity in an industry where image has become a “cured, manipulated and Photoshopped” commodity. Hat tip to you, Maria!
She can knock your socks off with her charisma and candor without really trying, but you know she’ll say something catty and deliciously quotable if the names of people she isn’t very fond of come up by accident —like the perpetual starlet who used to keep her colleagues on the set waiting, or the matinee idol who doesn’t take his job seriously. Tee-hee.
“You know, I find it amusing when people say they’re scared of me,” she told us. “When I hear the magic word ‘fear,’ I don’t like it. I say, ‘Huwag namang ganyan, because I don’t bite. Alam ko ang feeling na ‘yan. I know how it is to be scared of more established costars kasi d’yan din naman ako nagsimula.”
Maricel says she just doesn’t like actors who take their work for granted because bad attitude and unprofessional practices affect a lot of people on set.
When asked to enumerate her pet peeves, she instead talked about an actor who she said deserves to be emulated by young hopefuls who are just beginning to make a name for themselves. “You know, I always use Piolo (Pascual) as an example for new actors these days. S’ya ang dapat tinutularan ng mga baguhan. Napakabait ni Piolo. During our shoot, he was always on time—he’s punctual, very professional. And when there’s something he isn’t sure about or doesn’t understand, he makes it a point to ask me or the director. Iba s’ya—that’s what sets him apart from other big stars.
“I’ve learned my lesson— hanggang hindi lumalapit sa akin ang artista seeking help or advice, I leave them alone. Hindi ko maibibigay ang gusto nilang payo if they don’t ask for it. May nangyari nang ganyan before [that didn’t go so well], kaya ayoko na.
“So, now, I just wait and see. Not all of them are willing to learn. Some of them just feel like, ‘Ah so this is buhay-artista!’ Sometimes, they’re just pa-cute or nagti-trip.”
Excerpts from our chat with Maricel:
You are one of the country’s most enduring actresses. Forty-eight years after you acted with Dolphy in “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” do you still get excited by roles that come your way? Gusto ko ‘yang word na “enduring” ha. Ay, oo! And I always look forward to a happy set. I like the idea na nagda-dramahan tayo sa eksena, but when the director says cut, chikahan na agad. We don’t talk about the scene or other people, we make tsismis about ourselves.
In your prime, Mother Lily Monteverde used to say, “There’s no Regal without Maricel.” Can you react to that? I loved hearing that from her, but I said, “Where’s the money (laughs)? Where’s the cash? It’s all boka-boka!” Mother would say, “Basta, anak kita.” And I’d say, “I need a guarantee? (laughs)”
You started acting at age 6. If you could change anything about your colorful career, what would it be? I wouldn’t change anything, pero meron akong gustong dagdagan. Gusto mo ‘yung sagot na ‘yun (laughs)?
I want to act in more films—even those with similar themes, but better realized. I want to do action—not the usual stuff you see onscreen because I’m a woman, not a stuntman. I want to play an assassin!
The premise of “The Heiress,” reportedly about a sorceress who doesn’t want to let go of her young niece, reminds me of “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.” Do you believe in evil spirits? Yes, but without the horn! I was intrigued by the role of the mambabarang. Nothing is impossible. In relation to the story, I liked it because [it reinforced my belief that] every problem has a solution.
You’re part of a rarified breed of actors who are as good at drama as they are at comedy. Did you get that from Dolphy? Naku, baka maiyak ako dito! Yes, all of that I got from my [surrogate] dad. It all started with him. Alam mo bang inangkin ko s’yang tatay ko, not just because of “John and Marsha”?
I acted in a lot of films when I was 6 hanggang nagtagpo kami ng daddy ko sa isang movie called “Lady Luck,” with Lotis Key. He said, “I like this kid. I will be doing a sitcom, and I want her to be in it.” He made that little girl very happy just by saying that.
Hindi n’ya alam kung anong klaseng kaligayahan ang naidulot ng nasabi n’yang ‘yun, so from that moment on, dinaddy ko na talaga s’ya! He used to call me “bru-gee,” kasi bruha naman talaga ako (laughs).
He knew me inside out. When I would get upset over something, my dad would say, “Huwag mo nang pansinin ‘yan. What’s important is nalusutan mo na.” I confided in him, kahit wala akong mana at hindi ako kasama sa last will and testament n’ya (laughs). Ang dami kasi namin, at mas kailangan ‘yun ng mga kapatid ko.
Your comedic tandem with Roderick Paulate was exceptional. How did you work out those gags?Mahirap magpa-iyak, pero mas mahirap magpatawa. In comedy, you need to have impeccable timing. Dick and I would always tell our directors, “Ilang minuto n’yo gustong paandarin ito? (How many minutes do you want this to run?)” They would give us the gist of the sequence, then we would decide on a start, a middle and an end. That was all we needed.
We just had to know how to string the segments together, at hindi nila kami kina-cut. That was our process and how we worked out our improvisations. Kahit nakatalikod kaming dalawa, kaya naming magpatawa.
Who are the actors you want to work with? I saw the second season of “Bagman” recently, and everybody was so good—from Arjo Atayde and Carlo Aquino. Bilib na bilib ako—wow, ’yan ang artista! I didn’t want it to end.
Angel Locsin is also very good—and she’s no slouch at action, ha!
Any fond memories of your very popular love team with former boyfriend William Martinez in the ‘80s? We had so many funny moments. Every time we would fight, bali ang leeg ko. But when the cameras rolled, we didn’t have a hard time looking like we were very fond of each other —we’d hold hands and hug. But when they shout cut, bitaw agad (laughs)! Kulang na lang, itulak ko s’ya sa kalaboso!
The current love teams have nothing on us—nung araw, nagbabasagan kami ng bote, talagang away pati mga fans. Makikita mo na lang, duguan. But when I got pregnant with Sebastien, I realized I didn’t want my son to grow up in that kind of environment. I wanted Tien to respect me … I didn’t want to be an embarrassment to his classmates. Baka sabihan s’yang, “My God, your mom is tienes, tienes, tienes … (laughs)!
Kaiba din ang fans noong araw kasi hindi pa ganun kadami ang artista. One time, I went up to a movie premiere in Ali Mall without stepping on the floor, kasi bitbit nila kami!
Meron kaming theater na napabagsak sa Recto because there were too many people inside. Nagpa-ospital si Mother ng daan-daang tao because of that incident.
Do your kids ask you for advice? They don’t have to ask me because I’m the one who talks a lot and begins the conversation. Masyado akong daldalera (laughs).
You’ve done more than a hundred films. Any favorites? My faves include Chito S. Roño’s “Dahas” and “Separada,” Jerry Lopez Sineneng’s “Soltera,” Joel Lamangan’s “Filipinas”—ang dami kong gustong pelikula! (At this point, she mouths some of her favorite lines from “Filipinas” and the iconic “Ayoko ng putik … ,” from “Kaya Kong Abutin ang Langit.”) I also love Maryo J. delos Reyes’ “Saan Darating ang Umaga?” and my movie with Aga Muhlach, “A Love Story.”
I did a lot of films with Direk Maryo J—I was one of his regular actresses, like Ate Guy (Nora Aunor) and Tita Chato (Charito Solis).
What advice of Dolphy has stayed with you to this day? He gave me a lot of advice that I continue to follow. He said, “Iha, you’re an icon now, you’re not just another actress. Believe me when I say there are people who want to say hello to you but are intimidated by your image. Don’t misinterpret shyness as arrogance. So, make the first move—ikaw na ang maunang mag-hello sa kanila.”
Then, I would tell him, “Ang hirap naman ng homework mo sa akin!” And he’d say, “‘Bru-gee’ ka talaga!” (laughs.) He kept reminding me, “Always take care of yourself. Whatever people say or do, they can’t put a good actress down.”
I remember my Daddy Dolphy’s words as if they were just yesterday.