Q&A: Juan Miguel Severo wouldn’t mind if his BL series gets called ‘a rom-com cliche’
After Thai gay drama “2gether: The Series” captivated Filipino audiences earlier this year, the floodgates finally opened for queer creators in the country.
Seeing this interest, Juan Miguel Severo seized the chance to bring a gay love story to the forefront with his debut series “Gaya sa Pelikula”.
The series directed by JP Habac follows cash-strapped student Karl (Paolo Pangilinan) as he is forced to live with his assertive — and attractive — neighbor Vlad (Ian Pangilinan), an upperclassman in his university, to pay his bills.
Since the screenplay is set in pre-pandemic 2018, production faced restrictions, with only the actors going mask-less during takes, and crew members communicating through earpieces.
If anyone finds the series cliche, Severo assures that it is “deliberate” as the self-proclaimed “pop culture vulture” made nods to Filipino rom-coms in the writing. For instance, the teaser and its visuals, where Karl and Vlad claim they are a couple, is a nod to a scene in Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla hit movie “She’s Dating the Gangster”.
Like any Pinoy rom-com, the series has a love team, at least according to Severo. The lead actors are now known as “PangPang” and already have a following online.
Though it is “a series about gay people, by gay people, for gay people,” Severo stresses “Gaya sa Pelikula” cannot cover all issues the LGBTQ+ community faces.
“What I hope is that it enables other queer writers, especially trans, femme writers and storytellers to write their own stories,” he says. “Gaya sa Pelikula” runs for eight episodes and premieres Sept. 25 on Globe Studios’ YouTube channel.
Here’s the rest of our exclusive conversation with him earlier today:
What inspired you to write “Gaya sa Pelikula”?
I already had something in development with Globe last year. It’s a multi-protagonist series na may gay plot. Pero it’s difficult to produce.
Nung lumabas ‘yung “2gether: The Series”, sabi ko sa sarili ko, “This should be fairly easy to do.” Definitely there’s a market here in the Philippines.
And to be honest, ‘yung initial thought ko is “I want to take advantage of this opportunity.” Not because may opportunity para kumita sa ‘kin, pero kasi kung mayroon man panahon to tell gay love stories, feel ko eto ‘yun.
Within a day [in April], I conceptualized tapos nagmessage ako sa Globe na mayroon akong kwento para sa inyo.
You’ve said that this BL series is for your younger self. What kind of “kilig” or romance can we expect from the show that you wanted to see when you were younger?
I guess na ‘pag start na kami mag-air, I want people to play a game called “Spot that Star Cinema movie!” As in saang movie nilift ang eksena na ‘to?
Kapag sinabi ng mga tao na ang cliche ng teaser, sasabihin ko na “Yes, that’s the point.” Sasabihin nila, “Ah, pustahan tayo magfake dating ‘yan.” Sabi ko, “Thank you, that’s the point.” (Laughter)
Nakita n’yo siya ilang beses na nangyari sa straight people, I’m telling you now it’s possible for us too. Kasi ano ba ang pagkakaiba?
Of course the series will show you ano ang pagkakaiba because our love will always be connected to our struggle, but everything else is detail. Always, the point is love.
Even before production, you have expressed how important it is that people from the LGBTQ+ community be part of the series. Were you and the team able to achieve that kind of representation?
Sobrang proud ko sa amount of members ng LBGTQIA people na nasa team. From pre-production to post, as in sobrang proud ko.
I tell you when I pitched this to Globe, only two people were straight in the panel. So when I was crying during ‘yung opening speech ko, sila rin emotional. Lahat kami emotional halos.
Siyempre nung nag-go-grow kami unti-unti, marami sa mga kinuha ko kaibigan ko rin, alam ko ‘yung SOGIE nila.
May joke pa na ‘pag may nakikita kaming straight guys sa set, ang nasa isip ko ay “Anong feeling na kayo ang minority?” (Laughter)
What do you think would make audiences, whether queer or straight, fall for Karl and Vlad?
Karl is too hard on himself pero as Paolo once brilliantly had put it, ang favorite thing niya about Karl that he’s not exactly brave but he’s always trying to be.
Tapos si Vlad naman, he’s always trying to let his inner child win over the jadedness he acquired dahil sa, well, life.
Kung mayroon man silang appeal, sorry fan ako ng “The Little Prince” and “Peter Pan” kasi, ang puno’t dulo ng appeal ni Karl at Vlad anuman ang ginagawa nila in pursuit of their dream or fulfillment, lagi silang nananatiling bata.
What convinced you that Paolo Pangilinan and Ian Pangilinan were the best people to lead the series?
Sinabi ko ‘to kay Paolo, na “You weren’t the best Karl in the auditions. Pero ikaw ‘yung perfect.” The same way that Ian’s Vlad wasn’t the Vlad I had in mind when I was writing.
But damn it, the moment that they met (mimics sound of sparks flying) parang grabe talaga. Feel ko ire-release namin ‘yung Zoom call when they first saw each other, and when we do, hala ‘te. Grabe talaga, kilig na kilig kami.
Alam namin kaya ni Ian i-play ‘yung character, kaya ni Paolo i-play ‘yung character. But those characters falling in love with each other? Wala. Silang dalawa talaga. Paniniwalaan mo na talaga sila.
You’re known and loved by fans for your quotable “hugot” lines in your spoken word poems. Can we expect similar lines in the series?
Yeah. Mayroon actually akong tweet dati na medyo kumalat siya at ‘di alam ng maraming tao na it’s a line from the series: “Talaga naman mahina ako dati. Pakitaan lang ako ng kabutihan, parang kaya na akong mahalin.”
"Mahina naman talaga ako dati. Pakitaan lang ako ng kabutihan, parang káya na 'kong mahalin."
— Juan Miguel Severo 🏳️🌈 (@TheRainBro) July 24, 2020
With how popular love teams are in the country, and considering the growing popularity of BL, do you think we’ll ever see a gay love team?
Kaya rin ganito kabilis nagdagsaan ‘yung mga BL kasi andaming queer creators nangangating magkwento ng mga sarili nilang kwento.
The reason why so many lines by women [in Filipino movies] are iconic, especially for gay men, is because queer writers wrote them. Because they had no such voice in movies before, the words written by queer writers, women lang ‘yung pwede nila sabihin na they can truly identify with.
Ngayon na may pagkakataon ‘yung mga queer writers to write content to not hide behind a feisty female character, I believe we should take advantage of that.
Kaya gusto ko mag-succeed halos lahat ng BL na lumalabas… kung sakali ang maging effect nito ay mas magkakaroon ng espasyo ang queer narratives.
Nakikita ko ba siya (gay love teams) in the future? Honestly, yes, but hindi ko alam kung gaano pa siya kalala. Now with digital platforms, with the playing field changing, I feel that mas posible na siya more than ever. JB
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.