Why Ruru Madrid lost his drive and gained it back in problem-stricken action starrer
Ruru Madrid has long dreamed of becoming an action star. Now, he finally gets to live out that fantasy as the lead star of GMA 7’s new primetime series, “Lolong,” where he plays a young man imbued with reptilian superpowers.
“This is my passion … the reason I pursued acting. I have always wanted to be an action star. As a kid, I used to watch these kinds of shows. Now I was given a chance to do an action series, so I didn’t want to take this opportunity and trust for granted. Whatever I needed to do, I did it, no matter how difficult. That’s how much I love this show and my craft,” he told the Inquirer in a recent virtual conference.
In the action-fantasy series, which airs weeknights starting July 4, Ruru portrays the titular character, Lolong, who traces his roots to the persecuted tribe of Atubaw, a group of people who coexisted with crocodiles.
As a child growing up in a rural village called Tumahan, Lolong develops a strong kinship with animals—most especially with the majestic crocodile Dakila (brought to life by a fiberglass and silicone model operated by pneumatic technology and enhanced by computer-generated imagery).
However, powers that be decide to round up crocodiles in the town saying that the creatures are a menace to local livestock. Lolong keeps his friendship with Dakila a secret. And as he navigates the disarray in his hometown, Lolong soon discovers peculiarities—special abilities, rather—that will help him take on greedy and exploitative forces that threaten the environment and the people.
Because shooting the show was as challenging physically as it was emotionally, Ruru had to make sure that not only his acting is on point, but also his body.
Good physique needed
“Kailangang batak ang katawan ko!” Ruru quipped. “I had lots of scenes where I was topless or had to swim. There was one where I was on a boat in the middle of a river: I had to dive into the water, swim to the shore, do fight scenes, and then do regular scenes. That was really difficult.”
As such, Ruru did physical conditioning in the pockets of free time he had during the locked-in taping. “I would train early in the morning before taping, and again after taping. If I don’t do that, my body will fail me. It’s very hard, but that’s exactly the kind of challenge I’m looking for. I’m 25 now and I want to explore new things. And this is the right show to challenge myself.”
Aside from the rigors that come with executing choreographed fight sequences, Ruru and his costars also had to contend with the elements like torrential downpours that made the outdoor shooting locations slippery. And because part of the show was filmed at a time when face shields were still a health requirement, rehearsals became trickier than it should be.
Still, Ruru promised himself that he would do his own stunts, come hell or high water.
“Doing my own stunts is important to me… I feel a different kind of satisfaction when I see myself on television doing my stunts,” said Ruru, who pointed out that getting hurt once in a while was part and parcel of the job. “Sometimes, you will get wounds … it can’t be helped. It’s part of the process.”
In one action scene, Ruru sustained a hairline fracture on his foot. Although the injury was minor, he dreaded the inconvenience it caused. “When it happened, it wasn’t the pain that I immediately felt. I knew it would be a hassle to everyone because it would cause a delay. So I challenged myself. I did therapy and rehab. When I resumed taping, I wasn’t at my 100 percent, but I told my directors that I will give it my all,” he said.
Two years in the making
Lolong’s love interests are Elsie and Bella, who are played by Shaira Diaz and Arra San Agustin, respectively. The teleserye also stars Christopher de Leon, Jean Garcia, Bembol Roco, Rochelle Pangilinan, Paul Salas, Ian de Leon, Marco Alacaraz, DJ Durano, Maui Taylor, Malou de Guzman and Mikoy Morales.
“Walang nagpapataasan; lahat pantay-pantay. When someone needs help, we’re there. Sir Bo was there to support (Christopher)… When it’s my scene, they encourage you to own it. When you do scenes with Ms Jean, Sir Bembol and Miss Malou, the veterans, you will also learn a lot,” he said.
It took GMA Public Affairs about two years to produce “Lolong,” because of pandemic- and production-related challenges. “I have been praying for the series since 2019. But then the pandemic happened, so it was delayed. And every time we were about to resume, a problem arose. There was a time when the studio got flooded because of a typhoon. Another time, someone tested positive [for COVID]. There were lots of struggles like that,” he related.
Never giving up
At one point, he felt that maybe the project wasn’t meant to be. “I lost my drive… Perhaps this is not the career for me, I thought,” he said. “I felt like maybe I should just go back to school. But I prayed. Many people who believed in me told me not to give up; that I can do it. They told me that I have been waiting for this for a long time. ‘Ngayon ka pa ba susuko?’ they said.”
While “Lolong” is just about to be aired, Ruru feels that it has already changed the course of his life and career. “I have learned lots of things while doing it. Sometimes, you don’t realize the importance of the things you have. But this project reignited my passion, commitment and drive to work. I became stronger because of the hardships we went through,” he said.
“I feel like we’re given these challenges so we don’t take what we have for granted,” Ruru said. “This is my 10th year in the biz, and I feel thankful and lucky to be part of this project.” INQ
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