‘Exciting time to be a Filipino actor’: Inclusion rider paving way for Iñigo Pascual, others to pursue H’wood dreams
It’s opening so many opportunities for Filipino artists to cross over,” said singer-actor Iñigo Pascual when asked about his thoughts on what is called in Hollywood as the “inclusion rider,” a contract provision that provides for a certain level of diversity in casting and production staff.
Iñigo is one of the main cast of the American musical drama series “Monarch” that started airing there on Sept. 11 on Fox.
“There’s no more exciting time to be a Filipino actor than today,” declared Iñigo, who spoke to a select group of writers about the work he did for the series that was shot in Atlanta, Georgia, for eight months in 2021.
“It’s not like in the past when you can’t play lead roles in Hollywood productions because you’re not Caucasian and are from a different race. This (inclusion rider in Hollywood contracts) is opening doors for us to be able to share what we have,” said the son of award-winning actor Piolo Pascual.
“Even the mentality of actors is changing. We used to think: ‘I’m from this race. I can’t audition for that.’ It’s nice to see that they’re opening the place up. Now, you can be in a Marvel project and not be questioned about it,” he added.
Iñigo was referring to the series “Ms Marvel,” which has a character named Kamala Khan—a Pakistani-American teener from New Jersey—as the lead. She is Marvel’s first Muslim character and South Asian American personality. Pakistan-born Canadian actress Iman Vellani plays the role in the Disney+ miniseries.
“Monarch” introduces the Roman family, headed by the talented and feisty Dottie Cantrel Roman (Susan Sarandon), who is dubbed the Queen of Country Music. Together with her husband Albie (Trace Adkins), they try their best to keep the family dynasty intact. However, the origins of the dynasty are not what they seem to be. Roman’s daughter Nicolette (Anna Friel) steps in and does all she can to protect the dynasty’s reign in country music while ensuring her own stardom.
Iñigo plays Ace, Nicolette’s adopted son from the Philippines. “I was really happy when I learned that I was to represent our country for my first international project. When I auditioned for it, it wasn’t clear yet which country Ace comes from. In a way, with me being a Filipino, I was able to give my own inputs on what the character should feel and how to behave,” Iñigo pointed out.
“Ace is a nice guy. He is Dottie and Albie’s favorite grandchild. He wants to fit into a family of singers being that he is also an artist. He struggles to answer these questions: ‘How do I fit in? What am I to this family?’ He is also in a dilemma over whether to follow his heart or listen to what his family says about his music and public image,” Iñigo explained.
When we asked how much of Filipino culture was he able to share in the series, Iñigo seemed to feel hopeful with his reply: “For this season, it just says, I’m adopted from the Philippines at a very young age. But I’ve been talking to the writers. They said that if we get more seasons, we would love to explore possibilities. My character could go to the Philippines to try to meet his biological parents.”
Iñigo said he is also excited for the doors that could open not just for him, but for other Filipino artists with the release of “Monarch.” He explained: “I’m happy because a lot of my friends from Star Magic and Cornerstone Entertainment (the talent management groups that handle Iñigo’s career) are now auditioning for productions in the United States as well,” he reported.
“I hope Filipinos would be more recognized globally—as in people will be familiar with us and not ask, ‘You’re from the Philippines? Where’s that?’ It’s one of the ethnicities that is fast becoming known in the United States. It’s nice that people there are familiar with (standup comedian) Jo Koy. They also know that (singer) Bruno Mars is part-Filipino. Nakakatuwa! They used to just know (boxing icon) Manny Pacquiao. It’s an honor to be able to say that I’m one of those who were able to contribute to making the Philippines a place that everyone knows,” Iñigo stressed.
Stories of discrimination
He said he would promote Filipino food whenever he can, too. “Josh (Sasse), who plays my uncle in the show said he got to see the Philippines when he was younger, and that he was served a breakfast dish with sweet pork and fried eggs during his short stay. I am sure that was tocino. I asked my mom to send some so I could share it with everyone on the set,” Iñigo recalled. “A lot of them said they also want to experience swimming and diving here, especially after I posted on Instagram some of the things I did when I came home.”
Iñigo observed that there aren’t a lot of Filipinos in Atlanta compared to Los Angeles, where her mom and her family are based. “Luckily, the people there are very welcoming. That was one of my fears before going there, especially since we hear a lot of stories of discrimination and Asian hate. So far, I’ve not experienced any, although there was one time when I felt I wasn’t given fair treatment,” he recalled.
“I later realized that it was just all in my mind. It happened because people still felt shy around me, and I, to them. It was no longer like that toward the end of the show. I hope that through shows like this, we will be able to tell people that they can’t treat us differently just because we’re from a different race. It’s nice to be able to do a project where I can stand for who I am.” INQ
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