Pinoy pride: PH actors on the international scene
“There’s no more exciting time to be a Filipino actor than today,” declared Iñigo Pascual, whose participation in the American musical drama series “Monarch” is considered one of the most significant this year.
This is because Pascual is actually playing a character who traces his roots back to the Philippines.
Pascual, as well as Filipino actors Dolly de Leon, Joaquin Valdes, Chai Fonacier, Soliman Cruz, Alex Diaz and Andrea Torres, are part of international productions currently being seen in different parts of the globe.
There are also those who are creating buzz in different sectors related to the arts, like Marie Jamora and Isabel Sandoval in directing and Heart Evangelista in fashion and visual arts.
Wherever they may be in the world or in whatever arts-related field they may choose to excel in, we honor them and feel proud that they are out there, sharing our voices and telling our stories.
Pascual said he is thrilled to be given the chance to represent the country for his first international gig. The 25-year-old actor is also excited about the doors that could open not just for him, but for other Filipino artists with the release of “Monarch.”
“I’m happy because a lot of my friends are now auditioning for productions in the United States as well,” he reported.
“Monarch” started airing on Fox in September. It chronicles the struggles within the Roman family, headed by Dottie Cantrel Roman (Susan Sarandon), who is dubbed the Queen of Country Music. Iñigo plays Ace, one of Dottie’s grandkids who was adopted from the Philippines.
The homegrown actress-singer, who originated the role of Kim in “Miss Saigon,” was tapped to play the mother of the character portrayed by Fil-Am actress Malia Pyles in the HBO Max/HBO Go series “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin.”
Ampil, another standout “Miss Saigon” alumna, made headlines last September when it was announced that she would be the first actress to essay the coveted role of The Engineer in a reimagined production of “Miss Saigon” in the United Kingdom.
Chai Fonacier likewise plays a Filipino character, a nanny, in Irish filmmaker Lorcan Finnegan’s psychological-thriller “Nocebo.”
While “Nocebo” was well-received in various film festivals abroad, Fonacier admitted to feeling anxious about how the Filipino audience would react to it when it had a special screening in Manila recently.
In “Nocebo,” which is an Irish-Filipino coproduction, Fonacier worked alongside Hollywood actors Eva Green and Mark Strong. It is about a fashion designer named Christine (Green) who suffers from a mysterious illness that confounds her doctors and frustrates her husband. As their nanny, Diana (Fonacier) uses traditional folk healing on Christine, a horrifying truth is revealed.
“I am interested to hear what conversations may come up among Filipinos after viewing it,” she told Inquirer Entertainment.
Romanian filmmaker Mihai Mincan’s “To the North” follows the story of Joel, a religious Filipino sailor who encounters a hidden stowaway, Dumitru, while working on a transatlantic ship. Joel, after seeing that Dumitru has a Bible with him, begins to play a dangerous game involving his crew, his faith in God, as well as an innocent man’s life.
The role of Joel was really made for no one but Soliman Cruz, whom Mincan first saw in Lav Diaz’s “Norte: Hangganan ng Kasaysayan.”
“Lav and his style of filmmaking has a huge following in Europe, and this director is one of them,” Cruz said, adding that Mincan started looking for him soon after seeing “Norte” but negotiations took four years to finish.
Cruz is in 80 percent of the film, the actor pointed out. “I realized that I’m really the lead character here, and not just a supporting one. I got used to playing support all the time,” he stressed.
“To The North” is touted as one of Romania’s biggest coproduction efforts with France, Greece, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.
Dolly de Leon
Dolly de Leon auditioned for the role of Abigail, a toilet manager on a luxury cruise ship, in Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund’s “Triangle of Sadness” when the casting team flew to Manila in 2018.
“At the audition, I really tried to look like Abigail—dressed down, simple, and without any makeup,” recalled Dolly.
Fast forward to June this year, “Triangle of Sadness” premiered at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France and even won the Palm d’Or.
De Leon, meanwhile, became one of the hottest celebrities during the festival, with international media referring to her as “a breakout star,” and “a scene-stealing Filipino actor.” Articles reported that, in Cannes, De Leon would get stopped in the street by enthusiastic fans for photos or autographs.
“Triangle of Sadness” is currently in the running for a nomination under the best international feature film of the 75th Academy Awards, while De Leon is considered a “threat” to the strong contenders for the best supporting actress award nomination.
“An actor can’t be weak,” De Leon said when asked to share her takeaway from the maddening experience. “Every day, we open ourselves up for judgment. We have to be strong, resilient, adaptable and loving at the same time. These are what everybody needs in any kind of job.”
Joaquin Valdes is the very first homegrown Filipino actor to play Simba in a production of Disney’s “The Lion King” in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Prior to this gig, Valdes was part of “The Lion King’s” ensemble and covered Simba in the musical’s Rhino UK/Ireland tour.
“I’ve never been able to relate to any character more than Simba. I have loved ‘The Lion King’ since I saw the film, and I remember singing ‘I Can’t Wait To Be King’ on repeat because I was that young,” Valdes once told Inquirer Entertainment.
On this particular tour, he covers Stephenson Ardern-Sodje, “who’s an excellent Simba,” Valdes pointed out. After Ireland, the tour is scheduled to go around the United Kingdom.
Valdes went to the United Kingdom in 2018 to work in “Miss Saigon” as a member of the ensemble, while covering the roles of Thuy and The Engineer. For a year, he performed in various cities and provinces in the United Kingdom, as well as in Switzerland and Germany.
He has since joined the productions of “Heathers: The Musical” (West End), “Vanara” (London), “The King and I” (UK/International tour), and “Fanny and Stella” (London).
These days, the articles about Heart Evangelista aren’t so much about her work as an actress.
In these writeups—found in fashion-lifestyle magazines Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Forbes France, among others—Evangelista is referred to as a “style maven,” a “stylista” and a “Filipino style darling.”
This is because Evangelista now ranks among the most influential celebrities in fashion. This claim is backed up by numbers: She has 11 million followers on Instagram and 2.84 million on YouTube.
On their social media sites, known brands like Dior and Victoria Beckham even shared photos of Evangelista while all dolled up and wearing some of their collections.
Earlier this year, her name appeared on the list of top content creators and influencers who attended Haute Couture Week in Paris. She was also among the most photographed during the Fashion Week events in Milan and Paris in February.
“I’ve always believed, clothes shouldn’t don’t define you, but there is, indeed, power in style,” Evangelista once told Metro Style.
There is indeed power in Evangelista’s style and art. Last year, she launched Maison Love Marie, her own brand of fashion and home items. Also, she has had several art exhibits, with pieces getting sold between P200,000 and P3 million. An online report also said Evangelista paints on designer bags for select clients starting at P90,000.
Evangelista effectively summed up what she achieved this year as follows: “For me, having great style is not about always wearing the latest trends or wearing all these high fashion labels. It’s about looking good and feeling great.”
Marie Jamora has definitely come a long way from directing music videos and commercials in the Philippines. She now directs shows for American networks CBS and Fox.
She has helmed episodes for Hollywood shows like “Good Sam,” “All Rise,” and “The Cleaning Lady,” which features a female lead character from Cambodia, who worked as a doctor in the Philippines and married a Filipino.
Now based in the United States, she helped form Cinema Sala, a community that now has over a hundred young Filipino and Filipino-American filmmakers as members.
Jamora is also the first Filipino director to be accepted into the American Film Institute’s (AFI) directing workshop for women. She eventually became a faculty of AFI.
Jamora admitted to GMA News that she herself has found this “historically significant.” She explained: “It’s important for people of color to be there and to share our voices and our stories.”
Filipino-American transgender woman Isabel Sandoval was tapped by the American pay-TV channel FX to direct an episode for the TV series “Under the Banner of Heaven,” starring Golden Globe winner Andrew Garfield.
FX even submitted this particular episode for Emmy consideration.
“I was beside myself at having ‘Banner’ as my first TV project… Andrew was a dream to work with,” Sandoval once told GMA News.
Sandoval is also the first transgender woman of color to compete in the Venice Film Festival in 2019 with her full-length feature “Lingua Franca.”
She also recently got admitted as a member of the Director’s Guild of America.
Filipino-Scottish actor Alex Diaz has gotten what he described as his career’s “biggest break yet” when he scored a lead role in the Hollywood movie “Glitter & Doom.”
In this movie by Tom Gustafson, Diaz is joined by Ming-Na Wen (“Mulan,” “ER,” “The Mandalorian”), Missi Pyle (“Gone Girl,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “The Artist”), and newbie actor Alan Cammish.
Produced by Speak Productions, “Glitter & Doom” is an LGBTQ + jukebox musical set to the music of the Grammy-winning folk-rock duo Indigo Girls. Alex plays Glitter, a carefree man, who meets and falls in love with a charismatic musician, Doom (Cammish).
“Ming-Na Wen plays my mom so I’m super excited,” Alex told Inquirer Entertainment. “It’s a big thing to be out there, not just as a Filipino, but also as a queer actor. These are all very, very big things I can be proud of and bring to the Philippines.”
Andrea Torres said she never imagined being part of an international movie production before landing a role in the Argentinian film “Pasional.”
The actress plays Mahalia, a tango dancer. She said she had to learn the dance prior to shooting the film.
The Argentine film crew, headed by its director Francisco D’Intino and leading man Marcelo Melingo, was in the country in April 2022 for the second leg of the shoot that began in 2021 in Cordoba, Argentina.
“Pasional” is a collaboration between Argentina’s Malevo Films, independent Filipino producer Ferdinand Dimadura and GMA.
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