2 things actors need to do to become credible action stars | Inquirer Entertainment

2 things actors need to do to become credible action stars

/ 12:20 AM February 06, 2023
Lester Pimentel Ong (center) with Richard Gutierrez (left) and Ian Veneracion

Lester Pimentel Ong (center) with Richard Gutierrez (left) and Ian Veneracion

The ones who end up becoming the best action stars are those who are more focused on being good actors than becoming celebrities.

This is according to action director Lester Pimentel Ong, a former wushu national athlete who is now at the helm of the action-drama series “The Iron Heart,” starring Richard Gutierrez. Lester is also behind the six-part action noir “One Good Day,” featuring Ian Veneracion.


“This is what I’ve noticed with Ian, Richard and even Jake Cuenca (also of ‘The Iron Heart’). They are very serious about their craft and are focused on becoming good actors. More than anything, that’s what you should concentrate on if you want to last in the industry,” Lester told Inquirer Entertainment in a recent virtual chat.

“But if you also want to become popular action stars like them, you have to do two things. First, you need to be fit. Second, you need to learn martial arts. This is because known actors in Hollywood movies were really martial artists first before becoming actors.”


Ian and Richard have been into martial arts for years but, Lester said, not many people know this because they have had little opportunity to showcase their skills.

“Ian has been a martial artist since he was 7 years old. He never stopped. Richard started young, too, and did several kinds of martial arts. We found good opportunities for them to showcase this in two projects. This is also why I enjoy working with them. Our creations as actors and director/fight choreographer are unlimited. The possibilities are endless because these two can deliver,” said Lester, who once competed at the SEA Games, a biennial multisport event, and bagged a bronze medal.

One of the best

How does an actor know if he is indeed cut out for action projects? “Normally, we do workouts and train together. Since I’m a martial arts teacher, too, I look at their body types, then design the stunts according to their abilities and the characters they portray. All these have to match the style of action,” Lester said.

Working with female action stars is not so different, he added. Dimples Romana had one short gunfight in “The Iron Heart,” but that’s the most Lester has done with any of the female cast members. He worked with Angel Locsin in a past project and described her as one of the best.

“She is, first and foremost, a good actress. She shows a lot of layers in her acting. I latched on to that—we put layers even to her physical movements, too. If you think Angel is awesome at action, it’s all because of the design. We base this on the character’s internal journey. In drama, emotions are expressed through the eyes, while in action, it’s through your whole body,” he explained.

This was also why Lester formed his production company called Studio 360, which focuses on creating movies and TV series to provide content to streaming platforms.

Ong (right) with Angel Locsin on the set of “Imortal”

Ong (right) with Angel Locsin on the set of “Imortal”

“It started with Action 360, which is a group of stuntmen formed five years ago when I was asked by ABS-CBN to work on ‘La Luna Sangre’ and ‘Bagani.’ Before this, we used to import stuntmen from China or other places. Later on, I realized that we need to have homegrown stunt actors. We gathered a bunch of athletes—mostly martial artists, gymnasts and cheer dancers—and trained them,” he said.


Growing PH market

“Action 360 is now a subdivision of Studio 360, of which I am one of the founding partners. Since most of the local content are romantic-comedies and family dramas, we’re not known for action internationally, but we have so much more to offer. We have a lot of actors who are good in action and, one day, can be at par with those from other countries. While we’re admittedly not there yet, we’re working very hard to get there.”

“One Good Day,” which is being shown in key locations in Asia under Prime Video, was created specifically for the international market. It is shot entirely in Iloilo, Lester said.

“I want the foreign audience to see the Philippines with a different perspective. I want them to see that Latin vibe we have. I think Iloilo is able to give that vibe with its opulent mansions. It’s also amazing how they have their own BGC there, the River Esplanade. It’s a five-minute drive from the town. You then drive for another five minutes and you will see their own Forbes Park. Drive a little further and you will reach Bacolod City. That’s one wonderful thing about Iloilo—you can showcase the Latin vibe and the opulence of the past in the Philippines,” he said.

Meanwhile, “The Iron Heart” is being taped in Cebu. “It’s the same thing—Cebu is very rich with Spanish past. I always convince my producers to create content that we think will be appreciated abroad. For example, Korean content is already eating up a large portion of our market. We have to allow our market to grow, if not, it will die a natural death.

“The Philippines has so much more to offer other than its beaches and mountains. Each city has its own character. Our products are able to reach other countries naturally. This way, foreign audiences take more interest in the Philippines through these contents.” INQ

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