Coco Martin’s scriptless process keeps actors on their toes
“This is why I asked to work with intelligent actors,” said Coco Martin when he was made to share his work habits as a director, writer, line producer, and lead actor of the newest action-adventure series, “FPJ’s Batang Quiapo.” Coco keeps his co-actors on their toes by not giving them any script.
“I know that many actors are scared of this process or that they find it weird, but this is what works for me. I do this because I want to give them complete freedom in terms of creating their characters because I trust them completely. This is also the reason I get only actors who are intelligent and good at what they do,” Coco told reporters during a recent media gathering.
“I want my actors to personally work on building their characters’ backstories. I give them only bullet points during takes because I don’t want to spoonfeed them. As the director, I have my vision, and I know how to create it. I also want them to surprise me,” he explained. “This way, scenes come out more organic, and the actors are more alert during takes. As a result, they’re able to feel their characters more.”
Coco explained that he would simply cue the actors on the topic of a particular scene, inform them as to who would first throw the lines, then leave them to banter. “I allow them to experiment. I feel confident because no one knows their characters better than them. Oftentimes, I would keep shooting the scenes even though I’m already expected to say ‘cut!’ because that’s when the banter becomes a lot more natural,” Coco said.
“Batang Quiapo” is based on the 1986 action-comedy film of the same title, starring Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) and Maricel Soriano. The series tells the adventures of Tanggol (Coco) who rises to be one of the most notorious outlaws in the neighborhood while he navigates life in Quiapo. Hoping to earn the affection of his parents, his feat draws him closer to the truth about his identity.
“The one good thing that we chose to bring from ‘Ang Probinsyano’ is authenticity. This is really Pinoy na Pinoy, in terms of its look and the culture it aims to present to the audience,” said Coco in response to the question on how similar, as well as how different, “Batang Quiapo” is to its predecessor.
Broaden, deepen stories
“The heroes in the two stories are totally different in personalities. Cardo is a policeman, while Tanggol is a criminal, an antagonist. We’re very conscious of these differences. I hope the audience sees our efforts. I’d actually be sad if I hear anyone say, ‘I’ve already seen this in ‘Ang Probinsyano,’” he pointed out.
Coco said he and his production team were also conscious not to get anything from the movie version. “We simply made the movie created by FPJ as our inspiration. Even the lead characters are different—the movie had Baldo, while this teleserye is all about Tanggol. Also, because this is a teleserye, we have the luxury of time to broaden, as well as deepen, the stories of the characters,” he explained, adding that, as of now, the show already features 52 actors. “It’s not impossible to see the original cast members of FPJ’s movie version in future episodes.”
Malu Sevilla, one of the series’ directors, agreed. “This pays homage to FPJ. The only thing similar about the film and the series is that they both feature a lead character who aspires to change and improve his life. It’s a tribute to FPJ’s body of work, but it’s from a different creator, Coco, whom we hope the people will come to appreciate, as well.”
“Ang Probinsyano,” which lasted seven years, currently holds the record for being the longest-running action-adventure series in the country. Does Coco feel pressured to make sure that the new show not only matches the success of the previous, but also surpasses it?
“I refuse to feel pressured. I simply want to enjoy making the project. I believe that as long as you love and respect your work, it will bear good fruit. That’s what happened to ‘Ang Probinsyano.’ For this series, we will let the audience dictate how long it will last,” he said. “For all of us in the production team, we will try our best to make sure that viewers are entertained during each episode. So as long as we are able to make them happy, the project will continue and we will all get to keep our jobs.”
He also promised to feature different areas in the Philippines in the new series, similar to what was showcased in “Ang Probinsyano.”
“I’m confident that the series will go beyond Quiapo,” he added. “The story’s milieu is broad and very much alive. Actually, I think I was able to get a glimpse of an interesting topic that is not discussed in film or TV that often—the stories of our Muslim brothers and sisters. We hope to tackle that in the coming episodes.”
Coco is confident that since Quiapo is a melting pot of cultures, the series will never run out of topics to discuss. “Definitely, iikot ito. We might even go outside of the country. Where this show goes depends on where our audiences will take us,” the actor said.
The series also features Lovi Poe, Charo Santos-Concio, Cherry Pie Picache, John Estrada, Miles Ocampo, Precious Lara Quigaman, Ejay Falcon, among others. It began airing on the Kapamilya Channel on Feb. 13, as well as on TV5 and A2Z.