Coco Martin on being second choice for ‘Apag’ role: I jumped in with eyes closed
The family drama “Apag” features so many A-listers from the local indie scene that lead actor Coco Martin said he dropped everything when he was offered to be a part of it, “even though I had no idea what my role would be.”
The Brillante Ma Mendoza film, which features an all-Kapampangan cast, is an entry to the 1st Summer Metro Manila Film Festival, which runs until April 18.
“I asked Direk, ‘Are you serious [about wanting me to join the project]? Because if you are, I will fix my schedule to accommodate it.’ When I found out that Jaclyn Jose, Lito Lapid and Julio Diaz were part of the cast that would be directed by Direk Dante (Mendoza’s nickname), I stopped asking questions about the project. I immediately felt excited with the company,” said Martin.
“I grew up with Direk Dante. We began our show biz careers together. My first acting role was in his first movie, ‘Masahista.’ During the years he was still making indie movies left and right, I was part of most of them, until the time when I took a different direction. While I worked for TV and went mainstream, he carried on and made some of his most awarded films,” Martin recalled.
Through the years, Martin and Mendoza both made sure they were updated with whatever project the other was doing. “When I learned about what happened during production, I got worried. It was also then when I realized how much I’ve missed doing indies,” Martin said.
Mendoza earlier said that Martin’s role was first offered to Aljur Abrenica, who backed out at the last minute.
“When Direk asked me if I’d agree to join the project, I jumped in with my eyes closed. I went to the location without knowing what my role would be. That’s how great my trust in Direk Dante is,” the actor said.
In the end, Martin said he was glad that he took the risk. “I’m so proud of this movie. The effort was all worth it. Everyone in the cast was good, especially because a lot of them are A-list indie actors,” he pointed out. “If I weren’t part of this and found out who made up the cast, I would’ve felt jealous and asked why I wasn’t in it.”
In “Apag,” Martin is Rafael, the son of a wealthy family. He figures in a car accident on his way home from the market to prepare for a feast, killing Nita’s (Gladys Reyes) husband in the process. Nita files a criminal case and Alfredo (Lapid) is sent to jail after pleading guilty in place of his son Rafael, who is then weighed down by guilt.
Jose said that after “Ma’ Rosa,” which gave her the Cannes best actress award in 2016, she never expected Mendoza to do another movie of the same caliber. “After all, that triumph is difficult to outdo. Of course, people will say ‘Dante and Jaclyn have teamed up again? What are these two going to show this time?’ We don’t want to dwell on that. Dante refuses to feel pressured by comments like that. I know him well. It was for ‘Serbis’ when we had our first red carpet experience in Cannes [in 2008].”
Jose continued: “Also, you will see a very different Lito in this movie. It’s a first for him to be seen as a dramatic actor. His performance here is very far from the Leon Guerrero character that we’re so used to [seeing since the 1970s].”
Lapid said that of all the movies he has made in over five decades, he felt the most relaxed doing “Apag.”
This could be attributed to the fact that he spoke his native language, Kapampangan, throughout the shoot. The idea of working with Mendoza for the first time, however, made him feel extremely nervous.
“I’ve always wanted to work with him because for me, being directed by him is like being directed by the late Lino Brocka (National Artist for Film). In the beginning, I was afraid because I was expected to do heavy drama. That’s why I approached Direk and asked for guidance. I said, ‘Alalayan mo naman ako,’” Lapid recalled, adding that he also had some help from Jose and Martin, both of whom he was able to work with in past projects.
For Reyes, “the thought of being featured in a Kapampangan film somehow helps bring out the needed emotions from me during crying scenes. I also wish that my father were still around to see this movie. My parents are full-blooded Kapampangans,” she pointed out. “Finally, I now have a movie I can proudly offer to my fellow Kabalens.” Reyes won the best actress award at the Gabi ng Parangal on Tuesday night.
She added: “I’ve been acting for over 35 years. It’s been a while since I felt so excited to make a movie. I would always look forward to going to the set for this film. So this is what it’s like to be on a Brillante Mendoza set! The members of the production team are all so young yet extremely talented. They all call me Ate! I can’t wait to see the finished product.”
Love for food
Mercedes Cabral, who also appeared in a number of Mendoza’s past movies, has this to say about the award-winning director’s unique filmmaking style. “In all the projects I’ve done with Direk, I would go to the set having no idea what the story was about. He would just describe my character and the other players that revolve around her. It’s only for this project that he had to provide me a lengthy explanation, as in 50 percent of the story. I needed it to help form my character,” she said.
When asked what he thought was the most challenging aspect of filming “Apag,” Mendoza said it was keeping himself from eating while on the set. “Aside from the food on the set, Sen. Lapid would also bring more. We would really eat the food that we filmed. Everyone on the set got a lot heavier. Our cholesterol level probably shot up after this,” he quipped.
Mendoza said he is confident the Filipino audience will enjoy “Apag” because “we are a race that loves to eat. We enjoy talking with each other while we eat. Sometimes, sensitive family issues would even crop up during dinner. This is definitely not just for the Kapampangans.”