Mr. M on what makes Stell a star: Presence, talent, professionalism
Having followed the careers of Chito Miranda, Billy Crawford and Julie Anne Jose, seasoned television director and starmaker Johnny Manahan already knew, more or less, what to expect from the three artists when he was asked to helm the GMA 7 reality talent search “The Voice Generations.”
It was SB19 member Stell Ajero, the youngest of the show’s four coach-judges, who proved to be a revelation.
“I have worked with three of them in the past—Billy, Julie Anne and Chito. But the surprise and delight for me is the new one. Nabulabog ako kay Stell … talagang nabulabog. I’m speechless. It’s all there. He did it all,” he told the Inquirer in a recent virtual conference.
Manahan, fondly known in the industry as “Mr. M,” believes that Stell has the makings of a star and was particularly impressed by his presence and professionalism. “Presence pa lang talbog na ako, eh. Wala akong masabi at maipintas. And when he sings, the way he moves—that’s a star.”
“He can fit in with everybody,” added Manahan, who admitted that he was initially woried about whether or not Stell would be confident enough to banter with the more experienced coaches.
“I thought he would be left out, but he’s quick witted. Before you know it, he’s steering the conversation,” he observed.
Rapport and dynamics
And it’s heartening to see the group’s more experienced judges give their full support to Stell, Manahan said. “Someone like Billy who has seen it all was very generous to Stell. He guided him, helped him fly. It’s the same with Chito and Julie Anne. I’m very happy with this group.”
Manahan couldn’t be more satisfied with the group’s rapport and dynamics on the set, so much so that he nicknamed them “Tropang Magaling.”
“What’s good about the group is that they’re all about give and take. They don’t try to outdo each other,” said Manahan, who likened the four coaches’ relationship to that of a basketball team. “They have their own roles and they have to click. I didn’t have to do much.”
While he’s a stickler for details, Manahan didn’t feel the need to handhold anyone.
“Most of them are veterans. I didn’t have to give them a talk. From what I saw in the rehearsals, the photo shoot—everything gelled immediately. ‘Di ko na sila kailangang batuk-batukan,” he quipped, laughing. “I only step in when things go slightly off course.”
And it’s just the little things, Manahan said. “Sometimes, I give Chito advice through the headset like, ‘Chito, you’re speaking in English too much. Parokya ni Edgar, talk like you would to a neighborhood tropa … I also thought Chito would be reserved, but he’s actually outgoing.”
Manahan directed some of the previous seasons and iterations of “The Voice” back when the show was on ABS-CBN, and so it was a refreshing change, he said, to have a different set of judges.
“We just joke around on the set. I’d be on the floor and hear them gossiping. I would join them. Sina Billy at Chito, mga chismoso!” he said, laughing. “There’s new excitement with the new judges.”
It has been four years since Manahan did a singing contest. While he has since directed noontime variety shows, his first love will always be music-related productions. “It’s my first love. It feels like I’m back home. It has been a while, but I had fun,” he said.
Manahan was worried at first that the break he took would leave him rusty. But directing, he said, is like riding a bike, he said—“once you’re on it, everything comes back to you naturally.” he said.
He just needs sufficient rest. He’s 76 and not getting any younger, Manahan said. “I have to focus on my health. We work long hours for the rehearsals and the actual takes. May edad na rin ako, so I need my sleep, sleep, sleep. If I don’t sleep well, I won’t feel good and I will have a hard time working.”
But as far as the mechanics are concerned, Manahan is confident that he has everything down pat.
“I’m an old hand. This isn’t my first rodeo, so to speak. I have done ‘The Voice’ many times before. Kabisado ko na ‘yun,” he said. “But I’m happy people are liking the show. I was able to impart my knowledge and give my heart to the project. INQ
“The Voice Generations” airs Sunday nights on GMA 7.