Dante Basco, Paolo Montalban on H’wood representation, working with KC Concepcion
KC is a real-life Disney princess,” said Filipino-American actor Paolo Montalban as a way to describe KC Concepcion, his leading lady in the Hollywood indie movie “Asian Persuasion.”
“On camera, have you seen her skin? She’s flawless. But I think that’s because of her inner beauty. Also, everyone in this country knows this—she’s an incredibly hard worker,” the US-based actor told reporters during the special screening of the romantic comedy film at SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City. “KC is super hard on herself. She always came to the set prepared. She was always asking what we needed from her, too. KC is really top-tier.”
In “Asian Persuasion,” KC worked alongside another Filipino-American actor, Dante Basco, under the direction of Tony and Grammy winner Jhett Tolentino. It is the story of a down-on-his-luck chef, Mickey (Dante), who cooks up a crazy scheme to marry off his ex-wife, Avery (KC), by setting up a fake internet dating profile in an attempt to find her a suitor to remarry in order to avoid his substantial alimony obligations. With the help of Lee (Paolo Montalban), Mickey gets off to a hot start, until he realizes that he wants a second chance with Avery.
The romantic comedy premiered at the 2023 Soho International Film Festival in New York in September. It has been screening in local theaters nationwide since Nov. 29.
When it was Dante’s turn to recall how he bonded with KC, he said: “I knew her through the social scene here in Manila. I told her how I remember meeting her mother for the first time at a restaurant some 20 years ago. An entourage came into the restaurant. There’s a woman in the middle and I asked, ‘Who’s that?’ ‘That’s Sharon Cuneta,’ I was told. While I was recalling this to KC, I told her, ‘She summoned me!’ When I was there, she said, ‘So you’re the Fil-Am?’ I said, ‘I guess I am the Fil-Am.’ She was really sweet,” he began.
“KC has always just been very loving. When I finally got to work with her, she was great. She came to shoot in New York. She was respectful with how we do things. We would have conversations about how you do it here in the Philippines as opposed to how we do it in the United States. We got great rapport, but her scenes were mostly with Paolo,” said Dante, who we remember for his portrayals in the fantasy-adventure flick “Hook” and the indie drama “The Debut.”Korean-American actor Kevin Kreider, who plays Mickey’s friend Caspian, only had good words for KC, too. “I actually knew KC before I knew that we would be working together. This was when we were in LA (Los Angeles), and we would bump into each other. I later found out that she’s a big star here in the Philippines. She was never a show-off like most people in the States. She didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. I think she just wanted to show her own identity,” said Kevin, who, as Caspian, helped Mickey craft the plan to remarry Avery.“I knew she came from a family of actors, so I thought it would be interesting to work with her. She probably felt that she had big shoes to fill—I felt that from her,” Kevin said of KC, who is Sharon’s daughter with actor Gabby Concepcion. “She’s an awesome talent to work with. She made me feel very comfortable on the set.”
When asked to share their views on Filipino representation in Hollywood, Dante began by recalling what it was like for him when he started working in the late 1990s. “Representation has been a hot word in Hollywood for a long time now. Of course, for me and Paolo, representation back then was just us being in films, which is important for that particular generation. How it has changed since is the amazing thing,” he began.
“As Asians in Hollywood, we’re at the highest profile we have been in the history of Hollywood. This is phenomenal. Back then, every role that we played, and 90 percent of what was written in Hollywood, was written by straight white men. To be part of projects that are of our words and direction, that’s true representation. Conversations in Hollywood now are conversations of us as Filipinos, as African-Americans, as Latinos, with us telling our stories. There’s no way that white men can tell our stories the same way we can. That’s the new representation. The conversation of art through our own views and words.”
Paolo, who agrees with Dante, added: “I feel very fortunate to be a part of a high-profile movie like this one that has a multicultural cast in it. What we see today, insofar as representation is that it doesn’t necessarily have to have a multicultural cast. You can have a cast full of Asians come up with an incredibly entertaining experience. So I’m really hopeful about the future and grateful for today, and I’m inspired by people who say they’ve been inspired by the work that Dante and I have done in the past. It’s just a really beautiful cycle,” he declared.
The press conference was also attended by FIlipino comedian-singer Fe delos Reyes, American actress Geneva Carr and Filipino-Chinese Mike Ang, who wrote the screenplay.
A number of Filipino actors had cameo performances in the film including Apl.de.ap, Rachel Alejandro, Tony Labrusca and Yam Concepcion. Jhett, who also coproduced the film with Mike, explained that this was a “calculated move.”
“Mike and I believe that we have to provide opportunities to our actors from here,” Jhett pointed out. “Rachel now has her membership card from the SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) because of ‘Asian Persuasion.’ You can only apply for it if you’ve worked on a film under the SAG-AFTRA. Providing those spots for actors who have never been in a SAG-AFTRA film was calculated. We thought about those actors from the beginning.” INQ