Valentine’s Day 2024: The rise of the unconventional leading men
Valentine’s Day 2024 is this Wednesday, and romance is in the air. When you think of romance, one usually gets a vision of dashing, tall, dark and handsome prince-type to make girls swoon over. These days, however, there’s a certain marketability for boy-next-door type of comedic actors whose looks may be deemed unconventional for a romantic lead role.
They may not easily quicken one’s pulse with a look, but their feel-good persona can just as easily pull the audience’s heartstrings this Valentine’s Day. Although we are past the formula of judging someone by their looks, these men break the stereotype that can be traced as far back as the comedic genius of Rene Requiestas or Dolphy, or even Chiquito’s time.
And while these dudes may not have hit the genetic jackpot like some of their counterparts, they nevertheless compensate with their onscreen empathy and humor, taking over the big screen and small screen with their witticism and sincerity. With these simpatico elements up their sleeves, this breed of leading men could very well give the likes of Piolo Pascual, Donny Pangilinan, Dingdong Dantes and Dennis Trillo a run for their money.
After the success of “Kita Kita” in 2017, Empoy Marquez was found “booked and busy” as he took more pretty leading ladies under his wing. In “Kita Kita,” Marquez partnered up with Alessandra de Rossi, and together, they created a chemistry that the audience found difficult not to get swayed by.
Marquez’s journey in the limelight started when he became the grand winner in the Mr. Suave Look-alike contest of the defunct “Magandang Tanghali Bayan,” which he started hosting later on.
He got his first teleserye gig when he assumed the role of Petrang Kabayo in “Super Inggo.” He also worked on the 2010 fantasy “Kokey at Ako” and graced a few comedic programs, like “Banana Split.”
Marquez’s humor on and off screen gained him a loyal following that believed in his abilities to meet the qualities of a true leading man on screen. Despite being in the industry for a while as a comedy actor, Marquez’s side of being a lover added a taste to his career.
Over the years, he has worked with Cristine Reyes in “Kidnap for Romance,” Maja Salvador in “Niña Niño,” Shy Carlos in “The Barker,” Kim Molina in “My Zombabe,” Alex Miro in “Ano’ng Meron Kay Abok,” and Herlene Budol in “Black Rider.”
Despite being compared to Empoy Marquez, Pepe Herrera brings a new kind of flavor to the troupe of unconventional leading men. Herrera’s comedic ability blends well with the chivalrous attitude he’s trying to showcase on screen. The actor-comedian’s latest movie “My Sassy Girl” is setting the tone for him as a legitimate leading man.
In “My Sassy Girl,” Herrera serves as Toni Gonzaga’s leading man. Gonzaga, who has quite a notable catalog of successful romantic comedy movies and has partnered with different and celebrated leading men, Herrera has still managed to equal the actress as the viewers pointed out their “chemistry” on screen.
With his onscreen return last year, Herrera has starred in a number of big-ticket projects, such as the award-winning MIFF film “Rewind” starring Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera, and Enrique Gil’s coming-of-age movie, “I Am Not Big Bird.”
In 2018, Regal Matriarch Lily Monteverde regarded Herrera as her new Rene Requiestas when he took on the lead role on “The Hopeful Romantic” and gave the impression that he could ace the rom-com genre. He also starred alongside Janine Gutierrez in “Ikaw”; and “Ang Pangarap Kong Holdap” opposite Paolo Contis.
The same year, Herrera responded to the question of unconventional leading men bringing a new kind of brand, saying, “For me, it means that the audience now has a better taste.”
Being labeled as the “New Pogi” (New Handsome), Jerald Napoles first landed the ultimate dream when he acted as one of the leading men of primetime queen Marian Rivera in “Super Maam” in 2017.
He took on his first movie gig as a leading man in the 2018 fantasy romantic comedy film “The Write Moment.” with Valeen Montenegro. Napoles admitted that he gained a new level of confidence when he started receiving offers to play a leading man despite being a comedic regular.
“Aamin po ako na medyo mas tumaas ‘yung kumpiyansa in terms of kung ano pa ang mga posibleng mangyari sa career at saka kung ano pa ‘yung mga project na darating. Sa ‘The Write Moment’ ay nabuksan ang doors sa akin, na puwede pala akong maging leading man,” he said.
(I will admit that my confidence has increased a bit more in terms of what else can happen in my career and then what other projects are coming up. In “The Write Moment,” the doors were opened to me, that I could be a leading man.)
Napoles’ recently starred as a single father in “Single Daddy,” which was an adaptation of a Mexican blockbuster of the same title.
Napoles also won big in real life, as he has been dating actress Kim Molina for 10 years now. The celebrity couple has also worked three times for the romantic movies “Girlfriend Na Pwede Na” and “Ang Babaeng Walang Pakiramdam” in 2021, and later on in the same year for “Ikaw at Ako at ang Ending.”