HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated September 23, 2012 12:00 AM
I came home at 7 a.m. last Thursday after a taping of Maalaala Mo Kaya, a TV drama that depicts the life stories of people who send their narratives to Charo Santos of ABS-CBN who hosts the show. Last night, I played the father of Diether Ocampo. I will not divulge too much about the episode. Besides, you will surely hear about it before it is shown next week.
I am also part of the cast of a big, high-profile teleserye playing next month called A Beautiful Affair, a sure blockbuster love story featuring the stellar combination of Bea Alonzo and John Lloyd, also on the Kapamilya network. We have been taping for close to a month now.
It sounds strange hearing myself say it, but yes, I am now an actor. Among the many things I do, such as composing, singing, performing, teaching, photography, writing and running workshops, I guess I now have the right and the privilege to include acting for television. After all, I have been doing enough of it recently.
The truth is, for a number of years, I was quite averse to acting on television. Based on the admittedly few local TV shows I watched, I just did not think there was ample reason to be part of them in any big or permanent way. In general, the plots, I felt, were rather staid, derivative of foreign TV shows or movies, or were too contrived. The characters were hollow, one dimensional and stereotypical, the acting melodramatic, and the pace of the storytelling too slow.
Still, acting jobs would occasionally be offered and sometimes, I would accept them when they came my way.
This year, I decided to go as far as I can in acting. Why the change of heart? Maybe it’s because of the fact that I am at the onset of my sixth decade and I have decided that, at the very least, I should consider opportunities where I may find new ways to express myself.
When I was asked to join the cast of A Beautiful Affair, I consciously fought off my initial hesitation and promptly said yes. Little did I know that the experience would be quite amazing. For starters, the members of the cast were subjected to an acting workshop given by Laurice Guillen.
An acting workshop involves a lot of things, among them letting go of one’s fears to be able to bravely act out the assigned role with clarity and honesty. It involves stepping forward to the unknown and uncomfortable territory of trusting intuition and allowing vulnerability, and coming from one’s truth and applying it in acting out a script. As the actor and teacher Sanford Meisner put it, “Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.”
The exercise was both exhilarating and draining. I sensed a new energy in the room and the actors were able to establish a rapport with each other quickly. I also felt tired because we went through a lot of exercises in expressing varied feelings.
Taping a teleserye involves a lot of emotional commitment. One must get into the role and deliver. I was initially intimidated, but eventually, thankfully, I was exhilarated after I did a rather emotional scene with Bea Alonzo. It took a lot out of me working with someone like Bea, who fearlessly shows vulnerability and engagement. After I had internalized my script and my role and faced the cameras, I felt like I was being pulled into a more intense emotional connection with her and to the whole scene. I was “one” with it. It was electric.
Acting in a teleserye also involves a lot of time spent just waiting. There are so many scenes shot in a day and that takes much planning on the part of the crew and a lot of waiting on the part of the actors. Meanwhile, stories are shared and friendships are formed among the cast.
I have also learned a lot seeing how lights and cameras are set up, and how actors tackle their roles. I am learning how the director paces and choreographs actors, cameras and the entire movement and execution of the scenes.
It is similar to music where one fills up time with notes and silences arranged to lift the listener to a new experience. All this is nuanced with the dynamics of volume and sound texture. The difference is, in acting, you fill up time and space with something that hopefully makes sense and is engaging enough, or riveting enough for the audience to be interested. You fill up time and space with your story using your body, movement, voice and emotional state to convey its real meaning.
I have often wondered why many actors, actresses and performers everywhere seem to have messed-up personal lives. There seems to be too much alcohol or drug use, promiscuity and other toxic indulgences in place of a quiet, more stable emotional life. The answer, I believe, is partly that when, say, a businessman invests in an endeavor, it is only money he puts on the line. Money can always be replaced, or earned again when lost. But actors and performers invest their entire beings in what they do. They are emotionally “invested” in their performance. They “lose” when they deliver less than expected and so the loss is always personal. And quite often, one is remembered for one’s last performance.
Maybe that’s why they fall prey to substances and behavior that can give them a “lift” or heighten their senses to feel more alive to what they do. For many performers, their work is the single most important thing in their lives and they ask their audience to judge them solely by it. They may be pathetic in many ways in their personal lives, but brilliant when acting. That’s why actor Vincent Price once said, “What’s important about an actor is his acting, not his life.”
I have a lot more to learn about acting. At 61, it sounds funny hearing myself say that I am a new student learning a new craft. But yes, it feels really good and the excitement of it makes me feel alive.