Theater and Television actor JC Santos is certainly the man of the hour. Ever since he debuted as the swoon-worthy third wheeler Ali in Til I Met You, JC has earned the attention and affection of most everyone.
He’s become the subject of adoring articles, stealing ample air time from the popular JaDine love team, with the press and the audiences doing a double take on him. Here is another feather to his cap: a Garage magazine double cover appearance for December.
We sat down with him and talked about his character on Til I Met You, his stance on LGBT, and all the important lessons he learned playing Ali.
Hi JC! Can you tell us more about Ali and how did you get under his skin?
Whenever I learn a character, I always go for the internal side. Ano ba ang gusto niya muna sa buhay? Iyon ang unang tanong ko. Ano bang kinakatakot niya? What does betrayal mean to him? Shame? So I keep a journal every time, and that depends sa script na makukuha ko.
Ang hinanap ka muna kay Ali yung shame part and the innocence of his character kasi nga sa series mag-cocome out siya. How does he deal with shame kasi nga for him, di niya pa matanggap sa sarili niya, di ba?
And ni-research ko din kung paano pag sinabi na niya yung shame part, pag inamin na niya kasi di naman ako homosexual. Hindi ko alam paano maging isang bakla, hindi ko alam paano ako makakapasok sa sapatos ng isang bakla. So it’s all channeling, it’s all substitution.
How does that work?
Ah, naghanap ako ng mga bagay sa sarili ko na ‘pag inamin ko rin, magiging free din ako para meron akong substitute emotions for it na magagamit ko in playing Ali. After all that research, minsan kusa na siyang lalabas eh. Di mo na ine-expect, kasi yun nga, I go for the internal muna before the external.
So how is Ali different from other homosexual characters you’ve played before?
Well, what’s amazing with playing gay characters is they’re always so brave. And at the same time, they’re in touch with their feminine side. So ang tinarget ko lang dito is: Gaano katapang si Ali?Anong klaseng challenges yung kaya niya?
Ang different lang kay Ali ngayon is yung personality niya dahil nga hindi siya malambot, tas general [sa Military] pa yung father niya, nagka-girlfriend pa siya, so parang late bloomer siya. Medyo late niya na-realize yung gusto niya. So yun lang naman yung bago for me. It’s almost the same. He’s the same guy, pero ang gusto niya nga lang lalaki.
If you were friends with Ali, how would you have comforted him when his dad disowned him?
Oh my Mod, sobrang gusto kong maging kaibigan si Ali. Sobrang gusto ko siya maging best friend. Pangarap ko yun magkaroon ng best friend na kasing understanding ni Ali. I would say to him na nandito lang ako for him, yun lang. Pero kasi feeling ko naman alam ni Ali yung ginagawa niya so he doesn’t need much comforting, feeling ko kailangan niya lang is someone to be with him.
How about when he found out that his friend and ex-girlfriend had something going on?
What’s great about Ali’s character is he’s very smart. Alam kong kaya niya i-deal lahat ng problema niya without anyone telling him what he should do. [So if I were his friend,] I’m just going to be by his side. I’ll just keep on saying that I’m right by his side.
How would you personally handle Ali’s problems? Do you think he’s making the right decisions or would you have done some things differently if you were him?
Haha, I think he’s handling it perfectly well. I’m the kind of person who always learns from his mistakes, so kailangan ko muna magkamali bago ako matuto. But Ali, he’s smarter and braver than I am so feeling ko kung ako mismo nasa sitwasyon niya, naligaw na akong landas. (laughs) Baka siguro nag-rebelde ako or whatever.
What have you learned in playing Ali’s character?
Sobrang dami. “Ay ganito pala dapat mag-act pag may problema,” ganito pala dapat yung maturity ko. Ali’s very complex kasi. Iba siya kapag kaharap niya si Iris, iba siya with Basti, with his mom, his father. Ang daming nangyayari. Ang hirap ng mga pinagdadaanan niya as a person. Kaya grabe, saludo ako sa mga taong nakaka-handle ng ganyang challenges. Ang hirap pala maging bakla.
If it’s up to you, what kind of ending would you like for Ali?
I want him to be happy. Gusto ko siyang magkaroon ng love life, yung taong magmamahal sa kanya nang totoo. Makahanap siya ng taong makakaintindi, makakasama niya, magiging best friend niya, magiging lover; gusto ko hanggang sa ikasal siya. I want him to be happiliy married like everybody else. Gusto kong mabuhay siya na lahat ng tao tanggap kung sino siya.
You seem to be a favorite for homosexual roles, having played a lot of those before Ali. What do you think is something about you that make you fit for these roles?
Siguro kasi ine-embrace ko yung feminine side ko. Na-enjoy ko kasi yung pagiging vulnerable, which I think is one of the qualities necessary to play a homosexual. Hindi kasi ako astigin, na parang alpha male, and feeling ko kasi talaga nakakatawid ako as an actor from feminine to masculine.
What’s your dream role?
I want to be a super hero, a Pinoy super hero. Pero kung sa theater yan, gusto ko pa din maging Hamlet, gusto ko pa din maging Shakespearean character. Kung sa pelikula yan, gusto ko may indie [projects] pa din ako, na mata-tackle ko yung political side ng Pilipinas. Pero pag TV, gusto ko talaga maging super hero.
You were relatively low-key before Till I Met You. And in TIMY, you crossed over to the mainstream, playing a gay character. How does that make you feel?
Sobrang pressured and honored at the same time. Kasi I have to prove myself eh. Ganito yung feeling: Galing ka ng Pilipinas, tapos bigla kang napasok sa Harvard. Napasok ka na, wala ka ng choice. Kailangan mo na siyang gawin. Minsan, umaakyat pa din yung stress sa utak mo kasi nga, iba to. Ang hirap na eh. Kailangan ko na lang siyang galingan.
Would you say Ali is one of the most challenging roles you’ve had?
Oo, naproduce yung bala ko eh, alam mo yun. Mas naging vulnerable na tao ako. Challenging siya, at the same time may natututunan akong madami. Mas lumalim ako na tao, mas lumalim yung pangunawa ko sa pagmamahal, sa word na love and pagiging matapang.
What can you say about the very little LGBT representation on Philippine TV?
It’s about time i-accept na ng Pilipinas yung reality that homosexuals are a big part of our society. Kailangan din intindihin ng Pinoy kung ano ang nararamdaman nila, kasi feeling ko hindi tayo aware na ganun sila kalalim, na ganun kahirap maging iba.
So, sana mas mapaintindi pa sa Pinoy kung papaano sila mabuhay. It’s about time. Para pang-bukas din ng isip sa mga tao, kailangan na nun eh. Kailangan nang maging open-minded ng mga tao, lalo na sa cultural tradition of the Philippines. Masyado tayong conservative.
So, we need to be less conservative.
Yes, new generation na tayo eh. Kailangan na natin hawakan yung transition ngayon. At first, mahirap ang adjustment. Pero, let’s embrace it.
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