It’s interesting that we first made contact with Joey Paras on Facebook. After all, Marney, his character in the film “Babagwa,” uses the site to scam people out of money.
“Babagwa” was one of our Cinemalaya favorites this year—it took us on a riveting, eye-opening and occasionally funny ride into the world of social network-savvy scam artists and the people they prey on. Joey’s performance as one of the masterminds was powerful. And when he won Cinemalaya’s Best Supporting Actor award in the New Breed Category days later, we weren’t surprised.
But he was. He accepted his award, making people laugh when he started his speech with, “Grabe, ang lakas maka-Anne Hathaway nung award.”
Joey also starred in Last Supper No. 3, Cinemalaya’s Best Picture in 2009. Last year, he played Tracy in the celebrate d Eddie Garcia film “Bwakaw” which won the Cinemalaya Audience Award. Joey is no Cinemalaya newbie. Joey is no newbie, period.
Theater is his first love (he won an Aliw Award in 2008)—it’s a passion he first discovered when he was an eight-year-old boy. “Nararamdaman yun. Meron kang feeling na parang pag hindi mo nilabas, sasabog, literal. I have to do this. I have to say something. It comes out naturally. At yung feeling na yun ay nagiging dream.”
Joey, who has two movies in cinemas now—“Babagwa” and the Maricel Soriano-Eugene Domingo comedy “Momzillas”—may finally be getting the dose of spotlight he deserves.
A few weeks ago, we crashed the set of “Bekikang,” which people call his “launching movie.” The film, which will also feature actors Tom Rodriguez, Nikki Valdez, Tirso Cruz III and Janice de Belen, is set to come out next month.
On our way up to their holding area where we were to conduct this interview, a man ran after us on the escalator and said, “Pwede po magpa-picture?” Joey gamely posed with him.
In the middle of the interview, members of the “Bekikang” crew stopped by to hand him an ice cream cake, congratulating him for his Cinemalaya win. “Wow, thank you po,” he said, looking genuinely thrilled.
But Joey’s love for acting goes beyond a desire to become a household name. This isn’t about being a celebrity, he says, it’s about finding fulfillment as an artist. And he also finds fulfillment in teaching, which he gets to do in his own theater company, Teatro Expedicion de Filipinas.
We sat down with Joey to talk about his movies, his passions and what he wants to change about his industry.
What attracted you to “Babagwa”?
The script. The very first time nabasa ko yung project, gusto ko siya agad gawin.
What was it like working with Alex Medina? Your scenes were intense.
Masaya. First time ko naka-work si Alex Medina. Hindi siya umaarte. Yung as is, where is. May tama talaga sa ginagawa niya. May percentage sa ginagawa niya yung pagiging kalma na gusto ko talagang matutunan din sa pag-arte sa isang film. Kinuha ko yung inspiration na yun from him. I chose kung kelan sasabog si Marney.
Which scenes in “Babagwa” were unforgettable for you?
Gusto ko yung bangka scene. Gusto ko ng mga ganitong role, yung nai-immerse ako sa lugar. Pangalawa yung sapakan. I really prepared for that. The intention was hindi magpatawa pero it should come out na nakakatawa. Challenging, di ba? Dun ko lang na-realize na ganun pala makipag-away ang lalaki. Akala ko kaya ko si Alex. Kasi kung sampalan yun, masasaktan ko siya. Pero dahil sapakan nga ang category, wow, bago to. Tapos yung third yung makeup, yung final scene. Kasi feeling ko dun ko na nilabas lahat ng tiwang ni Marney. Masyado siyang obsessed dun sa masterplan. Mabilis siya sumabog at hindi mo alam kailan.
“Babagwa” is a cautionary tale about the social network. You’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—did this movie have an impact on you?
Yes. Victim din ako. There’s this guy na ginamit yung picture ko tapos ginawan niya ako ng chat with himself. I haven’t seen the screenshot yet pero sobrang sama ng sinasabi ko dun. Nakarating na sa people from ABS, sa ibang aspeto ng lipunan. Hindi talaga ako yun. Paano ko na-confirm na niloloko ako? May friend ako from Facebook ngayon nag-message. Sabi, “Joey, yung lalaki na gumamit ng picture mo, niloko ako.” “Babagwa” yung nangyari sa kanya. Dun ko lang na-realize na totoo talaga yung “Babagwa.” Itong guy na to nag-send din ng money to this guy. Pinadalhan niya ng pera at tapos hindi hindi na niya nakita ulit yung guy, na-block na siya. Of course hindi ako yun.
You’re now filming “Bekikang,” your launching movie. How does it feel after doing so many supporting roles?
This is actually my second launching movie. The first one was “Last Supper No. 3.” Katulad ng feeling ko noon, mas intense lang ngayon. You know naman how it goes sa mainstream. Kailangan dito sikat ka, kailangan dito maganda ka. Kailangan dito meron kang commercial value na hindi ko kailangan sa indie. Yung pressure dito, sobra. Si Direk Wenn Deramas talaga nagbigay sa akin ng break na ito. Ninenerbyos ako. Ayoko makipag-compete sa mga ibang ni-launch. There’s this tendency for some people… they know I’m gay, tapos nakukumpara ka sa ibang gay celebrities with big names na. Para sa akin, to each his own. Kanya-kanyang path and artistry.
Tell us about “Bekikang.”
It’s inspired by Dolphy’s “Ang Tatay Kong Nanay.” Dito sa movie, meron akong anak na ampon ko. Tulad ng “Ang Tatay Kong Nanay,” hindi siya hardcore comedy, meron siyang kurot. It’s not just about a gay guy, it’s about love, sacrifice, proper parenting skills, value ng family sa society. It’s different.
Tell us about your early days in theater.
Maaga ako nag-start. I auditioned for free workshops, for Manila Metropolitan Children’s Choir. I got the scholarship. After that, I finished elementary school. Wala kami masyadong pera tapos nakita ko sa TV, merong workshop ang Peta. P1500 yung fee for two months. Eh nanalo ako sa essay writing contest noon, first place, P1500 yung premyo. Yun, meron na akong pang-tuition. After nun, sa culminating activity, nakita na ako ni Direk Soxie Topacio. “Pwede bang mag-guest yang batang yan sa Bulilit TV show?” Kinuha rin ako ng Batibot to do live shows. Pero hindi ko tinuloy yung Batibot kasi I had to study na sa high school. Habang nasa college ako, nag-audition ulit ako sa libreng scholarship, sa Tanghalang Pilipino ng CCP. Ito ang actors’ company under Nonon Padilla. Yung training ko doon.
What do you love about theater?
Freedom. It’s liberating. You feel empowered after doing a production. Your main goal is not to become sikat. May natututunan ka sa kada production na ginagawa mo. That’s the only venue and medium na na-try ko na mas nagiging ako, ako. You can come to rehearsals kahit di ka maligo, kahit anong damit mo. You can say what you want, kung murahan, murahan. Sa theater kahit 18 year-old ka, you can be a 60-year-old man. It’s more challenging. Mas malawak.
What’s your biggest dream for Philippine cinema?
Na mapansin tayo sa world cinema, yung maging sukatan ng husay at ganda. Kasi ang gagaling nating mga Pinoy. At gumawa pa ng mga mas matatapang na tema at mas makabuluhan. Hindi porke’t indie eh puro pornography, puro kalaswaan. Marami pang temang pwedeng pag-usapan. Ang dream ko eh makakalkal tayo ng mga bagong subject na mapag-usapan.
What’s something you want to change about your industry?
Mahirap yan. Yung star quality system. I don’t buy that. I don’t believe in it. Yung sukatan kung sinong sikat at hindi. Bakit hindi natin sukatin ang talino at galing kesa yung ganda lang. Pwede namang maging maganda at maging magaling, marami namang ganun. Pero dahil maganda lang, sila lang yung star. Sana hindi ganun.
Tell us about “Momzillas.”
I’m playing Brunette, the brother of Eugene Domingo in the movie. It’s a feel-good movie about family, a family feud. Masaya siya.
What are your dream roles?
Naku ang dami ko pang dream roles. Ang unang-unang role na gusto kong gawin ay maging lalaki ulit. Nag-start lang naman na makahon ako sa gay roles nang ginawa ko ang “Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah.” Before that under Nonon Padilla, lahat straight guy roles. Ulo lang, matanda, bata, Español, indio. I would love to do that again. And I would love to do more dramatic roles. But for now, gagawin ko kung ano ang meron na maganda.
But “Bekikang” will have a bit of drama too right?
Oo, sabi ko nga nung mga unang shooting days namin, Direk akala ko ba comedy to? Bakit ganito, parang MMK? Manood kayo nito, diyos ko.
Who else do you want to work with?
May bucket list ako nyan eh. Tapos ko na si Eugene Domingo. Gusto ko next si Roderick Paulate. I would really love to work with Kuya Dick. He’s a very good actor. Sa ngayon siya ang ultimate wish ko.
What else are you passionate about?
I love teaching. I do have my own theater company, it’s Teatro Expedicion de Filipinas (TEDF). College pa lang finound na namin yan. I’m forming our powerhouse ensemble, ang parang actors’ company ng TEDF. Magpapa-audition ako ng bibigyan ko ng libreng training sa acting and production work. Pero may laglagan ito ha, parang American Idol. Yung mga best people lang ang matitira.
What do you love the most about acting?
Self-expression and that cathartic moment, that feeling na you know you did well kahit hindi nila gusto, lalo na kung gusto nila. It’s priceless. Walang katumbas na award.
Follow @JoeyParas on Twitter and Instagram.