Jerald Napoles is ready to ‘Rak’ your world
Jerald Napoles is a scene stealer.
In “English Only Please,” he stole the scene as the muscled douchebag hitting on Tere Madlansacay, played by Jennylyn Mercado.
He did it again in the film “You’re My Boss,” as the guy who runs Coco Martin’s character’s favorite kambingan restaurant.
And he continues to steal the show in “Rak of Aegis,” now on its fourth run at PETA, as the lovable and lovesick Tolits, a role he shares with the talented Pepe Herrera and, soon, Benj Manalo.
“I auditioned for it,” said Jerald, sitting in PETA’s Lino Brocka Hall on a Thursday afternoon, just a few hours before his 70-somethingth performance in the musical. “Myke (Salomon, the show’s musical director and arranger, who also plays Kenny) is my friend and he told me, ‘Je, bagay sa’yo yung role na Tolits.’ Ano ba yung role niya? ‘Bangkero sa baha.’ Pagkarinig ko nung “bangkero sa baha,” p*tangina, gusto ko nyan. Nakakagago kasi eh. Bangkero sa baha, may texture agad yung character mo.”
Jerald, whose first love is dancing, said he fell into acting accidentally. He had just graduated and was standing outside Torres High School in Gagalangin, Tondo, about to use the pay phone, when his English teacher Ethel Rocha spotted him. She said, “Jerald, gusto mo maging dancer sa isang musical?” He said yes.
That play was “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and it was Jerald’s first taste of theater.
He never stopped. With the guidance of theater actor Arnold Reyes, Jerald auditioned for Dulaang UP’s musical remake of “St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos” and Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Noli Me Tangere” musical. “I was 18, 19, syempre, hungry. ‘Game, anong gagawin ko, tatalon ba ako sa scaffold? Kaya ko yan.”
Jerald, who had been juggling acting and his studies at Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, eventually had to quit college and focus on his passion for performing. “Chemical engineering is too hard if you’re working. You cannot solve math problems while solving your own problems,” he said, laughing.
He did musicals and straight plays, joining chorus after chorus, ensemble after ensemble, and was soon asked to sing one-liners. At that point, Jerald didn’t even know he could sing. “May kaibigan akong singer sa Dubai, sabi niya, train mo yung sarili mo, mag-videoke ka lang nang mag-videoke. Tapos kantahin mo yung mas mataas sa kinakanta mo. Ginawa ko yun. Sumalang din ako sa mga comedy bar.”
Nine years after he started, in 2010, he got what he calls his “big, big break,” as Jograd in the restaging of the musical “Magsimula Ka.” Jerald credits actor-director Robert Seña for being the first to recognize his knack for comedy. “Sabi niya, ‘Je, can you do comedy?” Deep inside, alam ko na sira ulo ako. Sa bangkaan pa lang sa inuman, alam ko na. Batang Tondo ako eh, yung humor namin Jose Manalo… But in the theater industry, because of my looks, they always cast me as a villain, or ensemble.”
He earned rave reviews for his portrayal of Jograd, with people praising him for his comedic timing.
“Care Divas” followed. Urged to audition by Vince de Jesus, the show’s lyricist, composer, musical director and arranger, Jerald did a song from “Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah Ze Muzikal,” a production he was also a part of. He got the role of Kayla and became the only straight guy to play one of the transgender divas in the musical’s original run. “I’m thankful to our director Maribel Legarda for casting me in both ‘Care Divas’ and ‘Rak of Aegis,’” Jerald said. “They thought nakakatawa siguro kung borta si Kayla tapos biritera. Borta-borta ako tapos naka-panty at bra lang ako sa stage. Nag-ahit ako ng kili-kili at ng legs para dun ha.”
Jerald also started getting gigs for TV, still getting typecast because of his looks. “Siguro yung reporter role twice lang yun. Yung adik, hitman, pusher, kidnapper… in 10 soap operas, I did it eight times.”
But Jerald is finally breaking out of the bad-guy mold.
After “Magsimula Ka,” he caught the eye of Jojo Oconer, COO of APT Productions and was given the role of Itor in “Iskul Bukol.” “They asked if I wanted them to manage me. I’m thankful to my APT family—chairperson Tony Tuviera, direk Myke Tuviera, Ed Tuviera, Jojo Oconer and my manager Rams David. They’re the ones who started pushing me as a comedian-slash-actor.”
Jerald takes comedy seriously. “Yung wit kasi natural yan sa tao, it’s either you’re funny or you’re not funny, di ba? But I study it, I watch stand-up comedy, Kevin Hart, Dave Chapelle, Seinfeld. Fan din ako ng sketch comedy. I want people to appreciate the new line of comedy, the smart comedy, na hindi slapstick, hindi batukan, hindi hampasan ng dyaryo, yung wit talaga, wit with glamour.”
He got to show his flair for improvisation while shooting “English Only Please.” There was no script—he was given the freedom to ad-lib. And when he watched the movie at the premiere in Glorietta, he was pleased to see that director Dan Villegas kept the entire scene. The people around him roared with laughter, saying, “Oh my god, sino yan? Nakakatawa siya.”
Derek Ramsay, the movie’s lead star and Jerald’s good friend in real life, said, “He is a brilliant actor! The most talented actor I have worked with.”
Antoinette Jadaone, who co-wrote “English Only Please” and who wrote and directed “You’re My Boss” said, “Nung nagpamudmod si Lord ng punch lines, 5:30 a.m. gumising si Jerald at nauna siya sa pila. He makes the most boring scenes come to life. He will save it. Matalino siya na observant sa mga ganap ng mga Pinoy sa paligid, kaya napapanahon ang comedy niya. Siya ang nagpapatunay na hindi mo kailangang maging super pogi, hindi mo kailangan ng kamag-anak na artista rin, hindi mo kailangan ng controversial tsismis para umangat at mapansin. Kailangan mo lang ng talent na alam mo kung paano gamitin—at si Jerald, nag-uumapaw iyon. Sorry, but in ‘Rak of Aegis,’ si Tolits ang naalala ko…Truly, the new brand of comedy has arrived.”
He may dabble in film, TV and commercials, but theater remains Jerald’s first love. “It’s an experience. It’s two hours of experiencing the role, sobrang taas ng intensity, ng art form niya… You discover the role, you make it real…. And there’s on-the-spot appreciation. If you’re bad, if you’re good, you get the reaction on the spot. ”
He’s been getting great reactions as Tolits. Audiences light up every time he (and his flood-proof boat) make an appearance. “This fourth run, I did Tolits in a different way. Yung dati, hopeless romantic bangkero. This time, mas may hiya ng konti, pinabata ko ng konti, mas iyakin, mas sensitive na Tolits.”
He’s such a joy to watch, people couldn’t help but root for him—both Tolits and Jerald.
Jerald is a thinking actor. He studies his craft, the work of others, and constantly pushes himself as a performer.
He has two upcoming shows for GMA, including “My Faithful Husband,” a soap opera starring Jennylyn and Dennis Trillo. He will play Dennis’ best friend.
But there are many other things Jerald wants to do. He wants to be a regular in Dan Villegas and Antoinette Jadaone’s films. He wants to join Myke Salomon’s future projects. He wants to do more funny videos with The MNM, the group he formed with his “The Janitor” co-stars Alex Medina and Nicco Manalo (They’re on Instagram: @the.mnm). He wants to be Gael Garcia Bernal (“Taas ng pangarap ko, ang layo lang ng itsura.”). He wants to play a priest. (“Kasi ang unang maiisip sa akin, ‘Uy mangre-rape na magaling umarte.’ Usually yung magaling umarte, pangalawa yan sa peg, eh. Character: rapist. Qualification: magaling umarte. Gusto ko yung, ‘Ay, magaling umarte yan, kaya niya magpari. Wala sa itsura niya, pero kaya niya magpari.”) He wants to work with Coco Martin and John Lloyd Cruz. He wants to work with the country’s finest actors. (“Tapos yung mga hot girls, if they want to work with me, I can, ha.”) He wants to be part of a film where a character actor plays the lead. He wants to be known as a good actor. He wants to be Tyrion Lannister.
Yes, he wants to be Tyrion Lannister.
We asked what his ultimate dream was and, without missing a beat, he said, “The ultimate dream is to be part of ‘Game of Thrones’ or to be part of something as good as ‘Game of Thrones.’ T*ngina yang ‘Game of Thrones,’ ang gandang show na, ang galing pa nilang lahat. Before I die, I want to be part of a show like ‘Game of Thrones.’ At kung may ‘Game of Thrones’ musical at kung may ‘Game of Thrones’ adaptation, why not? Or ‘Game of Thrones’ straight play with Joel Lamangan, why not? I’m willing to cut my legs just to be Tyrion Lannister.”
“Rak of Aegis” will resume its fourth run on July 17 and will run until Aug. 5. Tickets are now available at www.ticketworld.com.ph or 8919999 or contact Peta at 7256244 or 0917-5765400, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.petatheater.com.
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