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Rafael Rosell gets his wish

Rosell (with Tulak co-star Isabel Lopez, lower photo): Playing a drug addict is a dream come true for me

MANILA, Philippines - Rafael Rosell has three dream roles on his wish list as an actor. They are that of a psycho, a devil and a drug addict. The hunky Rafael has already played the evil incarnate but has yet to portray a psycho.

Now, he can tick off the words “drug addict” from the list. Rafael plays a drug pusher — the title role no less in the indie Tulak. And he can’t wait to see the film, about the harmful effects of drugs, open on the big screen after it premieres tomorrow, Nov. 21, 7 p.m. at SM Megamall Cinema 12.

“It’s my hardest role so far,” says Rafael, a tinge of pride in his voice. As Tikboy, a man who grew up in an alley teeming with criminals and drug dependents, Rafael stepped into the shoes of someone he was never tempted to be: A drug addict.

The adrenaline rush of entering a world he has never known before pushed Rafael to research like he has never done before.

“The fact that my director (Neal “Buboy” Tan) believed in me is enough to inspire me,” Rafael relates. It doesn’t bother the Urian Best Supporting Actor (for Rome & Juliet) that his first starring role after seven years in the business is not in a mainstream film.

What matters most is that he finally got a role he was dying to play. So Rafael left no stone unturned to give justice to it.

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“I went to New Manila (Quezon City) to attend sessions with the Narcotics Anonymous group,” he relates. “I also Googled the short and long-term effects of drugs like Speed.”

The result is a performance Rafael proudly described as something he did, not so much for others, but for himself. The Fil-Norwegian actor admits he accepts commercial projects to survive. But he makes sure he balances them with films that feed his hunger for the offbeat, the road not taken. These are the roles that bring a smile on his face.

“Some roles feed me; others simply make me happy,” Rafael explains. He knows one can’t do without the other.

So he works almost non-stop, even at a time when projects are said to come few and far-between for more of his colleagues. He has even turned down offers his tight schedule can’t allow.

“I tape Precious Hearts Romances — Midnight Phantom for ABS-CBN on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are for another series. I did Tulak in-between,” Rafael relates.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Tito Sotto liked what he saw.

“Tulak is very timely,” he told the press. “It showed what we want to emphasize: Information, education and awareness of the disease and recovery and support programs available.”

Some people are even suggesting that Sotto’s office tour the advocacy film in school campuses where young people can see and learn from it.

Tulak may not wipe out the drug menace in one fell swoop. It is too much to expect and to demand. But if it can save a few young lives, it would have served its purpose. Then, Sotto, direk Buboy, Rafael, Julio Diaz, Maria Isabel Lopez, Mon Confiado, Ynez Veneracion and the rest of the cast and crew’s efforts would not be in vain.

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