Mothering a superhero

How does one play a mother to a six-inch genius?

Such is Susan Africa’s dilemma on the new Mars Ravelo-based show, Komiks Presents Tiny Tony on ABS-CBN. Tiny Tony stars John Prats as the boy genius who, in a twist of fate is shrunk to a six-inch wonder with exceptional skills.

Susan plays Nanay Eden, a poor and illiterate widow whose only dream in life is to let her son, Tony, graduate from college to allow him to attain the good life she has never had. To add to her burden, she finds out that her son has an I.Q. greater than Einstein’s. The humorous twists and turns of the story and the dramatic moments provide a balance to the action inherent in superhero tales.

Of course, Susan is not new to portraying mother roles since she first took up the maternal task as Judy Ann Santos’ surrogate mom on now classic Mara Clara back in the ‘90s. Since then, she has portrayed an assortment of mothers to stars. “I remember being averse to portraying mother roles then as I knew there was a possibility of typecasting,” Susan shares. “But ever since Mara Clara, an experience which I had thoroughly enjoyed and learned from, there was no point in turning back.”

Susan had been active and had trained with PETA, Teatro Pilipino and Bulwagang Gantimpala (now Gantimpala Theater Foundation). Her theater experiences had allowed her to play a gamut of characters, but after winning a Best Supporting Actress award from the Metro Manila Film Festival for Olongapo: The Great American Dream, (with the role of a retired prostitute), it was on TV where she eventually took root. Among the many series where she provided memorable motherly portrayals aside from Mara Clara were Tabing Ilog (2000), Saan Ka Man Naroroon (2001), Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan (2003), It Might Be You (2004), Krystala (2005), Palimos ng Pag-ibig (2007) and Walang Kapalit (2007).

In portraying Tiny Tony’s mom, Susan describes her new experience. “It was the first time I had to rehearse and converse with an actual six-inch action figure that was costumed as Tiny Tony. During the real take, the staff would remove the toy and we had to relate to the point of view we had during rehearsals.” Her only regret is having only a few scenes with John, as he had to shoot majority of his scenes by himself in chroma. “John is a fine young actor whom I loved to interact with. There are few actors his age who take his craft as seriously and as devotedly as he does.”

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Susan has all praises for the Tiny Tony staff and crew. “Our director, Dondon Santos, makes his expectations clear during rehearsals and describes the scenes as he wants them done. He is thoroughly dedicated and has a great eye for character details, which helps us greatly with our interpretation of our roles.” But not all is hard work. “The Tiny Tony set is one of the most fun sets I have worked with,” she shares, “with the staff who were always supportive and cheerful.”

The demanding task of being a real mother to three growing children had added new dimensions to her reel maternal challenges. “Mothering is a very serious role,” Susan adds. “I think all mothers are the unacknowledged superheroes of society. It is actually a mother’s most important legacy to bring up children with good character and values, who will eventually contribute to society.” The plethora of emotions all mothers go through are perhaps Susan’s source from which she draws from for her mother roles. “Of course, imagination also helps when needed,” she smiles.

The cast also includes Alex Gonzaga, Mura, Coco Martin, Gerard Acao, Aaron Villaflor, with the special participation of Pen Medina, Zaijan Jaranilla, Julius Garesa and Kim Alcantara.

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