The start of something big for Ronnie
DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda (The Philippine Star) - July 10, 2014 - 12:00am

Mistaken identity is not always a bad thing; just ask singer and Pinoy Dream Academy (PDA) graduate Ronnie Liang. Ronnie, who popularized the pop hit Ngiti, is standing on the brink of what could possibly be his biggest break in film and could even take him international: A film with renowned director Elwood Perez.

The film is called Esoterika: Maynila, the debut film production of T-Rex Productions in cooperation with the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) and Tribute Entertainment. It is about a young Manila denizen who narrates his voyage of self-discovery and his transition from restaurant worker to literary artist. In the process, he meets different characters who inhabit the city. It is direk Elwood’s follow-up to the acclaimed Otso which he released last year.

How Ronnie got cast in the film is a wonderful story, considering he wasn’t even direk Elwood’s first choice. In fact, he wasn’t even a choice at all. The first choice to do the film was actually Hayden Kho. Direk Elwood and the producers had a certain physical type in mind to play the male lead, and Hayden fit to a “T” — unfortunately (and maybe because) the role required some nudity — Hayden never got back to the producers about the project, prompting them to consider other actors. Then one day, direk Elwood saw a billboard of Ronnie’s endorsement for a cologne brand.

It was a case of mistaken identity at first sight. “Akala ni Elwood, si Hayden,” says someone connected with the production. Because Ronnie and Hayden are both tall, good-looking and chinito, it was easy for Elwood to mistake one for the other. He needed that precise physical type to play the role. So he sought Ronnie out and offered it to him — and Ronnie, who was looking for something new he could offer the public, said yes.

It’s his first time to disrobe onscreen, putting Ronnie on the same path, trodden by actors like Coco Martin, who did indie films with daring themes like Masahista and Serbis before going mainstream. Who knows? It could happen to Ronnie as well. “First time ko maghubad na may frontal nudity,” admits the singer-turned-actor. “Hindi lang ganoon ka-grabe because of the MTRCB. Pero meron.”

Why did he agree to do it now, at this point in his career, when he isn’t exactly an unknown? Ngiti was a big hit, and he’s had several appearances since then. “This is something new I can offer to the public.” What did it feel like shedding his clothes and his inhibitions for the camera? “Siyempre una parang medyo nahihiya pa, pero, nu’ng nag-shoot na at nasanay na, medyo naging okay na.”

But the challenge to Ronnie isn’t just in taking his clothes off. It’s in tackling the film’s daring subject. Ronnie surprised even himself when he consented to pull off not a few challenging scenes in the film that tackle transgenderism and same-sex love.

In doing so, he earned the admiration and respect of his director. Direk Elwood has this to say: “If you go through my filmography, you will notice that I’ve worked with several newcomers in their launching pictures. Ronnie is one of the best and probably the most winsome. He delivers a luminous performance. It took exactly three days for me to realize where he was coming from. Although fully equipped with experience gained through several acting workshops, he thoroughly succeeds and makes his attack seem unstudied and effortless.”

This doesn’t mean that Ronnie is giving up on his singing career. In fact, he has just come from a series of singing stints abroad (in Qatar and Japan) and is currently at work on his fourth studio album which will be released very soon. But he is very excited about Esoterika: Manila since there are also plans to take the film abroad to compete in international festivals.

It could potentially be the start of something big for Ronnie who is ready to make this “bold” move and go where it takes him.

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