Besides being a versatile actor, Martin del Rosario (right) happens to be good-natured, with no mean bone in his body. And just like Barbs (left), his character in Born Beautiful, ‘I have a big heart. I have a great capacity to love.’
Photo by Ver Paulino
Beautiful inside out
CONVERSATIONS - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - July 22, 2018 - 12:00am

‘It doesn’t really matter whether I am the second or third choice.  All I do is put myself in the character... I interpret the character in a totally different way. Ibang-ibang Barbs ang ginawa ko and I hope na mamahalin din siya ng mga manonood.’ ­

There was a time when both Hollywood and local actors were, well, “homophobic” — that is, they shunned playing a gay role, scared that it would mark the end of their career or could erode their manly image. Only the “fearless” dared tread where the “fearful” would not. Times have changed since. The unfounded fear is gone and even macho actors like the late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal agreed to do passionate love scenes in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. Spanish idol Antonio Banderas played Tom Hanks’ lover in Philadelphia, remember? Matt Damon bared all in his scenes with Michael Douglas in the telemovie Behind the Candelabra.

Local actors have likewise became daring: Jake Cuenca and Joem Bascon did a nude love scene in the river in Joel Lamangan’s Lihis; John Lloyd Cruz and Luis Manzano showed homo-tenderness and kiss (on the lips!) atop a New York bridge in Star Cinema’s In My Life; and who would ever forget Romnick Sarmenta (a certified hetero, married to Harlene Bautista with whom he has kids) in Gil Portes’ Miguel/Michelle? 

Now comes Martin del Rosario who is so sure of his sexual preference that he throws caution to the wind when assigned a gay role or, as in the case of his latest movie, Born Beautiful, produced by IdeaFirst Company initially for Cignal TV and will soon be released in commercial circuit instead. Directed by Perci Intalan (who manages the company with husband Jun Lana), BB is a spin-off of the smash Die Beautiful that catapulted Christian Bables (as Barbs, Paolo Ballesteros’ cross-dressing sidekick) to near-stardom and won him awards. But something happened along the way and Christian was dropped. His loss was Martin’s gain.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a replacement,” said Martin. “What matters is how you play the role.”

In showbiz history, second (or third, etc.) choices come out as the better choices after all — among the recent cases: in Walang Forever, Jericho Rosales replaced JM de Guzman who was also replaced by Rocco Nacino in Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir; Derek Ramsay won Best Actor as replacement for Sam Milby in English Only, Please; and John Lloyd Cruz reaped rave reviews for his performance in Erik Matti’s Honor Thy Father as replacement for Dingdong Dantes.

Said Jun, BB director, “Martin is perfect for the role. Mahusay na, mabait pa. He would report to the set prepared with his lines and ready to work even if he just came from the taping of his GMA show.” 

What was the hard part of playing Barbs?

“Physically, mahirap talaga because I was wearing tights. Masisikip at maliliit, pambabae talaga! The make-up took more than one hour.”

How did you hide your private part?

“Contrary to what people may think, there was no need for ipit-ipit because patung-patong ang suot ko — briefs, stockings, maong shorts and padding-padding to make my behind prominent.”

What if you needed to answer the call of nature?

“It’s hard! Very challenging. To avoid going to the CR, I would stop drinking too much water.

How did you fit into those “tights”?

“I decided to lose weight. I lost 15 lbs. I went on a diet. It’s only after the shoot that I started gaining weight.”

What is in Barbs that you identify with?

“Barbs has a big heart. She falls in love easily. Kapag nagmahal siya, talagang ipinaglalaban niya. I’m like that. I have a big heart. I have a great capacity to love.””

Who was your peg for the character?

“Actually, none. I just studied the character.”

Did it help that you’ve done similar roles?

“It did. It’s my first time to play this kind of character in a film. But I’ve played gay characters several times, on MMK (Maalaala Mo Kaya?) and Magpakailanman. I also played an HIV patient in a GMA series.”

Is it your first time to be a second choice for a role?

“No. But it doesn’t really matter whether I am the second or third choice. All I do is put myself in the character. Bigla na lang tumawag sa akin, in-offer ‘yung role. I was surprised because the project had been promoted with Christian as lead actor. Then I learned that nagkaroon sila ng problema with Christian. Walang problema sa akin. I was flattered pa nga because I saw Die Beautiful at nagandahan ako. I didn’t let myself be bothered by any issue with Christian, basta I just did my best.”

Did being a second choice pose a challenge to you?

“There was some pressure because I felt that people were expecting so much from me, especially since ang ganda ng portrayal ni Christian. Basta ang inisip ko gawin ko na lang ‘yung best ko. I didn’t have to copy Christian. I interpreted the character in a totally different way. Ibang-ibang Barbs ang ginawa ko and I hope na mamahalin din siya ng mga manonood.”

Do you think that you were born beautiful?

“Honestly? Yes! I think many people don’t really know me because I am quiet, tahimik lang ako. Malaki ang puso ko para sa mga tao, especially for my family.”

What is beautiful to you?

“Being confident is beautiful. It’s not only being beautiful outside, you have to be also beautiful inside.”

What part of your body do you consider most beautiful?

“My eyes, I think. But the most beautiful part is my heart kasi when I love somebody, it’s pure and true.”

What is beautiful about being in showbiz?

“The acting part. Doing a good performance gives me a beautiful feeling. Grabe ang passion ko for acting.”

And what is not beautiful about showbiz?

“The gossip. Luckily, I have learned how to shrug off nasty rumors. Nasanay na ako.”

(E-mail reactions at For more updates, photos and videos, visit or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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