Almost Paradise, the American TV series that is proudly Pinoy

KAPAMILYA DAY - Kane Errol Choa - The Philippine Star
Almost Paradise, the American TV series that is proudly Pinoy
Hollywood actor Christian Kane is Alex Walker, a former DEA agent who hoped for a peaceful life in an island paradise.

For ABS-CBN, one way of being in the service of the Filipino is to let the world know about the beauty of the Philippines and the talent of its people. That was the motivation behind its tie-up with Electric Entertainment for the 10-episode crime drama series Almost Paradise, topbilled by Hollywood actor Christian Kane.

“Kahit tayo ay nasa gitna ng pagsubok, krisis, lalo nating patuloy na hahanapan ng paraan para ipagmalaki ang Filipino talent sa global stage,” said Ruel Bayani, ABS-CBN head of International Production and Co-Production.

The show, which first aired in the US in 2020 before its March 21 premiere in the Philippines, is the first American TV series to be filmed entirely in the country. Cebu’s picturesque beaches and majestic resorts figure prominently in the series, while plenty of local actors were cast in roles, including main stars Nonie Buencamino, Art Acun?a and newcomer Samantha Richelle.

Working behind the scenes were even more Filipinos, including four of the show’s directors (Dan Villegas, Francis dela Torre, Irene Villamor and Hannah Espia-Farbova), as well as the production designer (Digo Ricio), director of photography (Pao Orendain), casting director (Will Fredo) and majority of the production staff and crew.

According to Electric Entertainment CEO Dean Devlin, the Filipino-American producer of global box-office hits like Independence Day and Godzilla, Filipinos have come a long way in content production.

Filipino actors Samantha Richelle, Nonie Buencamino and Art Acuña play key roles in the US TV series.

“The Philippines has really raised its game as far as the quality of talent of people, both in front of and behind the camera. So when we made a decision to go to the Philippines, I wasn’t really worried about being able to get the quality level because you guys have it,” he said in a virtual media conference.

Dean said the show, which is about a former US DEA agent who returns to his crime-busting ways while in retirement in the Philippines, has been getting positive feedback from viewers around the globe.

“The show is performing enormously well everywhere in the world where it shows. Right now, we’re on IMDb in the United States and we’re one of the most popular shows on the service,” said the showrunner of Almost Paradise.

The directors believe there are several reasons why the series has become a hit among viewers, both here and abroad. Hannah said the show has universal themes, like family, that speak and appeal to a wide audience. Francis likened the program to a comfortable shoe that people put on every week, and which gives them excitement. Irene, on the other hand, said it allowed people to see the Philippines and the Filipino people beyond the usual lens of poverty.

While Almost Paradise has been able to wow and amuse foreigners with the scenery and the references to Filipino culture in its episodes, its impact is even stronger and more meaningful to Filipinos. Dean said it made Filipinos abroad like him feel seen and represented, especially at a time when hate crimes against Asians are rising in the United States.

“Filipinos around the world are touched by this...To have this show, where we’re really changing minds and hearts, it adds a sense of pride,” he said.

For those in the Philippines, the show gives them many reasons to be proud of our nation. “Yung mismong story ng Almost Paradise champions the beautiful places, the beautiful beaches in the Philippines,” said Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) chair and CEO Liza Din?o-Seguerra in the show’s primer. FDCP executive director David Fabros added, “’pag nakita ng mga tao ‘yan all over the world, na-e-engganyo silang bumisita ng Pilipinas.”

Almost Paradise showrunner and creator Dean Devlin

For Filipino creators like Dan, who has written and directed acclaimed programs and films, Almost Paradise gave them an opportunity to be better in their craft as they learned from their counterparts from the West.

“Actually, mga natutunan ko sa Almost Paradise i-na-apply ko na sa mga shoots ko dito...You just have to be a sponge and absorb everything, lahat ng positive na experience na nakuha ko doon,” he said.

For ABS-CBN, this is just a start of many more projects to come to promote Filipino talent. “Kahit nawala ‘yung franchise, hindi naman maagaw sa amin ‘yung natutunan namin at hindi mapapatay ‘yung Kapamilya spirit,” Ruel said. “Ang talent ng Pilipino ay hindi kayang hadlangan ng kahit na sino,” he ended.

Almost Paradise aired its 10th and final episode last Sunday (May 23, 8:45 p.m.) on Kapamilya Channel A2Z, iWantTFC and Kapamilya Online Live (KOL) on Facebook and YouTube. But viewers in the Philippines can still watch previous episodes, with Filipino or English dubbing, on iWantTFC, and the latest episode on KOL for seven days from its first streaming.

Direk Ruel Bayani, head of ABS-CBN International Production and Co-Production division

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