What’s next for NETFLIX’s Trese?

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
What�s next for NETFLIX�s Trese?

Trese continues to lord it over Netflix Philippines, still ranking high if not highest on the daily Top 10 more than a week after its global premiere on the streaming giant on June 11.

The Netflix Original Anime Series adapted from the Philippine horror/supernatural graphic novel of the same title also ensnared viewers beyond the country, landing in the Top 10 most-watched content in 19 countries within a week after its release.

So, what’s next for Trese?

No spoilers here, but in the way this six-episode, proudly Pinoy series ends, the creators have succeeded in leaving the audience hungry for more. As of writing, no official word yet from Netflix if there’s a Season 2. During The STAR’s recent chat with Jay Oliva (series showrunner), Tanya Yuson (writer and co-executive producer) and Trese comic book creators Budgette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo, their lips were sealed.

What they were excited to talk about was what kind of impact they wanted the series to have on the country with its global reach.

For Tan and Baldisimo, it feels like a fresh beginning for Trese as a new set of audiences is being introduced to their story about this badass female detective Alexandra Trese who deals with mythological and supernatural creatures and elements in the urban jungle that is Metro Manila.

Baldisimo admitted to feeling overwhelmed to see an anime version of what started out as a passion project — photocopied for friends and family with remaining copies sold at Comic Quest store — in 2005. “(Feeling) excited, a bit of fear because if it turns out awesome, Budj and I have to top that,” he added.

Tan, nevertheless, hoped Trese would make foreign audiences want to deep-dive into the Filipino culture and mythology and learn “other Pinoy comic books and movies are out there.”

As for Oliva, he wanted it to create tourism opportunities for the Philippines in the future. “I was hoping that it would increase tourism… and people would be like, is this for the ‘Aswang’ tours? I wanted that to happen,” mused the Filipino-American film director, producer and storyboard artist behind The Dark Knight Returns and Flashpoint Paradox, among others.

A journey for the books

One thing’s for sure, how Trese came to life on screen is one for the books.

Yuson recalled that it’s been 11 years since she first “cold called” Tan to talk about what could be done with their graphic novel. At that time, she was a visiting producer from the US, where she worked in development for studios such as New Line Cinema and The Walt Disney Company. Eventually, she would co-establish BASE Entertainment, a film company headquartered in Jakarta and Singapore.

“At that time, the appetite wasn’t there for something specifically from Manila, and even then, creating it within the Philippines, like doing it locally, the budget would be kind of tricky because it was special effects, monsters and all of that,” she said.

“So with my producing partner (at BASE Entertainment) Shanty Harmayn, we started working on it and we actually pitched it not just to local studios, but also international, and for one reason or another, it didn’t quite work out.”

It took them years to find a home with Netflix after the streaming service’s VP for Japan and Anime, John Derderian, also saw something special in Trese. “When they made the announcement (of the adaptation at the See What’s Next Asia event) we were like, ito na ba? Is it really happening?” said Yuson.

“With Jay coming on board, we were so lucky that we also all got along really, really well and shared the same vision for what this could be. We were so blown away by his talent and by the team that he brought in.”

She particularly takes pride in Trese as a global production with creatives led by Filipinos. “Just this whole journey of creating it... has become so special. This is really a labour of love for all of us,” she added.

Love letter to Pinoy culture

As for Oliva, the series is his own love letter to Philippine traditions, heritage and culture. While he didn’t grow up in the country, he was raised in Filipino values and knew that Trese would be one project his parents would relate to. “And that to me meant everything because, you know, my parents still don’t know what I do, they just think that I draw,” Oliva laughed.

It also mattered to him that Filipinos would embrace this adaptation. “I’ve been doing this for 26 years and in my whole career, I’ve never had any Filipino content whatsoever, let alone Filipino folklore… (Trese) means everything to me because growing up with stories about the Philippines and the romanticized version that I grew up with and now doing this version, it was really kind of full circle. It meant something to me in a lot of ways that didn’t mean as much when I did Batman or Spiderman or any of those really big kinds of characters.”

He continued, “There’s a lot of actually Filipino-American artists, directors, storyboard artists and producers working here in Hollywood...It didn’t dawn on me until I was like a couple months into the production that this was something special that I was entrusted with. KaJo, Budj and Tanya entrusted their baby to me, and I had to knock it out of the park.”

What you (still) need to know about Trese

Part of the research for the Trese anime saw Oliva and production designer/art director Jojo Aguilar being brought to “haunted locations” in Metro Manila like the Balete Drive. They also witnessed the MRT breaking down, and people getting out and walking down the tracks — a scene that figured in the first episode. “So touring the actual locations and absorbing the ambiance of the environment — all of the sights and sounds — provided a great deal of inspiration for the series,” said Oliva.

Aguilar was partly responsible for having UDD do the official theme song Paagi. “Jojo Aguilar is a big fan of Up Dharma Down (now known as UDD), a Filipino band with strong roots in the culture and very popular in the Philippines,” Oliva said. “We didn’t want to give them too much direction, but they took note of what we discussed, and produced a haunting piece of music that really captures the story and characters.”

As for finding the “dream cast” to lend their voices to the series, it was important that they reflected the heritage and culture.

In the English-language version, for example, you have Hollywood stars with Filipino blood like Shay Mitchell (as the voice of Alexandra Trese), Darren Criss, Dante Basco, Nicole Scherzinger, Lou Diamond Phillips, etc.

“As soon as they heard about it, so many actors went out of their way to get roles. We heard a lot of stories from Filipino actors about them having been told — throughout their entire careers — to hide their accent or to act like they were another ethnicity. And the fact that we wanted them to use their natural accents was embraced by everyone behind the microphone,” he said.

“We knew the project was special, but it was so inspiring to see all of these actors bending over backwards to make this series the best that it could be — all because it was important to them to represent this underserved culture in an international spotlight like this series. It was something they could truly identify with.”

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