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Entertainment

Arjo Atayde’s Bagman heading to Netflix

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Arjo Ataydeâs Bagman heading to Netflix
Arjo on why the socio-political series is still relevant two years after it premiered: ‘Besides the production’s well-thought-out concept, it also depicts the despicable nature of corrupt politics that could be happening in any part of the world. I hate to think it’s reality but it’s definitely something we’re all turning a blind eye to something that needs attention, solution and action.’

MANILA, Philippines — The socio-political thriller Bagman topbilled by Arjo Atayde is coming to Netflix this month.

For Arjo, the series co-produced by Dreamscape Digital and Rein Entertainment remains relevant and must be (re)watched even two years after it premiered as an iWant original series in 2019.

“Besides the production’s well-thought-out concept, it also depicts the despicable nature of corrupt politics that could be happening in any part of the world,” the 30-year-old actor told The STAR in an e-mail interview.

“I hate to think it’s reality but it’s definitely something we’re all turning a blind eye to — something that needs attention, solution and action.”

Arjo with co-star Alan Paule in a scene from the show, which is scheduled to start streaming on Netflix this Friday.

In Bagman, as the synopsis puts it, Arjo plays the family man Benjo Malaya whose source of income, a barbershop, is about to be demolished for a road-widening project. The soon-to-be-father is persuaded to accept a job to keep his barbershop. He becomes the designated “bagman” for the governor, getting involved in the wheeling and dealing that happens in political and societal institutions.

Before he knows it, he is lured into the dark and dangerous web of deceit and power struggle, and he decides to use his acquired skills to rise the country’s ladder of power to “protect” what is most important to him.

Arjo recalled his reaction when he was first offered to be the lead star of the series about an ordinary man who forgoes his morals for his family.

“When the project was offered to me and after reading the first draft of the script, the first thing that came to mind was, ‘Is this for real?’, then I asked myself, ‘Will I be able to give justice to the role?’ But given that Dreamscape has always taken care of me, along with Rein Entertainment that I truly trust, I just had to say yes. I knew they’d guide me every step of the way and I wasn’t wrong. Without the guidance from both producers, the whole production team, and the actors I had the pleasure of working with, it definitely wouldn’t have turned out the same way.”

Arjo regarded the role as one of his most formidable yet. “I could not personally meet a bagman, so I had to ingest all the information our writer/director Shugo Praico and the whole team imparted to me and do intensive research about the role I had been casted for,” he recalled.

“As an actor, I’d say it was one of the most difficult roles I had to portray as I initially had no idea how ‘bagmans’ conduct themselves in real life, but with enough research and guidance from my team, I was able to put it all together. Benjo Malaya came into being because of the incredible bunch of creatives behind this project.”

Nevertheless, the best part in playing an anti-hero such as Benjo Malaya is “the whole journey of fooling myself into believing in what the character believes in.”

He explained, “It was difficult as I had to contradict my beliefs in order to imbibe and embrace the character but I love being challenged to take on new roles as I get to learn and grow as an actor.”

Arjo also shared his main takeaway from doing Bagman and the impact this role had on him.

He said, “That not all people committing crimes are doing it because they want to; sometimes it’s because they have to, for they are not given much choice. As the famous adage goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s definitely not something I agree with but it is what life has come to; sometimes people resort to desperate measures to cope with the harsh realities of this tough world.”

For his portrayal, Arjo won Best Actor at the 2020 Asian Academy Creative Awards last December, becoming the first Filipino to win against other Asian actors from China, Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries. The honor came just before his 10th year in the entertainment industry. It was one wish fulfilled as Arjo said then that before he became an actor, “my goal has always been to represent our country in any way I can.”

The actor as Benjo Malaya, a barber-turned-henchman-turned politician in Bagman.

For this interview, The STAR asked Arjo what are his next goals not just as an actor but also as a person.

“I have always had the same goal since the day I put my heart into acting, and that is to never repeat a role and to work with the seniors of the industry as much as I can,” he said.

On the personal front, Arjo said that his main goals now are “to be of assistance to those in need in my own way and to provide for my future family.”

“I am all for growth, both as an actor and as a person. And I couldn’t be more grateful for the learnings and opportunities that came along when I surprisingly ‘bagged’ (pun intended!) the Best Actor award. I’m just grateful and content with everything and where I am at.”

Bagman, which starts streaming this Friday, also stars Alan Paule, Yayo Aguila, Chanel Latorre and Raymond Bagatsing.

ARJO ATAYDE

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