Inigo Pascual hopes Hollywood role creates more opportunities for Pinoy actors

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Inigo Pascual hopes Hollywood role creates more opportunities for Pinoy actors
Inigo Pascual is happy to play a Filipino main character in the US musical-drama series Monarch. He is Ace Grayson, who is part of the illustrious Romans, the ‘First Family of Country Music.’

MANILA, Philippines — Inigo Pascual is definitely living his Hollywood dream. One year after the actor-singer got cast in the American television series Monarch, he is now about to see the fruit of his labor come to life on screen. The multigenerational musical-drama about a family hailed as country music’s royalty premieres on Sept. 11 on Fox.

What makes Monarch even more noteworthy is that Inigo plays a Filipino main character, not an “ethnically ambiguous” role that is often the case.

“My character is Ace, he is adopted from the Philippines. When I learned about that, I was happy because I was still representing the Philippines,” he told The STAR and other media during an intimate roundtable interview on Friday before flying back to the US.

He further said, “I was happy because when I auditioned, my character’s ethnicity wasn’t specified. And when I learned that (Ace) was adopted from the Philippines, I was happy because I would love to portray my own country in my first (US) project. Of course, I somehow was able to give my own inputs kung ano ang dapat kung maramdaman, ano ang dapat na experience (ng isang) galing talaga sa Pilipinas.”

Besides the character being specifically Filipino, Inigo said it also hit close to home because of some parallelisms between his reel and real-life persona.

Inigo with Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon who plays his grandmother, the country music queen Dottie Roman, in the series.

Ace belongs to a Texas-based showbiz dynasty, the Romans, also touted as the “First Family of Country Music.” According to the synopsis, Ace’s grandparents are Dottie Roman and Albie Roman, played by Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon and real-life country music star Trace Adkins. Ace’s mom is Nicky Roman (Pushing Daisies star Anna Friel), who is determined to safeguard and carry on the family legacy while securing her own stardom. The official trailer teases about who will be the rightful heir to the family legacy, and Inigo’s role appears to be in line as well to inherit the throne.

As everyone knows, Inigo is the son of one of the country’s biggest stars, Piolo Pascual. So, he knows the feeling of someone trying to find his own space in a world where a family member has dominated or continues to dominate.

“I can very much relate to my character because of my experience, coming into the Hollywood scene, parang ganun din pinagdadaanan ni Ace. He wants to fit into his family na kumakanta. Mga artista ang mga family members niya. Because he’s adopted, his struggles (include) saan ba ako lulugar sa pamilyang ito?” Inigo said.

“He’s very nice, he’s the favorite apo of his lolo and lola niya. He also sings. But he’s also struggling with (his choices). Like, what will he choose? His heart or what his family says about the image of the family in the public eye?”

For his portrayal, Inigo was given mentors on set: A dialect coach as he had to learn that southern drawl of an accent; an intimacy coach for his scenes with Ana Phoenix, who plays his girlfriend in the series; as well as stunt coach, especially for scenes where he had seizures. And he certainly felt like a Hollywood star with his personal trailer on set. He recalled that the moment he saw it, he cried.

Despite being in Philippine showbiz since his teens, the 24-year-old admitted that being transported to the filming location in Atlanta and taking on his first-ever Hollywood project brought out a lot of self-doubt.

“There were days on the set (when I would ask myself) na tama ba ako yung pinili, kaya ko ba ‘to? Ano ba ang pwede ko pang ibigay? But during the last day on set, after my last shot, they said, congratulations Inigo, you are wrapped for Season 1. I was like, nagawa ko yun? Natapos ko yun? Sobrang natuwa ako kasi yung takot na andun sa simula, I was able to overcome it. And I didn’t notice na nagawa ko na pala, natapos ko. I would say, I owned it,” said Inigo.

What also gave him confidence was the support of his father, Piolo, from Day 1.

With co-stars Susan Sarandon, Emma Milani, Kevin Cahoon, Adam Croasdell and Callum Kerr in their filming location in Atlanta.

“(He just told me,) ‘You got this, I’m so proud of you.’ It’s nice to hear that from him, to encourage me. Kasi may mga times na natatakot talaga ako, sa mga ganitong pangyayari. Like with Monarch, I wasn’t supposed to audition. I was two weeks late for the audition because I was already thinking I wouldn’t get it, so why would I still audition? It was my management (Cornerstone) and my parents who encouraged me, na wala namang mawawala kasi kung na try mo ‘yan, what if makuha ka? Pero kung hindi naman, you have a career to go back to,” he said.

Meanwhile, Inigo was asked what it was like working with a Hollywood heavyweight like Susan Sarandon.

“Oh she was so sweet and all of the castmates, walang pa diva. Everyone was like family. The fact that we all came from such different places and to be put in one place together, we had no choice but to be close to one another,” he said.

Inigo recalled that he was able to bond with Susan through shared experiences of having family members in the acting business.

“She started talking to me about her daughter because her daughter is also in the show as her younger self. I shared with her na tatay ko nga is an actor from the Philippines. So, napag-usapan namin yung hirap at saka yung pag-ko-compare sa dad ko. It was nice to see that someone like her is so humble. No airs at all. She was telling me to enjoy every moment of it and use this opportunity to inspire others to go for it,” Inigo shared.

“Yung anak niya, (Susan) never discouraged her (from acting). And that’s the same experience I had with my dad. Ayaw niya talaga nung simula pero nung ginagawa ko na, pinabayaan na niya ako, and he’s always there to support me.”

The Cornerstone and Star Magic talent admitted that while his career is still based in the Philippines, he’s been auditioning for various projects in the States following Monarch. Nevertheless, with the show about to debut and he’s expected to be introduced to a wider audience, does he feel that his life is about to change as well?

“I’m not the type of person who puts expectations on things like this… because ayoko iba yung mangyari sa expectations ko. I’m excited to have done this. And more than anything, I pray and hope that this will open more doors of opportunity for artists in the Philippines to cross over,” Inigo said.

The actor-singer with his onscreen family — Ava Grace and Anna Friel (right) as his mom Nicky Roman.

“Natutuwa din ako nung nalaman ko na a lot of my friends from here — Star Magic, Cornerstone (talent management groups) — have been auditioning in the States. I learned that the things I’ve auditioned for, nag-a-audition rin pala sila Darren (Espanto), Kyle (Echarri), so nakakatuwa there are more opportunities for us. And I’m claiming that the show does really well and hopefully, it will bring in even more opportunities.”

Inigo with country music star Trace Adkins as his character’s grandfather Albie Roman.

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