Sam Milby takes the plunge

Cate de Leon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Sam Milby is set to add a new twist to the timeless love story of Dyesebel and Fredo, played by Anne Curtis and Gerald Anderson respectively. In this 2014 version of the classic Filipino mermaid tale, ABS-CBN introduces a new character, Liro.

“Isa siyang mandirigma,” Sam says, making a conscious effort to use the vernacular.

“Wow, wala ka nang accent,” we observe.

“Mang...dirigma,” he falters a bit on the second try.  Liro is Dyesebel’s childhood friend; merman, leader, and protector of the undersea world. He blames himself for his brother’s death and since then has always been trying to compensate by proving himself. His deep-seated angst towards human beings, who caused his brother’s death, conflicts with his great love for Dyesebel, who is half human, half mermaid.

“You can think of it in terms of the Superman’s Smallville, introducing Lana Lang when it’s Lois Lane that everyone knows about. It’s a different spin, and hopefully people will also root for Liro and Dyesebel. We don’t know who she’ll end up with,” Sam smiles.

Language barrier

Aside from the challenge of acting underwater, swimming from one scuba guy to another to get oxygen, mustering the strength to work the monofin and making sure the strenuous effort doesn’t show on his face, what Sam considers his biggest challenge in this particular role is being required to speak pure Tagalog. He knew absolutely nothing when he first set foot in the Philippines, and he’s aware that learning new languages has never been his strength. But today, we can tell he’s finally gotten around to practicing seriously. He can speak straight sentences naturally, with only the occasional and slight slip in accent. “Pag-iisipan namin kung paano ibahin yung kwento para maintindihan ng mga tao kung bakit may slang si Liro. Baka sa Subic Bay siya tumatambay kasama ng mga US Navy,” he jokes. 

But more than the mere phonetics, Sam appreciates the challenge of conveying the nuances in another language. He’s aware that while it’s possible for him to be “dalubhasang-dalubhasa” in Tagalog, it’s something else to be able to relate and resound seamlessly with the language and produce organic emotions at the appropriate fine points. “But I’m up to it. I’m excited,” he says.

On honing one’s craft and internal explosions

Sam also continues to hone his craft and just last month took a two-day acting workshop under renowned acting coach, Ivana Chubbuck.

“It was an eye opener for me. She’s very good at getting you out of your comfort zone. Sometimes we can be close-minded when it comes to our thoughts, especially since our culture is very conservative. There are a lot of things that we feel we need to keep in mind. But when we do art — and acting is an art — you can’t limit yourself to the culture you grew up with because that will give you a very neutral and common attack. If you want to do art, you have to be risky. You have to think outside the box. You have to open your mind and allow the good, the bad, the nasty, the disgusting — let it all in so you can deliver an interesting performance. Even if you have beliefs, you can’t bring them into your character, because your character is not you.

“Magaling siya,” Sam continues about Chubbuck. “She’s frank, and her ideas and the things she made us do were very extreme. We definitely saw the positive effects afterwards.”

We then ask Sam how he intends to incorporate what he learned, considering how the local showbiz industry and the audience come from these very conservative mindsets that he just described.

“Getting ‘outside of the box’ is not really about the things that you say or do, like suddenly going out there and doing something sexual. I mean, you still have a script. It’s about the choices you make in your mind; your reactions and how you act it out,” he replies, explaining that coming from a riskier place makes one’s performance more interesting.

“So it’s more of an internal explosion?” we deduce.


Much has been said about how pretty amboys get handed Philippine showbiz careers on a silver platter; how they get to coast along on their charming twangs. Sam Milby may have started out that way, but as of this writing it’s clear that the actor has fully taken the plunge.

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Tweet the author @catedeleon.

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