Alden Richards gets schooled
Cate de Leon (The Philippine Star) - October 25, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Like most of us, Alden Richards admits to have struggled through Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. He even goes far enough to say that he wasn’t the least interested in the life of our national hero. I can’t blame him. Even I remember high school history classes as occasions to begrudgingly cram facts and their corresponding dates into my head, while struggling to comprehend really deep Tagalog. Many of us were pressured into achieving passing grades instead of digging into the colorful and multi-layered stories that we were privileged to have, and applying them to our present contexts.

Fortunately, school is not the only way to get schooled. GMA 7’s new primetime series, Ilustrado, brings Jose Rizal back to life, in a way that engages the everyday viewer. And in being forced to take a second, more personal look into someone whose greatness we’ve learned to take for granted, Alden discovered a man who wasn’t so different from him or from anyone else. Today, after watching countless portrayals of the man and really digging into history, Alden looks forward to being given more historical projects and even half jokes, “Konti na lang, Rizalista na ako. Konting tumbling na lang.” Read on to find out why.

SUPREME: What went through your head when you learned you would be playing our national hero?

ALDEN RICHARDS: Of course, I never expected that GMA would give me a role this big. At first, I didn’t want to believe it because I felt like I didn’t deserve a role like that yet. But I asked myself, if not now, when would I accept roles like this? Pag matanda na ako? Pag hindi na fresh, hindi na bata? That’s when I realized that I should grab every opportunity that unfolds in front of me without hesitation, kasi sayang. It only knocks once. Grab lang ng grab.

How does one prepare to play Jose Rizal?

Of course, it’s really hard, especially since so many actors have portrayed Rizal before I did. When I learned about the project, I watched movies, like Cesar Montano’s Jose Rizal and Albert Martinez’s Rizal sa Dapitan. I also read books. I asked historians and our history consultants about who Rizal was before, and I learned a lot. The challenge here is to do my own version of him, because most of the actors who portrayed Rizal really gave justice to the role.

Studying history, what were the new things you learned about Rizal that you didn’t know before?

I never knew that Rizal was a drinker. He drank a lot. Nagsusugal. He went out with friends and was really living the life when he was in Spain. Most people when they hear Rizal’s name, they think of this great person who made no mistakes and had no vices. But I discovered that Rizal was human. He had a fair share of wrong decisions, failures, and maybe there were even more down moments than accomplishments. But his accomplishments meant a lot, because if not for him, we wouldn’t have our freedom.

I was never a fan of Rizal. I wasn’t even that close to being interested in his life. I really did not excel with El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere in school. But my enthusiasm went up when this project was given to me. I never knew that Rizal’s life was very colorful. It was exciting. It was full of ups and downs. I appreciate so much about him now compared to before. Konti na lang, Rizalista na ako. Konting tumbling na lang.

What would you say was his biggest flaw as a person?

That’s a nice question. I’ve never thought of that. The way I see it, in every decision that we make, there’s always a failure and a success. And Rizal’s decisions are what made him who he was. I don’t know. Siguro yung marami lang siyang naging chicks. Masyado siyang playboy. Kaya siya na-tag na little bad boy.

Of all the movies you watched, whose portrayal of Rizal was your favorite?

All of them were good, with different approaches and different attacks. I mean, you can really see Jose Rizal na Cesar Montano, Jose Rizal na Albert Martinez, Jose Rizal na Joel Torre, and now Jose Rizal na Alden Richards.

I’m really praying that the public would appreciate how I attack Rizal’s character in terms of history. I also incorporated a little of myself into him because I see some similarities with our attitudes. Rizal’s makulit, so hindi na ako nahirapan dun because I’m really like that, on and off cam. He was very persistent with what he wanted. If he wanted to get something, he worked hard for it, especially when he realized that he needed to do something for the country, for his family, for himself, and for his love. Yun siguro, parehas kaming hardworking and very persistent, and we always fight for what is right in everything.

Rizal really became a part of me. I really didn’t have a hard time when I was shooting. I would say we have a lot in common — maybe not in terms of being a martyr for the Philippines, but as a person, as a son, as a friend, as a lover, and as a person as a whole.

So playboy ka din?

Hindi naman (laughs). Dun siguro medyo magkaiba kaming dalawa.

We’ve already had countless features on Rizal. How is Ilustrado different?

Ilustrado is different because we’re humanizing Rizal. I noticed in many of the projects done on him, we only showcase Rizal as the mighty hero of the Philippines — his accomplishments and why he became the national hero.

Here, we show that Rizal really went through the cycle that every human being undergoes. Dito makikita nila si Rizal umiinom, umiiyak, naghihirap, nagiging broken-hearted, nafru-frustrate kapag may hindi siya nakuha. Filipinos will discover a lot watching Il ustrado, because we showcase Rizal’s life from a human being’s perspective.

What’s the importance of having history on primetime TV?

 

Malaki. Viewers today are used to watching soap operas and fictional stories on primetime. I’m not saying we don’t learn from soaps. But there is a lot to learn from a story that really happened and played a big part in the Philippines. Ilustrado serves a purpose and is really something worthwhile and worth watching. It’s a great way for everyone to recognize Rizal because of his doings and his sacrifice for the country.

Filipinos are often accused of being forgetful when it comes to our history and our political issues. What do you think is the role of media and entertainment in ensuring that we remember where we came from, what we’ve been through, and the lessons we learned from past experiences?

What I think entertainment does to mend those kinds of problems, even soap operas and fictional stories, is to incorporate something that happens in real life — let’s say government, corruption — and then showcase equally the consequences of the decisions that were made. Because in every action, there’s a complete and exact reaction. We really get what we deserve, and it somehow takes its toll on us sooner or later.

What’s next for you after Ilustrado. Any bigger dream roles?

Meron pa ba (laughs)? Something out of the box. I don’t know what. I don’t know how. I don’t know how the writer would do it for me. Something that would really challenge my acting. I just want my roles to be as diverse as possible. I like challenges. I don’t want the easy way.

* * *

Tweet the author @catedeleon.

Photo by CHOLO DELA VEGA

Produced by DAVID MILAN

Grooming by MARK KINGSON QUA for Laura Mercier

Hair by RENZ PANGILINAN

ALBERT MARTINEZ ALDEN RICHARDS BUT I CESAR MONTANO ILUSTRADO JOSE RIZAL REALLY RIZAL
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