Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Ian Veneracion calls ‘Oh My Dad’ crew a ‘dream team’

Vanessa Balbuena - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  Ian Veneracion was seven years old when he first ventured into acting thru the 1982 RPN sitcom “Joey and Son.”

“As an actor, I was born in a sitcom. After having tried teeny-bopper movies, action, romantic stories, teleseryes, and eventually music, I really looked forward to going back to a sitcom,” the 45-year-old actor said in a digital conference.

The pretty boy of Philippine showbiz, who in recent years has enjoyed a career resurgence as a dapper leading man, returns to the genre where he began as a child actor via Brightlight Productions’ “Oh My Dad,” a wholesome family sitcom airing Saturdays, 5 pm, on TV5.

Directed by Jeffrey Jeturian, the weekend comedy stars Ian as Matthew ‘Matmat’ Balderama, a former PBA player/showbiz celebrity who hies off to the United States after getting embroiled in a scandal. He returns to the Philippines after 17 years, only to be confronted by another scandal: three kids (played by Sue Ramirez, Louise Abuel and Adrian Lindayag) will appear before him, all claiming to be his child by three different mothers.

Shared Ian of his titular role, “He’s vanidoso, an aging celebrity. He’s very insecure about the situation, of his comeback and how to deal with it. There’s so much room for funny situations and dialogue. It was so much fun working on this project and the actors developing the characters, turning these caricatures to life. I really appreciate the humor of the show, the writers, and the approach of Direk Jeffrey in what we’re doing. I’m really proud to be part of this.”

Ian admitted to still finding his legs with the comedy material, having been given dramatic and romantic roles in the past years.

“Syempre hindi pa ako sanay. I’m not yet calibrated to the requirements as an actor doing comedy,” he said. “With the guidance of my director, co-actors, and an excellent pool of writers, I’m confident that I can calibrate to it. Ang sarap kasi kapag yung mga kasama mo sa trabaho, very supportive. As an actor, doon ka humuhugot from them. Lalo na sa sitcom, it’s about kakulitan ng situation.”

Switching from one genre to another shouldn’t be new to Ian. He has played the villain, the “pa-pogi.” As Matmat, he has no qualms in shedding the heartthrob image and looking foolish for the sake of a good laugh.

“Tinitimpla ko pa yung character na mayabang siya, at the same time, you know that it stems from insecurity,” said Ian of his “Oh My Dad” character. “Hindi naman ako takot magmukhang tanga. We’re not relying on kengkoy slapstick. It’s situational.”

Portraying his love interest in “Oh My Dad” is Dimples Romana as Sandra, a childhood friend who’s long harbored a secret liking for him.

“Crush na crush niya si Matmat pero ayaw niya aminin dahil na broken-hearted siya. Kaabang-abang yung mga parts na tinatago yung mga lihim na pagtingin,” teased Dimples, who has previously worked with her Kuya Ian in the Star Cinema film “Block Z.”

Ian is thankful to be paired with an actress who is a close friend off camera. “It’s so comfortable to work with her. Hindi kami nahihiya sa isa’t-isa. Minsan nga Dimps dapat mahiya tayo ng konti sa isa’t-isa,” laughed Ian.

“Lahat kami sa set, it’s very tight. Some of the actors I’m working with for the first time, but because we bonded quickly due to the lock-in, the chemistry is definitely there. It’s like a dream team.”

They had so much fun that Direk Jeffrey said they would oftentimes forget they were shooting under new normal conditions. While other actors or crew members might find the swab tests and quarantine requirements quite the hassle, the director said they are all in fact looking forward to their next lock-in.

“Parang mas maganda pa nga ngayon compared to previous normal way of shooting. The lock-in set-up is actually more favorable for production because we are able to can more episodes in one shooting schedule. Unlike before, there are gaps in shooting at naghahabol kami ng for airing. Kaya mas tense ang shooting scenario noon,” Direk Jeffrey said.

The senior citizens on set are having a blast too. Gloria Diaz, cast as a beautician and resident nosy neighbor whose long-time boyfriend (Ariel Ureta) is unable to propose because of her “strict parents,” gushed about the extra special treatment her age group is enjoying at work.

“Oh my God, super special! We have early cut-off. Syempre kapag senior they have to be careful with us. I love it!,” the Miss Universe beauty said. “For the first time, it’s not so bad to be a senior kasi talagang they give us special preference. And all your co-stars and director, they are so considerate. Nakakatuwa dahil lagi nila akong inaakay, they carry my bag, so take advantage.”

With scene rehearsals now marked by social distancing and the wearing of face masks, the veteran actress found it disorienting at first to find her timing.

“Comedy is a lot of good dialogue, timing, rapport, and if you don’t see the face of your co-star, medyo kailangan mag-timing ka, especially the pa-cute scenes namin ni Ariel. It’s quite difficult especially that I’m a senior citizen, but it’s a real challenge because at the end of it all you feel good that you are able to do something,” she said. “I want to be part of this new practice of working in this pandemic. We are all having a good time, especially nandoon lahat kami in one place, you don’t wait for anybody and everybody wants to do what they have to do as soon as possible. Hindi yung taking your time na akala mo you have all the time in the world.”

Ariel, who, aside from being Gloria’s love team, is also Ian’s dad in the show, called the new normal protocols a stark improvement. “Work is much better. Things are very efficient. Isang pitik lang, nandiyan na kami sa shooting, so we can all concentrate. Ang pinaka-challenge lang, sana walang magkasakit.”

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