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Chito on directing ‘mentally-challenged’ JLC

Direk Chito Roño doesn’t mince his words when he says he is not so fond of doing family dramas, except when there are unusual characters in them and the elements are not invitations to drama exaggerations. Says he: “I tend to avoid dramas because on the whole, they tend to be so similar. Of course, Filipinos love dramas and it is the culture of our cinema. But I don’t like the way we over dramatize everything.”

He adds he is more excited on how so-called “dysfunctional” persons live and love. He likes tales of lesbian mothers and how they cope (shades of La Vida Rosa), women who fight and are capable of dismembering their husbands’ weapons (like Laro sa Baga) and single mothers declaring personal liberation (i.e. Bata, Bata Paano Ka Ginawa?). When the role of the mentally- challenged young man fell on John Lloyd’s lap in The Trial, the director advised him to study the role very well. “I told him I don’t want another stereotyped characterization of retarded people. I want an actor who can explore the heart and mind of the character and he delivered. The long nights of shooting and the fatigue that went with it were all worth it. All the actors gave me what I wanted.”

In his latest movie, Roño is faced with making something out of the court case of the character played by the lead actor. “This is a story that begs to unravel the truth. However as the story goes, you see the sense of despair of the characters who are going through different difficult situations. Hence, we cannot just easily judge people while they cope with true-to-life trials in their lives.”
The challenge of portraying one such mentally- dysfunctional person is not lost on John Lloyd who asserts he depended a lot on the guidance of the director. Happily, he likes the director’s approach.

“He advised us to explore all angles. It is also obvious that he needs something outside his usual expectations. For this reason, it is a joy to work with him. Aside from getting total freedom to interpret your character, I discovered a new process of working on my character which is not easy but you discover later it works. It’s not easy to do this but with all the difficulties, the more I find this portrayal memorable to me. Because with direk Chito, you can’t afford to be complacent. I can’t say he is an actor’s director but he knows what he wants, he knows where the story is going and he involves us in discovering other ways to achieve something out of the ordinary.”

It is understandable that in his latest film outing, John Lloyd departs from his kilig movies to offer something different for Filipino moviegoers. Indeed, the role was out-ofthis world and the character exploration took another route which he finds unforgettable. Says he: “Just when you least expected it, you get a role totally opposite of what you do and another director comes in to give you another way of exploring the role. This is a dream come true for me. Not that I disliked the romantic parts I am identified with. But once in your acting life, you also aim to accomplish something different.”

The project took some time taking off with scriptwriter Enrico Santos initially brainstorming with his co- writer on what they could do for the network’s anniversary. Meanwhile, John Lloyd shares an insight into the character he plays: “Midway into the last two shooting days, I finally saw what my character is made of and what he went through in this film. What I learned doing this part is
that mentally challenged or not, people love the same way the so-called normal people do. Social barriers no longer count when you fall in love. My character gave me a memorable portrait of mentally-challenged man falling in love and was ready to fight for it. I would say playing this role was a very profound experience and all this new acting experience is not possible without direk Chito.”(P. Tariman, PS)