Pinoy pride is high in ‘Almost Paradise’

Published May 12, 2021, 7:53 PM

by Robert Requintina

Clockwise: Christian Kane, Ces Quesada, Samantha Richelle, Art Acuna, and Nonie Buencamino

ABS-CBN and Electric Entertainment’s historic crime drama series “Almost Paradise” overflows with Pinoy pride as it continues to champion Filipino talent in its last two weeks on Kapamilya Channel and A2Z.  

Like in the previous eight episodes, the Filipino cast and crew of the American crime drama series promise world class entertainment in the final two chapters in the story of former U.S. secret agent Alex Walker (Christian Kane), who was drawn back to his old life after retiring in the island paradise of Cebu.

According to ABS-CBN International Production and Co-Production Division Head Ruel Bayani, the company really wanted to show the world the quality of content made by Filipinos through this project.

“Ito ay malaking pagkakataon para maipagmalaki at ipayakap sa mundo ang ating talento at ating kakayahan,” he said in a virtual media conference held on May 12 with the entire “Almost Paradise” team and main cast.

All artists that played a role in the show underwent stringent auditions, including the main Filipino cast of Nonie Buencamino, Art Acuña, Samantha Richelle, Ces Quesada, and Angeli Bayani, and guest stars like ZsaZsa Padilla, Sophia Reola, Richard Yap, Raymond Bagatsing, Noel Trinidad, Lotlot de Leon, Ryan Eigenmann, and Ketchup Eusebio, among many others.

“I think isa sa pinaka-naappreciate ko is ‘yung process of audition. Kasi sa audition you make sure that the right people get the roles. So pagdating sa shooting, you’re confident na they can do their roles,” shared Ces.

Nonie also liked that they had their scripts ahead. “There was a lot of time to read, think, and analyze. So I have a lot of attacks come shooting day,” he shared. His character police chief Ike Ocampo, he said, is very principled and honest like him in real-life.

Art, who has done a variety of roles both for local and international productions, said he also connected very much with his role as detective Ernesto Alamares, “It’s one of my most favorite characters to play.”

While a newcomer in the industry, Samantha was well-praised by her co-actors and producers in her portrayal of Kai Mendoza. For her, the project was a blessing and a joy to do.

“I had the time of my life just being able to learn from the veteran actors and just the quality of the people’s talents. I was just very fortunate to work with them.”

Behind the camera, “Almost Paradise” showrunner Dean Devlin, the CEO of Electric Entertainment and famous Hollywood producer of films like “Independence Day,” “Godzilla,” and “The Patriot” also worked with a Filipino staff and crew. Moreover, the program has four Filipino directors in Dan Villegas (Episode 4), Francis Dela Torre (Episode 3 and 7), Hannah Espia (Episode 6 and 9), and Irene Villamor (Episode 8). 

According to Dan, while there were adjustments in the filmmaking process, they all took away new knowledge from their experience in the show.

“I was surprised how professional foreign actors were. Pagdating nila sa set memorized na nila ang script. I also appreciated how everything is pre-approved before the shoot. ’Yung mga natutunan ko sa Almost Paradise, ina-apply ko na sa mga shoots ko,” shared Dan.

“The themes are very universal and maraming nakapaloob na genres. It speaks to a wider audience,” Hannah also said about the global appeal of the show.

Francis and Irene, meanwhile, both believe the series gave foreign audiences a different look at the Philippines.

They and the local team surely got the admiration and respect of Dean, and the show’s lead star, Hollywood actor Christian Kane, who cherish the love they have been receiving during and after the filming of “Almost Paradise.”

“I was treated more like family there than I have ever been my entire life. It just felt like home. I have some of the best people around me. They welcomed me in and so I got to concentrate on the character and not being away from home,” said Christian, who starred in U.S. TV series and movies like “Angel,” “Leverage,” “The Librarians,” “Just Married,” and “Taxi.” 

Dean also shared that among all the projects he has done, “everybody seems to like Almost Paradise,” especially among Filipinos abroad like him.

“We are getting so many heartfelt letters and DMs from Filipinos here and around the world who are saying that they feel seen. To have this show where we are really changing minds and hearts, it adds a sense of pride in the show not just for the Filipinos in the Philippines but for Filipinos everywhere. It captures the heart of why Filipinos are such wonderful and special people,” he said.

The first American TV series shot entirely in the Philippines, “Almost Paradise” features the beauty of Mactan, Cebu. But aside from the country’s natural beauty, also worth seeing in the program are the realistic sets that the local production team of ABS-CBN built for the show, such as the police station and yacht.

The team gave their blood and sweat to the project in their desire to give Filipinos a program they will be proud of, and to prove that the local entertainment industry can stand toe-to-toe with Hollywood.

Meanwhile, viewers should watch for the exciting events coming in “Almost Paradise,” which has brought light and joy to Filipinos since March 21. In the episode this Sunday (May 16), which features guest actors Sophia Reola, Isay Alvarez, Teroy Guzman, Miko Raval, Boom Labrusca, Joel Molina, and Lesley Lina, Kai (Samantha Richelle) is in danger as Alex gets entangled in her undercover operation. In the finale, expect more drama and action as Alex tries to save her daughter when a person from his past returns for revenge.

Don’t miss the last two episodes of “Almost Paradise” every Sunday, 8:45 pm on Kapamilya Channel, A2Z, iWantTFC, and Kapamilya Online Live (KOL) on Facebook and YouTube.  Viewers in the Philippines can re-watch the latest episode for seven days after it streamed on KOL. They can also watch all previous episodes, in English or Filipino, on iWantTFC. Follow @AlmostParadiseTV at @AlmostParadisePH on Facebook. Follow @ABSCBNPR on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or visit www.abs-cbn.com/newsroom

 
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