Tom Rodriguez’ education in showbiz

Pablo A. Tariman
'My goal is to become an actor and not just another celebrity.'

FAST LEARNER. Tom remains fascinated by his milieu. Photo: Mark Quimpo-Demayo/Rappler 

MANILA, Philippines – Tom Rodriguez continues to be on a roll even as the GMA serye “My Husband’s Lover” (“MHL”) wound up to its last, disappointing episode on Friday night, October 18.

The much anticipated kissing scene with “Husband” Tom’s “Lover,” Dennis Trillo, in the show’s conclusion was aborted or, rather, not aired, as pep.ph reported Friday night. However one puts it, the network apparently has thought it best to retreat from its pioneering headway to introduce the subject of gay romance on television.

But going back to Tom, the US-trained graphic artist-turned-serye star is back in cinema, reuniting with box-office director Wenn Deramas in the upcoming “Bekikang.” There are more films as well lined up for the 26-year-old Tom, including a rom-com in 2014 with co-star Carla Abellana (his wife in “MHL”), who promises that film to be a “kilig” romance.

‘MHL’ theme

With “Bekikang,” Tom still finds himself continuing the theme of “MHL,” if in a somewhat different context. He goes straight in this film, as the parlance goes, but he’s still the object of gay love to Joey Paras, whose star vehicle this is. According to Cinemalaya-winning actor Joey, “Bekikang” is a loose reinterpretation of Lino Brocka’s classic 1978 film “Ang Tatay Kong Nanay,” which starred the late King of Comedy, Dolphy. 

“I don’t play gay in this film,” Tom said in an interview with Rappler during a press conference on “Bekikang” on October 15.  “I am this straight bumpkin named Fortunato who gets a Japan-bound OFW pregnant and the baby ends up with Vittorio [Joey Paras] who falls in love with me. If ‘MHL’ was all drama, ‘Bekikang’ is all fun. You’d die laughing in this film.”

Tom, who said he still does graphics in his downtime, said he had no idea what showbiz had in store for him when he first enrolled in an acting workshop with co-star Malou de Guzman. Right there, he realized that acting was a craft that required focus and discipline.

“That workshop helped me to relax and just be myself,” he said. “Funny I got to know myself better after that workshop.” Tom said he also learned “to find ways to express myself better, and to give life to a character in a given script. I have barely scratched the surface, applying what I learned. Through acting, I realized I could make real human beings of characters in the script. This is my goal in showbiz: to become an actor and not just another celebrity.”

Malou, who was also at the presscon (she plays Joey’s mean stepmother in “Bekikang”), told Rappler that Tom proved to be a good student right away. “Before I knew it, he became more spontaneous and his Tagalog improved immensely,” she said.

Small parts

Before Tom achieved stardom through “MHL,” he played a small part in another top-rating teleserye, ABS-CBN’s “Be Careful With My Heart.”

While he was still out of the public radar before “MHL,” Tom had already done several films – among them, “Temptation Island,” “Petrang Kabayo,” and “Tanging Ina” (Last Na ‘To!).”

Tom was born in Subic and grew up in Catbalogan, Samar, with his Filipino-American parents, before the family migrated to the US. His childhood passion – which continues to this day – was drawing.

Growing up, he never thought he’d enter showbiz. But by the time he returned to the Philippines, he found himself taking part in the reality show, “Pinoy Big Brother: Double Up.” Soon enough he was signed up to ABS-CBN where he made his television debut in “Precious Hearts Romances Presents: My Cheating Heart.”

With “MHL,” Tom had ceased being a mere good-looking face in the crowd. This time, public recognition was instant and soon he was being called Vincent (his character Vincent Soriano in the GMA serye) everywhere.

Lessons

“‘MHL’ was a big lesson in life and acting,” he said. “It taught me acceptance of oneself, acceptance of others, and acceptance of things you cannot control or change.

“Many people still see gays as different from heterosexuals. That’s not true. They only differ on the surface. If you study both gays and straights with all their several layers of characteristics, you’d be surprised they have many things in common rather than differences.”

Tom is certainly aware of the usual speculation that goes with portraying a gay character

“I don’t get affected by personal things because I know who I am. The role was offered to me just a night before the auditions and I had to do a quick preparation. Come audition time, I was more concerned with doing justice to the part. I didn’t really care if I get the part. All I wanted was to do my best in that audition.”

He got the part and the rest is history – or rather Tom Rodriguez’s continued rise in his career.

“Just getting all that incredible feedback, not just on my role but on the entire teleserye, really opened my eyes to many things. That, indeed, television is a powerful medium with the power to change people, to effect changes, and also bring people together.”

Unfortunately, GMA relinquished that power right at the conclusion of “MHL.” Well, that’s another story. – Rappler.com

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