Former child star Zaijian Jaranilla has grown into a fine young man with sharper acting skills. To prove that getting better does not stop, Zaijian continues to explore his artistry and his latest challenge is joining the top-notch ensemble cast of Almost Paradise.
Just calling it an international project already makes him feel pressured and thrilled at the same time. He said it is a dream come true for him (and for any actor) to experience filming a foreign show. “Masaya kasi matagal ko nang pinapangarap na mapasama sa ganito tapos ipapalabas pa sa States. Siyempre, hindi lang mga Pinoy ang makakapanood, mga foreigners. Siyempre, ‘pag may nagalingan sa’yo, mas nakakatuwa ‘yun,” he said.
In the episode to be aired this Sunday, May 9, Zaijian plays one of the bad guys. Besides the gangster-like persona, Zaijian had to adjust for the show’s medium. “English, eh! Napakahirap” he quipped.
The harder it gets the more preparation he needs, so Zaijian watched numerous English films to train the tongue. He diligently rehearsed his dialogues during their whole flight to Cebu (the episode was shot pre-pandemic) until they arrived on set. “Wala akong ibang ginawa kundi magbasa ng line kasi pagdating mo doon, kailangan kabisado mo ang linya mo at mabibigay mo siya nang maayos. Kasi hindi pwedeng mabulol, nakakahiya sa mga co-actors.”
He also had to audition for the role, albeit hesitant at first thinking he has an awful English accent. “Hindi ko po in-expect na makukuha ako kasi nga po, English tapos hindi naman ako fluent pero the good thing, sabi nila hindi naman daw kailangan may accent parang ‘yung normal lang sa mga Pinoy na English.”
Working with the tandem of Art Acuna and Samantha Richelle, the young actor said he was impressed with their performances especially when he heard Art speak with an American accent. He also finds them very warm and patient, helping him recover from his little dialogue blunders. He also noted how well-prepared they are for the episode, thus they were just relaxed throughout the shoot. Zaijian was challenged to be on a par with his co-actor’s excellent acting.
He knows how to behave well around senior artists. He would just keep quiet, watch his actions, and observe, “Kasi mga batikan na ‘yun, eh baka may masabi pa ako na kung ano. Tahimik lang ako pero ‘pag nagbibigay sila ng usapan, tamang sagot lang ako.” It helped that his co-stars were very welcoming and they treated him like their ‘bunso’ on set. He was taken care of and even spoiled with delicious food.
In the coming episode titled “Lone Wolf,” Alex (Christian Kane) will be a bodyguard to a famous artist, who comes to Cebu for a concert. Things get more exciting, and dangerous, with a threat of celebrity kidnapping in the area. Zaijian will add more conflict to the narrative as a notorious thief.
“Maninibago kayo sa akin kasi English-er ako dito. Paalala lang guys, baka ma-nosebleed kayo,” he joked. Zaijian, like a typical teenager, loves to goof around and crack punchlines. But we can always expect him to take his act seriously. In fact, he was so effective in his Almost Paradise stint that a foreign bystander mistook him as a real thief.
In a scene wherein he snatched someone’s belonging, a clueless onlooker grabbed him and thought it was a real incident. “May isang foreigner na hindi kasama sa scene, akala niya nagnakaw talaga ako, so hinatak niya ako. Tapos nag-cut. Chineck ako ng mga staff kung okay lang ba ako tapos in-explain doon sa foreigner na film lang.”
He continued, “Medyo nasaktan po ako. Hinablot niya ako pero buti nga po hindi ako sinapak, eh. Nagulat ako kasi wala naman sa blocking.” He understands why the man reacted that way. Besides, the man was sincerely apologetic.
The teen star believes Filipino films and actors can shine in the international scene, noting that Almost Paradise’s production team is made up of Pinoys. “Ang laking tiwala ng ibang bansa sa atin na gumawa ng mga ganu’n, mga direktor din Pinoy.” Almost Paradise’s “”Lone Wolf” episode is directed by Irene Villamor known for her works “Sid and Aya: Not a Love Story,” “On Vodka, Beers, and Regrets,” and “Meet Me in St. Gallen.” Director Dan Villegas also helmed a previous episode.
Asked for his dream international project, Zaijian said he wishes to work with Hollywood actors Tom Holland, Tom Hanks, and Johnny Depp. For local celebrities, Piolo Pascual is his ultimate idol.
He is not the type to back down from any opportunity, so whatever role he’s assigned to, Zaijian will give his best. “Kahit anong ibigay sa akin na role, tatanggapin ko ‘yan, pagsisikapan at pagtatrabahuan ko ‘yung role ko.”
Just imagine the stretch from playing saint boy to queer (in “Boyette: Not A Girl Yet”) to a bad guy in Almost Paradise, we know the sky’s the limit for this young actor and we can’t wait to see him soar higher in the coming years!
Catch Almost Paradise this Sunday (May 9), 8:45 pm on Kapamilya Channel, Kapamilya Online Live, A2Z Channel.