How Paolo Gumabago prepared for his LGBT role in MMK “Trash To Treasure”

Paolo Gumabao marks a new milestone in his career by starring in his first MMK episode where he portrays the life story of James Lopez, a gay escort, who will do everything for the love of family.

Titled “Trash to Treasure,” Maalaala Mo Kaya’s next offering is a heart-wrenching tale of a son and his sacrifices as the family’s breadwinner. Based on the trailer, Paolo’s character will suffer from abuse working as an escort to shoulder the needs of his father and siblings.

The story alone will sure tug at our heartstrings. But Paolo’s magnificently compelling acting will highlight the character’s pain, hardships, and femininity even. He sincerely studied the role despite the rush. Paolo said he was given the script a day before taping, right after he came out of the “Darna” bubble. But even without the luxury of time, he managed to knit the character’s graceful nuances to his own flesh.

“I had to really immerse myself in the character… I had to find a way to somehow tap into that more feminine side of me. What I did was, habang nagpapahinga ako for taping the next day, I was practicing different accents, different voices na pwede kong gamitin, ‘yung lambot ng boses ko,” he said in this episode of Kapamilya Chat Live In The Studio.

Paolo put in his best effort. Apart from this being his first MMK role, he’s just naturally passionate about acting. “Even walang eksena, makikita mo iba ‘yung upo ko,” he crossed his legs, and in an instant, Paolo went from tough to delicate.

He continued, “Habang tumatagal na hindi ako bumibitaw sa character ko, mas lalo kong naiintindihan at nararamdaman ‘yung character ko na si James Lopez.”

Apart from the tender movements, he had to prepare for the intense breakdown scenes, especially those shared with acting titan Nonie Buencamino. Paolo first experienced Nonie’s generosity as a co-actor in the inspirational drama series Huwag Kang Mangamba. “He used to help me a lot in my scenes. Everytime I felt that my character had a highlight sa serye na ‘yon, I’d approach Tito Nonie… We’d really talk about it and tutulungan niya talaga ako step by step.”

That’s when he dreamed of playing Nonie’s son in MMK, “After that moment na tinutulungan niya ako, sabi ko sa sarili ko, ‘Sana magkaroon kami ng MMK episode.’ Tapos ini-imagine ko pa ‘yung eksena, sana maging tatay ko si Tito Nonie kasi iba ‘yung pagkakomportable ko kay Tito Nonie talaga.”  The universe listens, indeed.

Besides the acting tips from veteran stars, music helps Paolo bring out his 'hugot' for a scene. Before takes, he listens to different playlists dedicated to specific characters he portrays, “Kumbaga, what I’m doing is mina-marinade ko na ‘yung sarili ko, binababad ko na ‘yung sarili ko sa emosyon na ‘yun. Para pagdating ko sa eksena, hindi ko na kailangan pagtrabahuan from zero to one hundred.” He said music helps him charge his emotions to about 90 percent, the rest would be filled up during the actual take.

Paolo was able to talk to James, who has a cameo in the episode, thus he was able to dive deep into his different layers as a person. “People tend to judge him because the first layer is naging escort siya. People tend to forget the fact that everything has deeper layers, too. Escort, pero ang deeper meanaing is it was for the family,” he saw James' extraordinary courage and big love for the family.

Paolo learned a lot from MMK “Trash To Treasure,” one of which is to keep going, “Don’t give up. There may be days that you would feel like you’re not able to stand up, hindi mo na kayang bumangon o makalabas kung nasaan ka. But James’ story is proof na kahit gaano kababa ‘yung tingin mo sa buhay mo, as long as magpursige ka lang, gawin mo lahat ng kaya mong gawin para umangat ka, magagawa mo.”

But this lesson isn’t taken from his role alone. Paolo had a similar experience of almost giving up on his dreams as an actor, which he considers the darkest hours of his life, “It was the time na wala akong projects. I really love what I do. No’ng time na nawala siya, I felt like I lost a part of me because I wasn’t able to do what I thought I could do best.”

He felt he just lost his purpose in life. Sometimes, though prayers are answered in the most unexpected hour as Paolo bagged his first lead movie role while on the verge of giving up. That’s why he’s thankful for the big projects coming his way. At night, he prays with gratitude and also asks God to bless the health of his parents and hopes he makes them proud.

Catch Paolo in MMK “Trash to Treasure,” this Saturday, August 21, at 8 PM, on Kapamilya Channel, Kapamilya Online Live, and A2Z.