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Martha Millan on playing a strong Filipino character in 'The Cleaning Lady'

Yong Chavez | TFC News Hollywood

Posted at Jan 04 2022 09:09 AM | Updated as of Jan 05 2022 09:22 AM

Martha Millan
Martha Millan. Photo courtesy: Fox/The Cleaning Lady

'The Cleaning Lady' is a new TV show based on an Argentinian series and it dramatizes the lengths that a Cambodian Filipino family would go to take care of their loved ones.

Costarring with French Cambodian actress Elodie Yung who plays the title role is Filipina actress Martha Millan who relishes the chance to play a strong woman with a layered story - an opportunity that wasn’t available to Asian talents in Hollywood for many years.

"For me, Fiona being Filipino, to actually be auditioning for someone who I am and to represent my heritage fully and completely was just incredible to portray, but also the character herself, she's a ball of unpredictability and chaos," Millan says of her role.

Millan’s family is originally from Surigao del Sur and Pampanga. Born in the Philippines, she moved to Australia at four years old with her family and later immigrated to the US.

In the show, Millan plays a mother trying to give her children a better life. Her character struggles with fears of being deported, but she also shows the resilience and easy-going traits of Filipinos and how their family and community empower them.

"Growing up, you see your parents going through transitions of trying to find their identity and assimilating in a culture but not losing who they are as well and still trying to maintain their culture amongst their family. But also not ostracizing themselves from the culture that they're trying to fit into. It is such a struggle, and the challenges that she has to constantly hide, tago ng tago. I can only imagine anyone going through that situation. It's that constant feeling that anything, everything can be taken away from you in a split second."

Martha Millan with Elodie Yung
Martha Millan (right) plays Fiona Dela Rosa, the sister in-law of Thony Dela Rosa played by Elodie Yung (left). Photo courtesy: Fox/The Cleaning Lady

The stories of Filipino immigrants in the US are rarely centered in American shows. "This is what I'm so excited to share with the world. In our culture, no matter how hard the strife that Filipinos go through in their own country, you will always find no matter what situation someone's singing in a karaoke, someone is dancing, someone is saying,  ‘Come eat, eat!’ Even if you don't know them. ‘Eat!,’" Millan says.

The series features a diverse cast and crew and thus far, has the most number of Filipinos on- and off-screen working on a primetime show. Filipino Canadian actress Shay Mitchell is one of its executive producers. Fil-Am rapper Ruby Ibarra’s music can be heard in the episodes. Filmmaker Marie Jamora directed this season’s episode six and Celena Cipriaso is one of the show’s writers.

Meanwhile, onscreen, Fil-Am twins Valentino and Sebastien Lasalle play Luca, an ailing son from the Philippines, who is seeking treatment in the US. Other upcoming Filipino guest stars of the series include Lou Diamond Phillips and his real-life daughter Gracie Phillips.

'The Cleaning Lady' airs Monday nights on Fox.

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