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New Canadian comedy series showcases Filipino culture

Christine Santos | TFC News Canada

Posted at Jan 25 2022 08:35 AM

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A young Filipino Canadian made his acting debut on CBC's original comedy, 'Son of a Critch.'  Mark Rivera plays one of the lead roles in this coming-of-age real life story of Canadian comedian, actor, and writer, Mark Critch, back in the 80s in St. John’s Newfoundland.

"I didn’t believe it at first.  I thought I never got the role, but surprisingly, the production chose me. I portrayed the role of a Filipino boy named Ritche Perez. He is a painfully shy kid and he wants to fit in with the other kids at the school but he’s being bullied because of his color and ethnicity. He is the second to the least favorite in the school with Mark Critch being the first least favorite in the school. Over time, he developed this deep friendship with Mark," Rivera said.

Rivera's parents also shared their excitement over their son's big break. "We [didn't] really expect it.  He doesn’t really wanna be an actor because it's not his forte. He’s a singer, he’s a musician. But then we tried it. We submitted the self-tape video and  then he got a call back. I told him probably they saw something in you that we haven’t seen," Rivera's mother Marissa said.

Despite the lack of formal training, Rivera's natural acting ability and uncanny resemblance to the character he's portraying made a big impression on Mark Critch himself.

"I was delighted when I first saw Mark audition. He has a natural ease as an actor. He reminded me a lot of my friend Ritche Perez who he plays. Physically, he reminded me a lot of him, but also he has a very gentle, humble and wonderful way in which he carries himself.  And after we had auditioned various people for the role, I was speaking to Benjamin who plays the young me.  And I said, of all those people, who do you connect the most with and he said Mark. And after that it was a no brainer.  I felt he was the right choice. Benjamin felt he was the right choice.  And for the few times in my life, I was right," Critch shared.

While filming the show, Rivera not only discovered a lot of similarities with Ritche Perez but also picked up some new skills to play his role. "Playing the cello is one and another is moonwalking. It was pretty hard but I got it," Rivera admitted. "When I met the real Ritche, we became close friends and we’re into music. We jammed together. Ritche showed me some of his childhood photos and I actually looked like him when he was young,"

Rivera's parents are not only proud of their son’s achievement but also the way the Filipino culture is showcased in some episodes. "It’s family-oriented. Even in showing their Filipino culture, when there’s Filipino gathering, there’s always food," Marissa Rivera noted.

As for Rivera's father Emerson, he said "they really got somebody who knows the Filipino culture. We’re so thankful. We’re so proud of this that our culture is being shown to this show and shared."

'Son of a Critch' airs weekly on CBC Television and on streaming platform, CBC Gem.