MANILA — "Natakot ako," was how JC Alcantara described the moment he clinched the lead role in a boys' love (BL) series, opposite an actor whom he had only known then as "the 'Glorious' guy," famous for his daring portrayals.
Alcantara, 22, is paired with Tony Labrusca, 24, in Black Sheep's "Hello, Stranger," due to premiere via the ABS-CBN film outfit's YouTube and Facebook pages on Wednesday night.
"Glorious" is the 2018 iWant Original film that made waves on social media for its steamy scenes — a project that marked Labrusca's big break and which has since become identified with the actor.
When Alcantara auditioned for "Hello, Stranger," he wasn't yet told that the project would be a BL series, or that Labrusca was on board as the other lead actor, he recalled during a virtual conference on Tuesday.
"Kaya nagulat ako noong sinabi sa akin na ang magiging ka-love team ko si Tony Labrusca! Alam naman natin si Tony Labrusca is the 'Glorious' guy," he said, prompting a hearty laugh from his onscreen partner.
"Daring scenes 'yung mga ginagawa niya. Natakot ako. Alam mo 'yung feeling na, 'O, si Tony Labrusca, daring scene, laplap scene!' Iyon ang naisip ko sa sarili ko."
Alcantara is a relative newcomer to showbiz. A string of TV ads landed him a supporting role in the 2018 teleserye "Halik." His performance secured him further opportunities, notably becoming a member of the 2019 batch of ABS-CBN's Star Magic Circle.
His initial apprehension of matching Labrusca's "Glorious" track record, he soon realized, was unfounded, as he got to read the full script and was briefed by the creative team. "Gumaan 'yung pakiramdam ko," he said.
'PAANO NA KUNG PERSONAL?'
A digital series written by Patrick Valencia ("Kasal," "Always Be My Maybe") and helmed by Petersen Vargas ("2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten"), "Hello, Stranger" follows the story of Xavier (Labrusca) and Mico (Alcantara), students who are assigned to work together virtually during the coronavirus lockdown.
Labrusca, who was cast in the project before Alcantara, admitted he at first was not convinced they would have onscreen chemistry; that is, until they did get to act together.
"To be honest, hindi ko talaga makita na bagay kami. Ini-imagine ko talaga sa utak ko," Labrusca said. "I was surprised. When I saw JC play his role, honestly, I was really amazed."
"Sobrang perfect ng character niya para sa kaniya. Iyon din 'yung sinabi ko kay Direk noong nag-cha-chat kami. Na-amaze talaga ako. Kitang-kita ko na binibigay ni JC lahat para sa project na 'to. Super respect him."
Shooting their first few scenes was admittedly awkward for Alcantara. He explained that while they filmed from their respective homes, their interactions were in real time, through video call.
"Pag nagbabatuhan na kami ng lines, awkward para sa amin, kasi sobrang daming sweet lines. 'Pag nagbabatuhan na kami, palagi kami tumatawa. Nakakahiya rin," he said.
In an apparent teaser of what to expect later on, Alcantara added: "Paano na kung personal na nangyari 'yun? Abangan na lang natin. Nakaka-excite din para sa akin."
Labrusca surmised that their situation of being actual strangers prior to "Hello, Stranger" has helped in lending truth to their portrayals. He pointed out that in his previous lockdown project, the iWant film "Love Lockdown," he self-filmed, with no interaction with other cast members.
"Baka this is perfect that we're doing this through Zoom, kaming lahat," he said, referring to other cast members Vivoree Esclito, Gillian Vicencio, Patrick Quiroz, and Miguel Almendras.
"We're all getting to know each other, and it has its own type of chemistry to it. It's perfect for me and JC's character, kasi this is really how we got to know each other: online. It's like true to life."