When talking Philippine cinema in 2019 for action fans, engaging the dialogue may almost always certainly include the successes of one of its most celebrated auteurs, Erik Matti, whose award-winning ripped-from-the-headlines crime thriller, BuyBust, scored hugely among festival crowds last year.
Going forward, the concurrent efforts of other directors may certainly be noted – folks like Pedring Lopez whose 2015 accolades earned in Manila with action horror, Nilalang, especially earned him a place on our radar and the world markets. Two horror features later, he’s back and following suit with his own female fronted actioner, Maria, starring Cristine Reyes in her first-ever action role.
The official trailer has already garnered well over three million views and shares on social media much to Pedring’s credit, and certainly to that of Ms. Reyes who I managed to garner some answers in our first interview. In my view, this is pretty huge for this site and I am positively thrilled and thankful to Pedring who has been more than gracious and involved in contributing to the production of this interview with the film’s star, along with an exclusive look at stills from the movie.
Cristine, it is an honor to get to share your story on my platform. You are the FIRST Filipino film star we are interviewing in our site’s history, EVER, that excites me and I hope you are too!
Oh, wow! What an honor. Thank you so much!
Just real quickly – we’re going into Spring and breaking the ice here. How has the year been for you and your family thusfar?
It’s still very early in the year, but so far, so good. I just started shooting a new film here in Georgia and it’s really exciting. My first time to shoot a film outside of the Philippines and it’s a suspense dramatic thriller which is something I haven’t done before. And of course, “Maria” is coming out in March. So yeah, great start for 2019!
Now I live in New York City and I think I speak for a lot of us out in the West and outside the Filipino community who don’t share much breadth of knowledge about who you are, save for what we can find out through Wikipedia and the sort – you’ve been acting for a really long time, you were a contestant on a reality show at first, you’re contracted with ABS-CBN… tell us about yourself and how you got into the field.
I have an older sister who’s also an actress and it was her who introduced me to showbiz. I did start out in a TV reality show in 2003. So, I’ve been in showbiz for a little over 15 years now. And it’s been quite colorful, if I may say so myself. Lots of ups and downs and controversies but I have no regrets. They’ve put me where I am now, which is a very good place especially as an actress. I’m able to do a wide range of roles in a variety of projects on film and TV – from romance to comedy to suspense and now action – that keep me furthering my craft.
What would you say was your first passion was while growing up? I wanted to be Jean-Claude Van Damme at first. Boyhood fantasies and such! [laughs]
I remember I would just act infront of the camera and pretend i’m either doing a movie. Maybe, I was really born to be in this industry.
Talk about your evolution as an actress and how you normally prepare for a role? How evolved would you say your craft is now compared to, say, maybe sixteen years ago in that regard?
I think I’ve been fortunate to have been given challenging roles from early on in my career. In the Philippines, young stars are usually launched in “love teams” in tean-oriented romance shows or movies. I never had one. My big launch project as a lead was in a soap opera where I played the role of an avenging rape victim. Since then it’s been one character role after another both in movies and TV that have honed my craft as an actress.
In your view – and this isn’t really to presume anything as I’m just curious – what, if any, are some important issues regarding the entertainment industry that you would like to see acknowledged or improved in due proximity?
It would be great if more audiences respond more to the strength of the quality of films rather than the star value of the cast, so that the so-called “smaller” films would have a fair shot at the box-office. Hopefully streaming services like Netflix, which has been releasing a lof of Filipino films, can help open local audiences to non-formulaic materials.
Now from what I understand your new movie, Maria, comes out on the 27th in March, it’s directed by Pedring Lopez who previously got notoriety with 2016 with Maria Ozawa in Nilalang. Talk about Maria and how you got on board.
It was my management, Viva, that told me about the project. They felt strongly about the material an thought I’d be a good fit for the role. I guess they figured it would speak to me on many levels – as an actress, as a mother in real life, and as a martial arts enthusiast. And they were correct. I loved the script when I read it.
Sort of tying into this from the earlier question about your evolution as an actress. Here you have the added bonus of what I can only imagine is a world of physical rigor and training required for something like this. You had action director Sonny Sison with you and you did all sorts of stuff with hand-to-hand and weapons. He did Nilalang with Pedring before, he did BuyBust with Erik Matti, and he knows where he wants the genre to go in the Philippines. Talk about Sonny and working with him under his stewardship.
Sonny is great! I don’t know if I would have been able to do the role if we had someone less than him. He really pushed me to bring out my best, all that I could offer in terms of the physcial action.
You shared an adorable video a while back with your daughter and you just did her fight scene and you had a few bruises on your arms and things like that. Talk about her reaction. Was she afraid for you? Or did she know her mother was being a tough movie badass?
She knows it’s all for show. I would always tell her that mommy is just acting and she understands it. And even when I do get hurt for real, I tell her I’m okay. We want to keep her thinking that her mom is a real tough professional mommy.
What would you say about Maria in terms of sequel potential? I haven’t seen the film yet to know if this is even valid, however, from an ideal perspective, would you say in all certainty Maria’s story could continue?
Maybe we can chat again and exchange notes after you watch the movie.
Absolutely! And do you see yourself in another action role going forward?
I wouldn’t say no especially if the script is strong.
I’m curious as to your thoughts on some hopes there might be for the stake that Filipino genre films like Maria might have nowadays here in the West. We know Erik Matti has been prolific with films like On The Job and just last year with BuyBust hitting up festivals out here in New York and elsewhere with Richard Somes’ We Will Not Die Tonight, Pedring – your director – with Nilalang back in 2016 and Vincent Soberano who I’ve also been covering as of late. I know for me and anyone who is keen on Asian films, it feels sort of like a wave of sorts after BuyBust and we now have Maria on the horizon. What are your thoughts on that?
It would be great if this wave can continue. It’s about time to show the world that Filipino filmmakers can also do excellent action films. Even more exciting that these movies are being fronted by strong female characters. The world kneeds to know that Filipinas also kick butt!
Would you be interested in touring if Maria hits the festivals? I reckon a film like this could draw some festival crowds here in New York City and maybe in other cities here stateside or possibly at Busan in Korea or maybe even Toronto or Sitges.
Of course! It would be great for me to experience the reaction of audiences abroad.
Tell us about some other aspects of film and television you might be pursuant of as we look to the future, if any – Say, producing or even writing and directing your own projects someday.
As of now I can’t see myself venturing out of acting in the foreseeable future. But if ever, I would probably go into directing.
Now… you’ve done the drama, the training, the action, you took the hits and spills, poured sweat, blood and tears into making Maria happen. March 27 is well on its way. Tell us, what’s your biggest takeaway from working on this project with Mr. Lopez and Sonny and your talented cast?
I feel blessed and I’m truly grateful to everyone involved in this movie especially direk Pedring and Sonny and my Viva family for this great opportunity to showcase a lot of what I can do and what I never imagined I can do as an actress and. I’m very proud of this movie and I hope I did everyone proud.
Imaginably, while I guess Maria may be something different for your fanbase, I guarantee perhaps fans of the genre who’ve maybe seen the trailer or people, generally, are taking notice. I know I have, and I thank you dearly for putting in the work you’ve done. Either way, group us all together – anyone reading this interview around the world – and share your final thoughts with us as we make our exit.
We really can’t wait to introduce “Maria” to audiences in and outside of the Philippines. All of us really worked hard on this movie. It’s definitely the most challenging thing I’ve done in my career and, again, I’m super proud of it. It’s one heck of an action film but also a terrific drama movie about a mother’s love for her child. It’s a movie for everyone.
Cristine, you’re a dream. All my best you and yours. Thank you for talking to us, and I look forward to seeing more of you on my radar. Thank you again!