John Prats as youíve never seen him before
John Prats loves surprises, especially when it comes to his career. Surprises put color in an otherwise predictable career that threaten to box him in a ho-hum matinee idol mold.
"I donít want a de-kahon career. Ayoko ng planadong-planado," he says. Besides, just how many times can you play the cute guy opening doors for your ladylove without the audience stifling a yawn?
Thatís why John almost shouted "yippee!" and did cartwheels when Regal Entertainment offered him a role he has never done before: that of closet gay Hamilton Chong in the Metro Filmfest entry Ako Legal Wife: Mano Po 4. It was a role too good to be true. And John would be a fool to turn it down. Besides, he figured, he need not do the crying scenes his matinee idol roles required him to for years. All he needed, this time, was to behave like one of the closet gays he always bumps into on his way to the TV studio.
John soon found out he had another thing coming.
When an excited John reported on the set, his director, Joel Lamangan, issued a tall order. Execute a split across the floor, then cap it off with a cartwheel, Direk Joel told John.
John didnít waste time scratching his head. He did as he was told, and his discriminating director broke into appreciative applause.
"Heís a revelation," Direk Joel observes. It helped, his director adds, that John is young and has never played a gay all his life. His was a clean slate and it was so easy to show John how and where to start.
The director believes in Johnís acting so much he hopes that "John is not handicapped because the movie is a comedy and acting awards tend to be given to actors in serious dramas."
John says itís just a case of being all ears to your director.
"Direk Joel works fast, and gives instructions quickly. So you have to listen well. If you get easily rattled, thatís the end of it all," says John.
It is, he admits, the most difficult role in his career so far. Others only require him to look good before the cameras and stare longingly at his leading ladyís eyes. This one called for subtleness, a flick of the little finger, raised eyebrows, a certain style of sitting down - that would give away clues to his gender preference.
"Had I gone overboard, Hamilton Chongís character will appear like a caricature. And thatís the last thing I want to happen," adds John.
Hamilton, after all, is acting straight to please his parents (played by Zsa Zsa Padilla and Jay Manalo). As their first-born, Hamilton is a shoo-in as head of the family business. And, to make sure the family wealth remains intact, Zsa Zsa and Jay agree to arrange their firstbornís marriage to a woman of their choice, Bianca King.
John has no qualms playing a closet gay for another reason. His US-based paternal uncle has come out in the open about his homosexuality. In fact, his business partner Ė a Carlos Agassi lookalike, doubles as his personal partner.
Meanwhile, Johnís paternal aunt, also based in the US, doesnít hide her preference for members of the same sex.
"My father is the only straight one among his siblings," reveals John. But playing gay roles doesnít mean John will accept succeeding ones with eyes closed. He doesnít want, for instance, to dabble in a kissing scene with another man "if it will look vulgar."
If that happens, the danger of being typecast in a gay role will loom like a sword of Damocles over his head. And that, John thinks, would mean falling into a trap he has avoided since Day One: predictability.
John would rather take up director Jerry Sinenengís offer for him to do a digital film, or prepare for his much-delayed dance concert.
"We had a problem with the venue. So the dance concert has been moved to Feb. 14, next year, in time for my 22nd birthday," announces John.
Meanwhile, all is quiet on the romance front for John. Yes, heís had brief relationships with nonshowbiz girls after he broke up with Heart Evangelista. But John swears nothing as serious as his year-and-a-half romance with his former leading lady has crossed his path so far.
"Thatís why I decided to give my lovelife a rest for now and just enjoy being single," he explains.
This will give John better chances of concentrating on his career, which, if his director is to be believed, will go up, up and away after moviegoers see him (John), no longer as a matinee idol but as someone who can shine in an offbeat role. Johnís willingness to leave the security of his standard roles and try something he has never done before, is yielding handsome dividends.