Under the scorching heat of the noontime sun, actors Ethan Salvador and Khalil Ramos are setting a piece of newspaper on fire. From an angle, they look like typical high school miscreants who are always in the mood to do something random and dangerous. There’s a sense of intimacy to the whole scene. But when director Petersen Vargas yells cut, they all start goofing off.
This is the dynamic the young actors have with their director as they film a bonus clip for 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten, Petersen’s debut film about a friendless overachiever whose life changes when he meets half-American brothers. The film’s promos are all about never forgetting your “first” (whatever it may be) — something very fitting for both Khalil and Ethan, along with their co-star Jameson Blake (whom we shot on a separate day). The three actors celebrated their own firsts with 2 Cool. It’s Ethan and Jameson’s first foray into acting, and it’s Khalil’s first time as the lead.
Watching Khalil and Ethan get into character as Felix and Magnus, respectively, you can see why they like to say that making the film was a collaborative process. Petersen’s direction sounds more like a conversation among friends, which owes mostly to the fact that he and his cast all from the same age group and all have a lot to learn.
“It helped that a lot of us were still new to it,” says Petersen. “Instead of nangangapa nang isa lang, we (were) always trying to help each other. It matters that the actors are young because they’re so game with everything.” Young STAR got to sit down with the boys of 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten to talk about working on the film and where they are headed next.
“Na Young STAR na din ako,” says an excited Khalil Ramos, who plays Felix in the film. The actor is referencing I’m Drunk, I Love You, JP Habac’s new romcom starring Paulo Avelino and Maja Salvador. The scene he’s talking about features the leads (as film students) discussing being featured in Young STAR. Most know Khalil as an actor (you might remember him from Honor Thy Father, Kid Kulafu and She’s Dating the Gangster) and singer (he was a Pilipinas Got Talent finalist in 2011), but few know that he’s interested in work behind the camera as well.
Being a part of Kid Kulafu with director Paul Soriano was the turning point in his career. “It’s the first movie that showed me the creative and artistic side of telling a story,” says Khalil. Since then, he’s been working to get to know all sides of the industry. Khalil talks about how he got to where he is slowly and deliberately, saying that the experience working with legendary actors like John Lloyd Cruz and directors like Erik Matti got him interested in filmmaking.
Recently, he’s been working behind the scenes — co-owning a production house called Limitless Productions alongside his two closest friends. When he’s not taping, he’s mainly in charge of setting up accounts and coordinating with clients (the biggest of which is Philippine Airlines), and he also takes on the roles of assistant director and executive producer. Balancing everything is tiring, but for Khalil, it’s all about having the right mindset and taking advantage of every opportunity that he gets.
For now, he’s focused on learning about the industry and listening to different people in it. “It’s really about the movement towards the future, the resurgence of Philippine film, Philippine cinema,” he says. “The information that I absorbed is kind of a much bigger thing. It’s my understanding of the current situation of the industry. Once I do completely understand it, that’s when I get to innovate.”
In 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten, Jameson Blake plays Maxim, the troubled younger brother of Ethan Salvador’s Magnus. The role earned him a Best Supporting Actor award at the Cinema One Originals Festival, but prior to working on the film, most of his experience in front of the camera was from his reality TV stint in the PBB house and as part of Hashtags, It’s Showtime’s all-male dance group.
“Ever since nag-start ako sa Hashtags, sa boy group, gusto ko maging performer,” he says. “Acting wasn’t really my thing.” It was only after filming 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten that he realized that he wanted to act.
It was challenging to do the risky and crucial scenes, as Jameson confesses that he’s naturally shy. “I’m a really shy person, and bigla I have to play this character who’s rude and a psychopath. Napansin ko din na I can pull off playing a character as long as I study it well.”
Studying paid off, and he says that winning the award motivated him to do more. “Nung nakuha ko yung award na iyon, sa Best Supporting Actor, dun ko lang nalaman na ang sarap palang umarte,” he says.
Working on 2 Cool opened up a lot of doors for Jameson, and now he’s currently busy with taping It’s Showtime and the primetime teleserye, Dear Heart.
As a Filipino growing up in the Las Vegas, Ethan Salvador wasn’t really exposed to the acting life. “Growing up, I always knew that (my dad) was an actor. All of my titos and titas were like, ‘You should go to the Philippines na lang. Your dad’s an artista’,” he says. Ethan admits that, back then, he didn’t think going in that direction would be the best idea. But as he got older, he suddenly got tired of the daily grind of going to school, going to work, and going home every day.
At that time in his life, there was greater room to make mistakes and take risks. “This is the time for you to experience things and do things out of the ordinary and just to put yourself out there, get out of your comfort zone. So I kept that in mind, and I quit school and put all my focus into what I really wanted to do.”
So when his dad, former Regal Films actor Emil Sandoval, reached out to him when he was 16, he considered the possibility. “I wasn’t sure if that would be the best route for me ‘cause I didn’t know if (my dad and I) would meld,” he recalls. “That was the only thing that was kind of preventing me, but it took me four years and I said, ‘You know what, why not?’”
Since he needed to work on his Tagalog, it took a while before his career started picking up. After six months of meetings and auditions, he got his hands on the 2 Cool script. So he did an audition and got the part of Magnus, which earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Cinema One Originals Festival.
Right now, the fitness buff (he took a semester of college studying physical therapy before moving to the Philippines) and Parkour enthusiast aspires to take on a variety of roles, but his ultimate goal would be to become an action star.