MANILA — Boys’ love or BL stories have undoubtedly taken Asia by storm. From Japan and China to South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and the Philippines, BL series has become a popular trend in producing stories.
It is not surprising that new actors or even established ones are venturing in a BL project online, on TV or even on the big screen.
Young and new actors Alec Kevin and Ali King have embarked on the interesting BL story, “Boys’ Lockdown,” set to premiere in online platforms starting October 15.
One might instantly wonder or ask how the two actors were immediately convinced to do the series. After landing their respective roles, which they both clinched following their auditions, they didn’t have second thoughts about accepting the project.
Although they are both starting their acting careers – Kevin is appearing for the second time, while King is making his acting debut – they are excited with “Boys’ Lockdown,” produced by Darwin Mariano’s Ticket2Me, Southeast Asia’s first blockchain-enabled ticketing platform.
The manager of Kevin’s friend warned him that the project is a bit daring after he auditioned for the role of Chen Chavez. That was perhaps enough to make him easily back out from the project. Yet, Kevin didn’t want to pass up the opportunity.
“I knew I just started an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Kevin, whose full name is Alec Kevin Rigonan. “I did not have second thoughts about accepting the project. I always wanted to act. That’s why I made a go of this opportunity.”
King, meanwhile, Alonzo Raphael Elequin in real life, likes to venture into any uncharted territory. “I was always curious about the film industry,” he said. “I had no idea about it and I didn’t know about it.”
Fortunately, King was given the lead role in his acting debut. “My friends were telling me I was lucky because the first role I got, was playing lead right away,” he admitted. “They said this project will open more doors for me.”
Aware that there’s an “influx” of BL series, both Kevin and King are proud they were given a chance to headline “Boys Lockdown,” which they wrapped up amid this pandemic.
“It’s so nice, there’s a representation for the Philippines in terms of producing another BL series in Southeast Asia this 2020,” King said. “I was cast as Key [Kalunsod] at nag-grow ako sa role. It was so nice playing the character.”
Kevin agreed. He is happy the Philippines was able to join the influx of the steadily growing BL series. “The input of our culture into the stories that are being shown is very important,” Kevin maintained. “How our filmmakers make these BL series say much about our beliefs and our culture.”
Back in 2015, when he was merely 18 years old, Kevin acted in a short film, “Fish Out of Water,” shown in the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. The film won the Special Jury Prize for a short film in the festival in 2016 and was also nominated in the best short film category in the 2017 Gawad Urian Awards.
Kevin played a half-Korean, half-Filipino looking for his identity and got bullied in his work place. The film was directed by Mon Garilao.
“That was my last acting stint, then, I focused on my studies,” said Kevin, now 23. He finished his Applied Physics course at the University of the Philippines.
Kevin and King did not know each other prior to acting together in “Boys Lockdown.” They met each other in the initial, online auditions on the last week of May, when the GCQ (general community quarantine) started. Three weeks later, they saw each other again in another online auditions.
Apparently, both young actors showed promise that made them snag the roles for the series. From the time they auditioned, they were aware they would be appearing in a BL series.
King, who is making his acting debut, is very thankful to producer Darwin Mariano, for allowing him to audition for the BL series. “I chose to audition for [the role of] Martin, but I was chosen to play Key,” King said. “I’m so thankful for that. I can relate to my character so much.”
King started watching BL series back in 2017, with Thailand’s “Two Moons.” Before that, he was always fond of watching local films, particularly Olivia Lamasan’s “Milan,” the 2004 drama starring Piolo Pascual and Claudine Barretto and the 2016 romance-drama, “Barcelona: A Love Untold,” with Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo.
“I was inspired by the local films of director Olivia Lamasan,” said King. “Ang gaganda. I also want to be a storyteller after seeing those films.”
Meanwhile, King’s international film choices were inspired by Kevin. “Alec made me watch the films of Quentin Tarantino, like ‘Inglourious Basterds’  or introduced me to Wes Anderson who directed ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ ,” King recalled. “Alec also made me appreciate global films like Taika Waititi’s ‘Jojo Rabbit’ .”
Watching BL series when Kevin was just in first year high school, served as an “eye opener” for him. He remembers Thai actor Mario Maurer in “Love of Siam” (2007), directed by Chookiat Sakveerakul.
“That film opened my eyes to a new way of storytelling,” Kevin said of the Thai film. “A lot of people know about that film. I watched that eight years ago. That left quite a mark on my mind.”
Kevin also singled out James Cameron’s award-winning 1997 opus, “Titanic,” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. “Leo DiCaprio was my first acting idol,” Kevin shared. “After watching ‘Titanic,’ telling stories greatly influenced me.”
At the helm of the seven-episode “Boys’ Lockdown” series is Jade Castro, who earlier gave the public such films as “Endo” (2007), “My Big Love” (2008), “Zombadings: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington” (2011), “My Kontrabida Girl” (2012), “My Lady Boss” (2013) and “LSS or Last Song Syndrome” (2019).
“Our director is super nice and so compassionate,” remarked an excited King. “He loves what he’s doing. Offscreen, Jade is like our tropa. We can talk to him. We can talk about our views as actors. We can talk about how he can further improve our roles to become better actors.”
Working with Castro in “Boys’ Lockdown” is both an eye opener and, at the same time, a humbling experience for Kevin. “We all know he’s one of the big names and really respected in the industry. He really took care of us. He motivated us really well. He was very professional. No one got special treatment on the set. We were all inspired by our director to work hard for this series.”
Castro’s “Endo,” which he wrote, directed and produced, won the Jury Prize in the third Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival and Best Screenplay in the Gawad Urian, both in 2007.
Kevin and King were made to undergo acting workshops and bonding that undoubtedly helped them essay even the sensitive scenes in the series. “With acting, I understand those scenes were beyond my comfort zone,” King admitted.
“Nag-grow ‘yung bond namin sa acting workshops. We were able to overcome our fears. We were able to build our trust and chemistry. You cannot fake chemistry. It’s there or it’s not there. But it’s not just chemistry. Our friendship also grew and developed.”
Kevin insists their friendship and relationship with each other played a big part in wrapping up “Boys’ Lockdown” down to the end. “Batuhan, tulungan, buhatan. Everything, I didn’t do alone. Ali helped me a lot. Not only that. We were able to draw energy even from the other actors, like Crystal and Caloy. Everything was a group effort for this project.”
After “Boys’ Lockdown,” Kevin and King have no other acting projects line up yet where they will work together again. Neither do they have follow up projects individually.
In the future, Kevin expressed his desire to portray roles that tell a story, instead of merely doing those that thrill the audience. “Darwin asked us about that. I want something that’s challenging. In a way, something that reflects or shows what really happens day to day.
“There are a lot of stories that have yet to be tapped. Something serious or thought-provoking. Something that will encapsulate and bring out our culture, bring pride or something that makes us really proud,” he said.
“I want to be in something that will showcase the love of Filipinos for love stories,” King added. “I want to be involved in making stories about love. But BL is something different. It is not your typical love stories.”