Theater actor Jake Macapagal doesn’t look his age. We don't know if it's because of his perfectly trimmed beard or his childish grin. But whatever it is, you'll be surprised to know that he just turned 50.
A far cry from the usual leading man, his theater background pushed him into pursuing roles outside of the mainstream. Maybe that's why you've never seen him on primetime TV, or in cheesy movies that have love songs for titles. He's been a veteran of the stage and has spent his fair share of time in front of the camera, essaying roles in stage productions both here and abroad ever since he was 14 years old.
He has always considered himself an independent artist, starring in movies such as Kid Kulafu, and the critically acclaimed and British-produced crime drama Metro Manila. But this doesn't mean he isn't open to material that has a wider reach in terms of its audience. His most commercial role to date: playing Kaprey in Halfworlds, HBO Asia’s dark fantasy thriller television series.
“Halfwords is about a mythical place, a folklore. Season 1 was set in Indonesia. Season 2 is in Bangkok, Thailand,” he shares. “It’s a sick plot—you have folklore, and you have mythical creatures, and they are all trying to find something that will give them power."
In the fantasy series, Jake's character is a menacing kapre, the same supernatural being used in oldwives' tales to scare kids. Only here, the kapre takes on the form of a crime kingpin. So maybe that's Jake's secret to looking young—taking on roles that allow him to stretch his imagination and creativity.
Can you tell us more about your role in Halfworlds?
I’m playing Kaprey. Kaprey is the terrifying kingpin who rules The Citadel; the only area of Bangkok that is not under Warin’s control. The cigar-smoking Spanish-Filipino Peesaj has an artifact of great power in his keep. His headquarters is located in a labyrinth of streets and alleys, in the most nefarious part of town known as The Citadel. Unwelcome visitors or enemies are disoriented when they arrive and no one makes it out alive without his blessing.
That sounds intriguing. What sort of person do you think is going to love this show?
I think people who like fantasies, those people who are waiting for Game of Thrones to return. While they are waiting for the new season, pwede nila panoorin to. And support this, because it’s really a brilliant story, and it gives voice to Asian characters through fantasies and myths.
Are there any similarities between you and your character?
Kaprey is a fugitive. And as a fugitive, you have to survive in a new place, which means yung lugar na iyon ay may sariling rules and regulations for other spirit worlds or mythical characters. Kailangan mag-adjust ka sa kanila. The thing that I like with this character is, I don’t need to play it as the antagonist or protagonist, gusto ko siyang i-play na parang relatable. Minsan makikita mo na masama siya, then makikita mo na, he has to think to survive, so kailangang mong mag-adjust talaga, just like what real people do.
How did you prepare for the role?
I trained because I knew it was gonna be an action series. I’ve seen Season 1. There were fight sequences. And as an actor, it is your responsibility to train. I started training in March and April. By June, prepared na ako. I took basic boxing. I trained my body for endurance. Because I just turned 50, so diba, mamaya baka mabalian ako ng buto dun, ha ha. They gave me a video file of my fight scenes. You should know how to jump and not hurt yourself. You should know how to box. You should know how to avoid punches. You should not rely on the stuntman alone.
How did you land the role?
Erika North from HBO watched the film Metro Manila. Metro Manila opened a lot of opportunities for me. And I met Mike Wiluan of Infinite Studios. When I met him here in the Philippines, he said “Hey I wanna work with you!” I think that if your film is on the radar, maalala ka nila, yun ang importante. Metro Manila was released in 2013, but people can still stream it on Netflix
Speaking of opportunities, how else did your life change after Metro Manila?
I landed a film for CineFilipino with Iza Calzado, and I did several short films: one in Singapore, and one for G-Rant productions. But the thing that’s great about that is I have an agent in Los Angeles, ICM partners, and they are constantly sending me scripts to audition. But then, again, sometimes the script is written for Caucasians so marami kang kalaban. But at least I’m given the opportunity to audition; I think that’s what’s important.
When did you start acting?
I've been doing theater for more than 35 years already. But mas nagkaroon ako ng focus nung tumanda ako. At 16 years old, I was already doing my first professional production Metropolitan Theater for Cats The Musical. And then you just get paid P500 after And then like anybody who wanted a taste of international theatre that time, nag-audition ako sa Miss Saigon.
How was the experience of performing for a major foreign production?
I lived in Germany for about 5 years doing the show and 8 years as a resident, speaking and singing in German while doing Miss Saigon. Tapos bumalik na ako dito around 2002 or 2003, where I got back into plays, and taught acting classes for ABS-CBN Star Magic workshops. And then I felt the need to further the studies kasi kung nagtuturo ka, you have to have a background in teaching, so I went to Australia to take acting classes.
Why did you still take acting classes even if you had tons of acting experiences?
I believe as an actor, it’s your responsibility to do that. If athletes train and then compete, as actors, we also have to undergo our own training.
Did you ever dream of breaking into the mainstream?
Siguro noong bata ako, pero parang ngayon kasi as an independent actor, you can maneuver kung saan ka pupunta. Sa mainstream, well, syempre ang inaalagaan lang nila e yung mga tao lang sa kanila, sa management nila, which I understand. You see, ang laki nung scope nun kasi nasa billboards sila, nasa commercials, and then majority of Filipinos know them. Yun yung maganda pag nasa mainstream ka. E di ko naman pipilitin sarili ko kung di ako pwede dun. Now I’ve discovered that you really have to find your way, your own path to get where you want to be, that is the scope for anybody.
What’s the most challenging role or struggle you've experienced as an actor?
Wala naman mahirap na ikamamatay mo. Yung mga experiences mo sa shooting kunyari, they don’t provide portalets. Sometimes naiisip mo na parang yun yung mahirap kasi napaka-basic nun e. And then there’s also the inconsistency of people from the network who are calling you at midnight. This is the funny thing, you are expected as an independent actor to be on the set 4 hours after they called you because they thought of you to be cast. Di niyo ba alam na may buhay kaming mga indie actors? Di naman kami nakanganga lang para i-cast na maging lawyer or doctor. Sadly, madami pang gumagawa nyan. If you value your actors and you set a clear appointment, at least, give them a day.
How do you handle crticism?
The great thing about being in this business for a long time is that you’ve seen it all. So, hindi na ako masyadong impressionable. Medyo jaded na ako. Basta at this point, I just appreciate the work. And if people like it then great! Kasi if you put your work out there, this goes for anything, you have to be ready to be butchered. I’m just very happy for the opportunities in my life. I’m just saying, yun pala yung pag masipag ka o talagang tinututukan mo yung gusto mo, may mararating ka.
Check out Halfwords official Facebook page for more updates on Season 2.