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JM De Guzman Is A True Student Of The Craft (And Of Life)

Through sheer fight and talent, the young actor is finally learning how to be on top of his game

by Arthur de Luzuriaga | Nov 9, 2018

It is easy to mistake JM de Guzman for just another young actor capitalizing on nothing more than youth and good looks. A closer inspection, however, reveals a depth and maturity beyond his age.

Although JM is only 30 years old, he’s been under the spotlight for over two decades. He started acting in TV commercials at only six years old, moving on to do TV at 13. Despite his early start, his career was earned and not just handed to him without a fight. He took up Theater Arts at the University of the Philippines in an attempt to help him find direction for his then slow start in the industry.

Yung theater, parang desperate move lang kasi wala na akong projects sa TV nun,” he recalls. “Kung magkaroon man ako ng project, yung character ko after a week pinapatay or biglang umuuwi sa probinsya.”


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Although he initially enrolled without totally knowing what he was getting into the passion and drive of the theater community inspired him and opened his eyes to the the true beauty of the craft. During his time in UP, he honed his skills not just in acting, but in all aspects of the production. Nung nag-theater ako, I really did not start as an actor. Kami yung staff behind-the-scenes—from backstage, props, costume, stage sounds, publicity, marketing, lahat yun. Kapag sinwerte, kukunin ka as chorus. Mahirap kasi lahat graded. Half nung araw ko academics, tapos hapon hanggang gabi, kami na yung nagtratrabaho behind-the-scenes. Na-experience namin na for two months, araw-araw kami na sa stage,” he shares.

Perhaps it was the experience of doing things away from the spotlight, as part of a crew all working together for a successful production, that gave JM a much deeper appreciation for the artform and the discipline needed to succeed in an extremely competitive industry. But his training in college wasn’t all behind the scenes, of course, it also challenged his acting ability and expanded his boundaries. In one of  his more memorable experiences, he bravely took on the role of Valentin Arregui in Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman, where he had to kiss another man on stage and expose half his butt all in order to sell the role—daunting tasks for a mere celebrity, but all part of the job for any actor worth his salt. Hindsight is always 20/20 they say, and while he still recalls the feeling of dread he felt before going on stage at the time, he understands that more than any fear of failure or ridicule, the story comes first above all.

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Nung ginawa ko yung Kiss of the Spider Woman, yung role ni Valentin, yung rebel na ginamit niya yung gay na kasama niya sa preso para makatakas, first kissing scene ko sa lalaki yun sa stage and first half-butt exposure ko sa stage. Mahirap.”

PHOTO: Artu Nepomuceno

Train Like A Champ

Apart from his foray into theater, JM was also a student athlete and the President of the UP Wrestling Club—not a small feat considering he only started wrestling in college. Although it has been quite some time since he’s rolled on a mat, he credits his training for the tenacity and dedication he now pours into his endeavors.

"Yung wrestling sobrang explosive and aggressive na martial art. Dun ko na-train yung spirit ko. Nagagamit ko yun sa buhay at career ko. Minsan akala mo hindi na kaya, pero laging meron pa"

Kasi yung wrestling sobra siyang explosive and aggressive na martial art. Aabot ka sa time na zero [energy] na yung katawan mo. As in nandun ka sa laban pero di ka makagalaw...pero dun ko na-train yung spirit ko. Nagagamit ko yun sa buhay ko, sa career ko. Minsan akala mo hindi na kaya, pero laging meron pa.”

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Eventually, JM did go back to TV and the movies, making his mark in indie films such as That Thing Called Tadhana alongside Angelica Panganiban and most recently for TV, on Precious Hearts Romance Presents: Araw Gabi with Barbie Imperial. Despite his rather quiet and mysterious demeanor, it was always his dream to become famous.

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Nung bata ako ang babaw lang ng gusto ko—gusto ko lang sumikat, makilala,” he candidly explains. Merong time na parang ayoko na, pero sa huli, parang immaturity ko lang pala yun. Thinking error ko lang kasi hindi ko pa lang talaga oras yun. Hindi pa ako ready. Pero nung lumalalim na yung love ko sa craft, iba-iba yung timpla ehsa TV, sa movies, sa plays—na-e-enjoy ko naman lahat.

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He says that his idols are Hollywood heavyweights Robert de Niro, Al PAcino, Daniel Day-Lewis, and James McAvoy—A-list stars that are all method actors. Na-e-enjoy ko kapag ibang character na yung pino-portray ko,” JM shares. “Actually inuna ko yung character roles nung nag-start ako ulit. Mas nasasabik ako dun sa offbeat roles. Kontrabida na rapist/mamamatay tao yung first major indie role ko. May scar dito [motions to his face]. Nagugustuhan ko kapag nag-iiba ako totally.” But probably the biggest testament to his maturity not just as an actor, but also as a celebrity who now realizes that there is a difference between artistic challenges and the expectations of the general moviegoing public, is how he is strategically mapping his career. JM confesses:Ngayon kasi mas pina-prioritize ko, habang pwede pa, [to go for more leading-man type roles]. Meron pa naman akong time later on [for more offbeat roles].” He is well aware of the possibility of being typecast as the typical leading man, which is why he works very closely with his management to make sure that he avoids stereotypes, searching for more varied roles that will help secure his future.

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PHOTO: Artu Nepomuceno

Not Your Typical Leading Man

In his latest movie Kung Paano Siya Nawala, alongside October FHM Muse Rhian Ramos, JM plays a character with face blindness, a brain disorder that causes a person to forget/not recognize the people he’s already met. On its face (pun intended), the story is a romance. But apart from all the common tropes of a typical love story, it’s about a man struggling to recognize and make sense of his life.

Ang hirap niyang palabasin—yun yung struggle, hindi mo pwedeng ipakita pero kelangan makita, hindi mo dapat mapahalata pero dapat halata. So laging may timpla [yung acting],” he explains, when asked how this new role challenged him. Tracing JM’s past role choices, one can observe that he chooses characters who challenge his emotional range.


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In That Thing Called Tadhana, he played Anthony, the rock to Angelica Panganiban’s distraught Mace. And even if his portrayal was a refreshing stoicism to a more emotional Angelica, it was rom-com that asked viewers to fall in love with their characters and inevitably root for them to end up together. In Araw Gabi, JM plays the uber wealthy Adrian Olvidar, a role he immensely enjoyed but admitted was very new to him as it was the first wealthy character he has ever played. “Medyo na-excite ako dun eh. Kasi first time ko mag-portray ng sobrang yaman na character. May confidence ako na nakuha sa kanya na hindi ko nararamdaman before.” Little by little, JM pushes his personal envelope, all while being mindful of what his fans expect from him. As he evolves as an actor and as a person, he feels more confident opening up. Kung Paano Siya Nawala is arguably the most vulnerable character JM has played on screen, and arguably, one that he is best able to portray at this point in his life.

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PHOTO: Artu Nepomuceno

Keeping His Eye On The Prize

JM acknowledges that time, age, and experience have made him more relaxed and his actions more measured. The personal and professional challenges he’s gone through have all shaped him into the man he is today. He’s learned many lessons, yet is still the first to recognize that he has many more left to learn. Through it all, it’s now clearer to him what is most important, and to fight the battles that need fighting all while having the strength to let the ones that shouldn’t matter go.


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Marami akong na-encounter na battles and struggles nung nagsisimula ako. Siguro kaya hindi ko na-survive yung mga battles kasi pinili ko labanan lahat. Kahit yung mga unnecessary. Nasayang lang yung time ko, yung energy ko. Dapat hindi ko ginawa o binigyan ng pansin.”

He has many more adventures ahead of him, but he is now more sure that the discipline, craft, and art of acting will always be his focus. After all the disappointments and triumphs, it has become a part of him, a calling he hopes to continue pursuing.

Photography Artu Nepomuceno Producer Khatrina Bonagua Styling Myrrh Lao To Assisted byCarvey Samonte Grooming Aimee Grey Hair Chino Maniquiz Shot on location at Elite Boxing & Muay Thai, 8/F Padilla Building, Emerald Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City

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