“When I did my first scene in ‘Ang Larawan,’ I was enjoying myself. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to do more movies.”
That’s Joanna Ampil revealing to InterAksyon her personal desire to continue what is now more than just a budding film career shortly after winning the coveted Best Actress award in the ongoing Metro Manila Film Festival.
The celebrated musical theater actress has won accolades for her performances in the London West End productions of “Miss Saigon,” “Les Miserables,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Avenue Q” as well as the ongoing touring presentation of “Cats.”
But as seasoned as she was onstage, Joanna admits that portraying the character of the seemingly headstrong but deeply troubled spinster Candida Marasigan on the big screen was a totally different challenge for her. She was offered the role way back in 2008 when the project was still in its infant stage and even back then she admitted she wasn’t sure she could play the role.
“I was taking the character of Candida whole, her pain, her suffering. It was difficult. It wasn’t pleasant, and I almost quit. Actually, I did quit twice,” Joanna confessed.
Thankfully, there were at least three people that she thanked during her acceptance speech who encouraged her to finish what she had started. There was fellow stage actor Jake Macapagal who was instrumental in helping her express Candida’s anguish onscreen, celebrated composer Ryan Cayabyab who also won Best Musical Score for his work on the film, and co-star Rachel Alejandro with whom she bonded throughout the shoot and to whom she shared her award.
“These were the three people that made me stay, who encouraged me when I was feeling down and near a nervous breakdown,” she noted.
And winning the MMFF Best Actress trophy has validated the way she personally approached her role.
“The crazy way in which I portrayed my character has paid off. I’m very happy that I stayed. I learned a lot doing this film. [Winning this award] is such a bonus,” she exclaimed.
“Now I can say that because I’ve been working abroad so much, I can probably say that finally, I’m contributing something very important to the arts in the Philippines,” she quipped in her acceptance speech.
Rachel, who played Candida’s younger sister Paula in “Ang Larawan,” was emotional when Joanna got the Best Actress award. “I cried tears of joy when it was announced that Joanna won because at the moment, it all came back to me — the times we questioned our own talents and capabilities when we were preparing to be Candida and Paula. It was a tough road for both of us but I never doubted Jo would exceed all expectations.”
Given that she now intends to do more movies, Joanna said she has no problem staying in the country for longer stretches if needed.
“If that’s what I’m called to do then yes, I’ll do it,” she declared.
Even though she’s also known to be an accomplished singer who has three albums to her credit, Joanna said she’s open to doing any kind of film and not necessarily those that will require her to sing or projects that are based on the theater musicals she’s identified with.
“I’m up for any challenge. I’m an actor, I’m an artist. I’ll take on anything. As long as it will challenge me and stretch me as an artist, I’m all for it,” she concluded.