WATCH: Tito Boy Abunda Asks John Lloyd Cruz All Our Burning Questions In This Livestreamed Interview
Was stepping away from the limelight his choice? What are the updates on his upcoming film? And, is he happy?
When Tito Boy Abunda trades in his signature high-backed chairs and studio setting interviews for an online, in-transit online conversation hosted on Kumu's FYE Channel, you know that times have truly changed.
The veteran talk show host launched his purely online show, The Best Talk, on Kumu's FYE Channel just last month, and as a treat to his viewers, he brought none other than John Lloyd Cruz on his show last weekend!
With the unique interview done on a quiet Saturday night, Tito Boy Abunda sat comfortably in his car as he was in-between destinations and John Lloyd smiled coyly at the screen, patiently answering question after question (and asking a couple himself).
With just 40 minutes of livestreamed time between them, the master interviewer didn't waste a single moment and went straight to the questions that mattered: how is JLC these days? Why take an acting break at the arguable peak of his career? Why decide to come back on-screen? And finally, is he happy?
Read on to learn all the details of this hot seat interview!
They both miss face to face interactions.
It's been a while since Tito Boy Abunda and John Lloyd Cruz have been on set together (too long, really), let alone enjoy a conversation like this with a complete filming crew in the room with them.
And while they're both grateful for how technology has allowed people to stay connected and work to go on for the most part, they both agree that there's nothing quite like being face to face with someone, especially when personal matters are on the agenda.
"Nami-miss ko naman 'yung mga nuances. S'yempre iba 'yung ngiti, 'yung kilos ng katawan," Tito Boy says.
John Lloyd in particular is someone that Tito Boy wishes he could sit with in a room again for a good old fashioned Q&A, admitting that the actor has played a huge role in his career as an interviewer.
"You've trusted me with some of the most important stories of your life. I'm always grateful," he continues.
There's nothing Tito Boy wants to talk about with John Lloyd more than Servando.
In case you haven't heard yet, John Lloyd was set to return to the big screen in Servando Magdamag, a Black Sheep film directed by Lav Diaz and written by Ricky Lee, and based on a Palanca-awarded short story by Ricky Lee. John Lloyd plays the film's titular character Servando Sais. The trifecta of Filipino screen talents hoped to tell the "history of Filipino violence" in the Philippines, according to the director.
"Noong nabasa ko 'yung short story, 'yung original short story na ginawa noong 1969, hindi ko talaga binitawan kahit hirap na hirap akong basahin. Kahit na siguro mahigit kalahati, hindi mo maintindihan dahil sa lalim ng Tagalog, sa lalim ng wika, na ginamit ni Sir Ricky," John Lloyd says—and then something magical happened.
According to the actor, it was as if he witnessed true and pure creativity when he saw what came of Ricky Lee handing Lav Diaz his screenplay and allowing him to exercise artistic freedom in interpreting it for the big screen.
John Lloyd also credits his relationship with Lav for more personal reasons; the director was one of the few people in the industry that kept in touch with him and nominate (or outright choose) him for projects, even long after he'd given up on "network jobs."
Servando Magdamag may or may not be a film (or a series).
"Siguro, isa 'yun sa mga talagang mahalagang elemento kapag katrabaho mo si Lav Diaz. 'Di mo alam kung ano ang kalalabasan ng ginagawa mo," he jokes.
As for the story itself, John Lloyd says it really is up to the individual viewers to decipher its message. It may have different meanings to different people, and that's totally okay. However, for future audiences, John Lloyd says to brace themselves for discovering the depths of what they don't know and don't understand about violence and human experiences.
John Lloyd describes his own discovery as humbling. "It took me a while to process," he says.
Tito Boy Abunda asks about John Lloyd's screen hiatus.
"Ganoon na rin. Kailangan na ring huminto, magnilay-nilay" John Lloyd answers, after Tito Boy asks him if it was truly his choice to take an acting break.
It wasn't a bad time for John Lloyd to be away from his life as an artista, as the public assumption or misconception goes. It was enriching, too. He doesn't think of it as the absence of celebrity living, but the presence of something new.
"Kailangan nang medyo dumistansya... Parang, para malagyan mo ulit, kailangan mo munang ubusin, something like that?" he says to describe his experience of stepping away from the limelight and reinventing his identity as an artist.
He doesn't quite answer Tito Boy when he asked if pagod was a reason for him stepping back. Instead John Lloyd says, "At one point, na-realize ko na sobrang iksi pala ng buhay. Gusto mo lang na somehow, mabigyan mo lang ng halaga, ng atensyon 'yung mga bagay na... hindi mo p'wedeng i-deny."
The past five years have been complicated, he doesn't deny that, but he also anticipates more to come. It's not over, this mission to keep saying "yes" to the things he knows he has to accomplish and attend to. What those things are, he's happy just waiting for them to reveal themselves to him in time.
Will John Lloyd continue to pursue his passion for photography?
The actor has been a part of an exhibit in the past and maybe, he'll be part of more in the future. With John Lloyd, life is pretty fluid and there's no telling what direction it'll steer him towards.
"Lagi namang may camera sa bulsa," he smiles, but he says that it's also nice to let go of technology every now and then and just have you and yourself to think of. Little by little, it becomes clear that disconnection from the mainstream and the expectations we've put on personalities like himself is something he not only welcomes, but actively pursues.
Tito Boy asks John Lloyd if he's happy.
It's never a straightforward yes or no with John Lloyd, and instead he cites the fact that he now has a two-year-old son in his life as a gamechanger in how he sees things.
"My little savior," John says to describe his son Elias with Ellen Adarna.
Work has played a role in his happiness, too. Despite no longer doing the kinds of projects that made him a household name ("network jobs" as he calls them), he never stopped making films—something he really, really loves and has committed to doing, likely for life.
It's important to pay attention to these things your soul desires, he shares—but you may or may not be called selfish for doing so. But don't be afraid of that and cave to others' demands, because, "'pag ubos ka," John Lloyd says, what will you be able to give them, if anything?
Watch the complete interview below!
Lead photos from @cinemaonechannel / "Best Talk with John Lloyd Cruz and KaoRhys" on the Cinema One YouTube channel