EXCLUSIVE: Get To Know The Up-And-Coming Artists Of "Squad Plus" (Part 2)
We hung out via Zoom and did a pictorial with the Squad Plus, including members Raven Rigor, Renshi de Guzman, Anji Salvacion, Analain Salvador, Ashton Salvador, and Nio Tria
The achievements of the Gold Squad from Kadenang Ginto have been nothing short of amazing. The popular group and fan fave is composed of Andrea Brillantes, Francine Diaz, Seth Fedelin, and Kyle Echarri. After impressing with their individual portrayals and chemistry as a team in the top-rated series, these four young stars proved to be worthy of all the praises, love, and support they have been getting.
As they move on to their next project, the upcoming series Huwag Kang Mangamba, a new group was formed with up-and-coming talents who could follow in the footsteps of the original Gold Squad members.
Recently, the members of the “Squad Plus”—Sam Cruz, KD Estrada, Keann Johnson, Angela Ken, Angelica Lao, Danica Ontengco, Jimuel Pacquiao, Raven Rigor, Renshi de Guzman, Anji Salvacion, Analain Salvador, Ashton Salvador, and Nio Tria—were launched as Star Magic artists through a contract signing event dubbed as Star Magic Plus. The 13 artists who were introduced not only have the looks and the talents of a star in-the-making, they also have the personality and charm that are likely to earn them legions of adoring fans.
During their virtual launch, Star Magic head Direk Lauren Dyogi told them, “This is a responsibility. Yes, we want you to enjoy; we want you to enjoy your youth and to enjoy the industry, but be responsible… Responsibility to our audience—’di lang pasayahin sila but you should be good role models.”
Meet the newly-launched artists who make up the Squad Plus in these Metro.Style exclusive shoots and interviews:
Meet The Squad Plus
Meet The Squad Plus
Renshi de Guzman
Sam Cruz, Angela Ken, KD Estrada, and Anji Salvacion
Danica Ontengco, Angelica Lao, and Analain Salvador
Raven Rigor, Renshi de Guzman, and Ashton Salvador
Keann Johnson, Jimuel Pacquiao, and Nio Tria
Raven is currently majoring in Medical Technology at Saint Louis University. This 19-year-old cutie is into films and art, which is why he is determined to pursue acting.
“I really want to focus sa acting kasi sobra po akong fascinated sa films and art. I want to become an actor. Sobra po akong amazed sa ginagawa nila. Hindi po siya madali, madali lang siya tingnan, pero matagal ’yung process,” he tells Metro.Style.
His dream co-actors? “Ms. Sylvia Sanchez, sobra ko po siyang ina-idolize [I worked with her already], especially sa mga movies niya dati. Isa ko pa po na gusto maka-work is si Ms. Nadine Lustre, and siguro po sa veteran actors, si Ms. Gina Pareño kasi favorite ko po ’yung movie niya ’yung Hintayan ng Langit, sobrang galing po.”
For foreign actors, he mentions Will Smith as the actor he wants to emulate.
As Raven starts his journey in the entertainment industry, he admits he is feeling the pressure and is a bit nervous about being in the same field as his idols.
When he found out he was tapped for the Squad Plus, he couldn’t believe it. He says, “Nagulat ako nu’ng nakita ko ’yung members kasi most of them kilala ko po tapos nakikita ko lang sila on TV before, sa Internet, tsaka pina-follow ko lang sila... Na-pressure ako nang sobra.” He feels pressured, yes, but he is ready to take on the challenges that come with this job.
A mature and grounded person, he takes things day by day and works towards stepping out of his comfort zone and overcoming his shyness.
His showbiz commitments and his studies are filling up his calendar today. But even now when he is mostly at home, he is busy and always eager to make the most of his time indoors.
But Raven gets excited just thinking about traveling post-pandemic. He wants to go to Japan. What is he looking forward to experience there? He says, “The culture itself po, especially the food. Tsaka sobra akong nabibilib sa disiplina na meron sila. Pinaka-gusto ko puntahan sa Japan eh ’yung The Island Shrine of Itsukushima and Osaka Castle.”—Angelica Tordesillas
Renshi de Guzman
For fans of the independent film scene, Renshi might be a familiar face. He has done supporting roles for several titles like Deadma Walking and Class of 2018. His experiences made him want to explore acting career further and delve into the mainstream. Now that he is a part of Star Magic’s Squad Plus group, the up-and-coming actor is ready to put his best foot forward.
Going the artista route, however, wasn’t in his original plans. “Nu’ng bata talaga ako, ayoko talagang mag-artista,” Renshi reveals. But when he turned 14, opportunities started knocking on his door. His handsome looks and boyish charm helped him win in his first pageant and, a year after, a talent scout asked him to try his hand in acting. Although he was hesitant at first, Renshi eventually said yes.
In the years that followed, he found himself taking on several interesting roles. There’s 2020’s In Between (Sa Pagitan ng Kamusta at Paalam), a BL (Boys’ Love) series where he played a boy attracted to another boy. “Nakakapag-open siya [ng reality]. Okay din kasing mag-represent ng ganu’ng character para mas ma-appreciate siya ng ibang tao,” Renshi says about his character, Ronin.
The Star Magic artist also appeared as Rambo in the iWantTFC drama series La Vida Lena, where he finally got to work with his idol Pen Medina, as well as other big stars like Erich Gonzales, Carlo Aquino, and JC de Vera.
Closing his 2020 with a bang was the Metro Manila Film Festival entry The Boy Foretold by the Stars, a coming-of-age romantic drama which won the 2nd Best Picture award. The film is set to release a series sequel soon.
With the new year came a string of more blessings for this Squad Plus member. Apart from shoots, Renshi is busy with acting and dancing workshops to further hone his skills. When asked what kind of artist he wants to be known as, he quickly answers “character actor,” and offers a shy smile. Meanwhile, a character with autism spectrum disorder is his dream role, saying, “Gusto ko siyang i-portray nang tama, kasi parang nai-stereotype sila ng mga tao—pero hindi sila tulad ng iniisip ng iba.”
As his schedule is quickly filling up, Renshi still tries to squeeze in other hobbies and interests during his free days. Whenever he’s isn’t in the spotlight, the former street racer hops on his big motorbike and goes for a ride. “Na-e-enjoy ko ’yung ride, ’yung pag-travel,” he muses, so much so that the farthest he’s gone to solo was up north in Ilocos last December.
It is not just the adrenaline rush which comes with biking that keeps him thrilled—it’s also his curiosity to try out different local cuisines that drives him to go on adventures with his bike. “Kapag nagra-ride kasi ako, madalas kong pinupuntahan kung saan nag-originate ’yung mga pagkain,” Renshi shares.
Next on his bucketlist is the famous batchoy in Iloilo.We can see him going far, not just with his bike, but also in the acting journey he’s currently on.—Mariel Abanes
Anji, 18, is definitely bringing pride to her province, Surigao. She has a gem of a voice, which is why it is no surprise that she qualified to the semi-finals of Idol Philippines. Listen to her sing, and it’s easy to be convinced that it is something she was born to do. She fondly tells the story of how she was already singing at the age of three, and mentions jazz, pop, and Ariana Grande’s songs as the kinds of music she loves listening to. Locally, Moira dela Torre, Ben&Ben, and The Juans are some of her influences. She also appreciates K-Pop and says that she likes BLACKPINK and ITZY.
Currently, Anji is a regular on ASAP Natin ’To and is also a cast member of the series Unloving U which stars Loisa Andalio and Ronnie Alonte. Anji shares, “I feel so grateful and blessed because God has answered one of my most desired prayers, and it is an honor and privilege to be signing with Star Magic and being launched as a member of Squad Plus.” She also expresses appreciation for the support that she has been receiving since the beginning of her career, when she was just starting out in Surigao.
After Idol Philippines, she was about to work on a project with Dreamscape for a teleserye, but because of the pandemic and other factors, the project did not push through. She recalls feeling down during this time in her life, but then something happened.
“He (God) never fails to surprise me with great things, and I received a call,” she shares. This turned out to be the call asking her to join Squad Plus.
Anji adds, “I want to do my best to achieve both showbiz and school because why settle on achieving one when you can achieve both?”
The gorgeous newbie is also a fashion lover and is even into drawing and designing clothes. She admires Anne Curtis-Smith’s fashion sense and admits that she is a fan of the products from BLK, Anne’s beauty brand. “I love her acting and fashion sense po,” she says, mentioning that she started to become a fan of Anne after watching Magic Kingdom.
Anji also plays the guitar, and hopes to be given the chance to perform onstage more. But, she will happily welcome any project assigned to her, be it in the field of music or acting. The actors she looks up to and hopes to work with in the future include Alex Gonzaga, Ian Veneracion, and Aga Muhlach. We can’t wait for this young artist’s star to shine bright.—Angelica Tordesillas
“I feel excited and nervous at the same time, kasi it’s a big step for me dahil baguhan lang din ako,” Analain tells Metro.Style. Though nervous, she is also up for the challenge of pursuing showbiz full-time.
Analain is a varsity volleyball player, and the lessons and realizations she got from being an athlete are now helping her in her showbiz career.
“Unang-una po sa lahat is ’yung time management, kasi siyempre, respeto po ’yun sa mga katrabaho mo, sa mga teammates mo. Na dapat hindi ka nale-late sa training, sa laro, or sa rehearsals po. It’s showing respect and courtesy to the people you’re working with or playing with.
“’Yung isa naman po eh tiyaga lang talaga. Katulad po nu’ng sa volleyball na hindi mo po agad makukuha ’yung skills or ’yung galing. Katulad din ’yun sa pagiging artista, you have to go through the process, rehearsals, and workshops. Kailangan ko po ’yun pagdaanan para humusay ako sa pagiging artista.”
Clearly, she knows what elements are needed to succeed in this business, and she is game to work on them one by one. Analain hopes to be given the opportunity to work on dramas soon. She shares, “I’m very passionate about acting, and I want to show everyone na may kaya akong gawin at maipapakita ko rin ’yun sooner or later. Just give me time to work on it, I promise to give the best that I can.”
Asked about her dream co-actors, she mentions her relatives, her aunt Karla Estrada and her cousin Daniel Padilla. She would also like to work with Enrique Gil and Liza Soberano.
Analain’s discipline and determination as an athlete, aside from her beauty and talents, make for a great foundation for a career in the entertainment industry. She may be showbiz royalty, but she’s definitely not one to rest on her laurels. —Angelica Tordesillas
Like his fellow Squad Plus mates, he also feels some pressure now that he is a part of this newly-formed group of young talents.
There is an additional layer of pressure that comes with being showbiz royalty. Ashton says, “Galing po kami sa pamilya na ganito, si Kuya DJ [Daniel Padilla] po, sila Tita Karla [Estrada]. So ’yung expectations ng iba baka mataas.” But like his sister Analain, Ashton is determined to make a name for himself in showbiz away from the shadows of his celebrity relatives.
As one of the up-and-coming artists of Star Magic and ABS-CBN, his passion for music, especially his talent in playing guitar, is what he considers his strength. Ashton shares, “Nag-practice po ako nang maayos, matagal po, tine-take ko po ang time ko, pinagtitiyagaan ko po. Inayos ko po ’yung mindset ko, na kapag may gusto akong matutunan, gagawin ko po talaga nang maayos.”
He mentions Foster The People, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Arctic Monkeys as some of his influences. “Naimpluwensyahan ako dahil po sa mga naririnig ko dito sa bahay... sa mga pinsan ko po, sina Kuya JC, Kuya DJ,” he says and adds that sometimes he jams with his cousin JC.
When it comes to acting, he shares that he wants to try out projects in the action genre. Both he and Analain are hoping to work with Daniel, Karla, and Daniel’s girlfriend/loveteam partner Kathryn Bernardo in the near future.
Although there is pressure to live up to people’s expectations, his willingness to learn, improve, and take on challenging roles will surely help him stand out on his own in the world of showbiz.—Angelica Tordesillas
Being a student-athlete taught Nio significant things about life and the importance of hard work and discipline. He discovered the tennis racket at age four, and started competing when he was eight. He even snagged a scholarship abroad, thanks to this sport.
Fast forward to present, he’s still very much active with extracurricular activities, but now he has added the label “actor” in his resume.
This showbiz royalty is one of the fresh faces introduced as a member of the newly-launched Squad Plus, the extended group of Gold Squad. Seasoned actress Cherry Pie Picache’s son didn’t intend to enter showbiz in the beginning; however, it seems like he was destined for it. At the height of the lockdowns, Nio had to stay in Manila and postpone his plans to fly to the US to pursue college and a tennis career. But it so happened that his mom got a call from Dreamscape, asking if Nio was interested to try out showbiz. Thinking that the timing is great, he said yes.
“I couldn’t really play tennis as much as I could, so it’s a good chance to pursue this opportunity that I also enjoy. Because ever since, I’ve always liked performing,” the rookie actor explains. When he made up his mind, he and his mom had a long talk about this pursuit. “At first, nagulat din siya. She was making sure that I was sure of my decision—she knows it’s not all glamour and glitter,” Nio shares. “She just wanted na when I pursue this, I will give all my effort, I’m sure na I commit myself to honing the craft in acting, and I work hard here as much as I do with tennis.”
Nio adds, “I learned through tennis that hard work and persistence is very important, and not many things are just from luck. It has taught me a lot—to never give up, to work hard, and to do my best. I think I’ll bring all of those into this industry.” Nio made sure to prepare well for this new venture by attending a series of workshops both in acting and singing.
When asked about his dream role, Nio thinks that being in an action film would suit him best. He also mentions Arjo Atayde and Coco Martin as the actors he dreams of working with. Now that he’s out to conquer the local entertainment scene, he takes his mom’s words with him on and off the set. “She advised me to stay humble, stay grounded, and stay thankful for all the opportunities given to me. And she reminded me to be true to who I am—to just be myself,” Nio shares.
After all, all he wants is to be known as a “good actor.” “I think that’s the main thing I want people to say when they hear my name,” Nio ends.—Mariel Abanes
Produced by Grace Libero-Cruz
Photography by Rxandy Capinpin, assisted by Austin Cortiguerra
Special thanks to Star Magic and Thess Gubi