Filipino Canadian actor Alex Mallari Jr. might look tough and deadly as Christos, Ryan Reynold’s arch nemesis in the Netflix star-studded sci-fi action film “The Adam Project.” But all those threats, we soon discovered in a recent roundtable interview, are just part of the job Alex is doing so well.
When we spoke to the 34-year-old actor, who moved with his paternal grandmother—whom he calls “The Host”—at the age of 4 from Lubao, Pampanga to Toronto, he attributed his kind personality and friendly demeanor to Pinoy and Canadian roots.
“I am very different from Christos, who is a jerk. I don’t,” jokes Alex, laughing, when asked how different he is from his villainous character.
“I tend to think I’m very good—for two reasons: One, I’m Filipino and, two, I’m Canadian. I think those are the two best things anyone in this world can do. And unlike Christos, I don’t hate Ryan, who is a wonderful individual and a wonderful friend.”
Alex is no stranger to the world of acting. In addition to her career-boosting role in the Syfy series “Dark Matter,” she has also appeared in “Shadow Hunters,” “Designated Survivor,” “Nikita,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Workin’ Moms” and “Coroner.” She also played a recurring character as a police investigator in the Netflix series, “Ginny & Georgia.”
While it may be a pretty impressive piece of work, it doesn’t make him any less pleased and appreciative of getting a show of “The Adam Project”.
“Perhaps the most challenging part about getting this role was wrapping my mind around the fact that I would be in a Shawn Levy-directed film with superstars Ryan Reynolds, Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo and Catherine Keener,” he said. “I am walking with this giant! But when the time came, it was time to put your head down and get to work—and it just happened naturally. I feel like everyone on set has great energy.”
Asked if he could speak Filipino, Alex replied, “A little… My Tagalog is fine. I was born in Lubao, so my family is Kapampangan and a few other dialects, so I’m confused. But one thing’s for sure: I know when I’m in trouble, especially when my parents are mad at me (laughs).”
For his participation in “Project Adam,” Alex said he had to submit another coveted project.
“I was on the set of ‘Workin’ Moms’ when we were shooting our fourth season,” she recalls. “Then my manager contacted me—first, about an offer for the film ‘Resident Evil.’ Shortly after, they called me again in the afternoon and said, ‘Okay, here’s the thing. You also get ‘Project Adam.’ Which film would you like to make?’
“I can’t do both because there is one day [in the shooting schedule] they can’t work. So, as much as I loved ‘Resident Evil,’ because I was a fan of the franchise, the opportunity to work with Ryan, Shawn and Zoe was something I couldn’t turn down. Shortly after talking to Shawn about getting the role, I called our action and fight coordinator Jim Churchman, and the ball has been rolling fast since then.
While Alex wanted to follow all that was expected of him as an actor, he tried to incorporate some Pinoy flavor into his action scenes.
“As far as improvisation is concerned, I’m at a place where I don’t know if I’m allowed to do that, because you worked with [seasoned actors], ” Alex shared. “Maybe it’s a Filipino affair, where I just want to respect elders. So to me, it’s like, ‘I’ll work under your conditions, and let me compensate because I’m grateful to be here’—so I don’t really improvise any dialogue.
“In terms of preparation, when I found out I was following a very strict diet because you work alongside Ryan Reynolds (laughs). I work out a lot, do taekwondo, which is something I’m good at, and boxing too.
“However, there is a specific thing that I request. In the movie, you see two sticks I took out that weren’t there at first. Jim called me and asked if I was proficient in any weapons, and I said there was a draw [‘Dark Matter’] which I do where I really have to spend a lot of time with the katana, so I’m very good with that.
“But I really wanted to do something for the Philippines, so I said, ‘Listen, can we make arnis sticks or Kali knives? Jim said, ‘Sounds good.’ I said, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, so you guys have to teach me.’
“It was great that they were so receptive to my need to represent the Philippines in such a capacity. We only show a few [arnis] moving, but I’m so happy that it makes a movie at all!”
We also asked Alex to describe his journey as an actor in Hollywood. Are opportunities for people of color increasing?
“They’re definitely getting better,” Alex said. “There was a time when we could say that Hollywood didn’t do a great job of bringing inclusivity into the picture. No longer. Now, I don’t think we can say that Hollywood is doing a bad job.
“My journey as an actor has been very exciting, and there have been many learning opportunities. Filipinos are not very well known. I don’t have the typical Asian look they want, and it’s rare you see a Filipino character in a mess—until recently, that was good. The breakdown is when you get the audition, and it lists the different characters they want. I’m starting to see more and more of these opportunities nowadays.
“Until then, many of the roles I’ve played have been ethnically open. But I feel there needs to be, not just more Filipino actors, but more Filipino writers, publicists and directors. I’ve just worked with an amazing Filipino director of photography, and it’s great to have our community there. So, yes, everything is open, and it feels good to know that, no matter how small, I am helping to open the door for future generations—because they are the ones who really matter.”
If you could go back in time to write down some mistakes, which period in your life would you go back to?
“Oh man. If I could, I’d stick with being able to speak Filipino so I could deepen my relationship with my ‘Hom’—because she’s my world,” admits Alex. “There was a point where we moved to Canada, and I really insisted on speaking English, because I didn’t want to feel left out, I lost my ability to speak Kapampangan.
“It didn’t really make a big difference between Host and I, because we spent every day together, and I loved her. He’ll be spending some time in the Philippines, then he’ll be spending some time in San Francisco instead of with us here—and I cherish every moment of it. But there comes a point where communication becomes difficult. But we did our best. That’s wrong I’ll be right, for sure. ”
The hottest entertainment news straight to your inbox
Subscribe FURTHER QUESTIONS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & 70+ other titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.
“Coffee aficionado nerd. Troublemaker. General communicator. Gamer. Analyst. Creator. Total brew ninja.”