She is one beauty no one can simply ignore, and that made her always that charming fixture that draws viewers to the teen-oriented shows she first appeared in to her breakthrough hosting stint on It’s Showtime.
But as it was unraveled in her most recent TV appearances and movies, Coleen Garcia has emerged as one artist beyond the surface-level acting fare. And as evident in her most gripping performance in MMK as the mentally ill Pauleen in “Kadena,” she has proved to be a multi-faceted, versatile, and riveting actress, capable of essaying such extremely difficult roles.
A shift, she says, has been very fulfilling.
“I’m still as excited as I was from the moment I started acting and ever since I fell in love with it, parang that love just grows deeper and deeper and the passion just becomes stronger so as I take on different kinds of roles, and I’m glad and I’m very thankful that I’m being given different kinds of roles hindi yung paulit ulit. It remains to be exciting for me,” Coleen said.
Early in her career, Coleen admitted that honing her acting chops wasn’t really something she was serious about.
“I started up as an actress actually but I was so young,” she said. “I started out in showbiz when I was around 18 years old and I didn’t really value it that much then. And then I got in to It’s Showtime. I was there for about 5 years and I stopped acting while I was there, at least not as much as I act now.”
After gaining a wide following and that BiCol hype from her solid romance with Billy Crawford on the noontime show, Coleen came at a crossroads in her career and decided to leave It’s Showtime earlier this year to fully concentrate on her acting.
But according to her it was one role in an independent film that really made her sure about her decision. That her role of the promiscuous, free-spirited teenager Janna in the coming of age 2014 movie #Y directed by an old friend, Gino M. Santos.
“What really got me to fall in love with acting again was #Y. I really enjoyed it. It was an indie film by direk Gino M. Santos, someone who I believe I started with ‘cause I’ve known him since I was 10 and he was a new director and I was a new actress and everyone who took part in that was just very new and fresh,” Coleen stressed.
“So it’s different when everybody you’re working with is pretty much starting at the same point so we really help each other, we nurtured each other and once I got to really liking it, once I developed the passion for it—I guess in a way, unavoidably, I kind of compared it to where I was currently like I was a host in Showtime,” she added.
Choice was clear
Coleen was already neck deep in her acting ventures even as she completed her hosting work for It’s Showtime. Viewers discovered her exceptional acting when she played lesbian Chucks Ledbetter, “That’s My Tomboy” finalist on It’s Showtime, on the noontime show’s Holy Week special in 2014.
Since then, apart from #Y, she also essayed the doomed character Jamie in the late afternoon TV drama Pasion de Amor, and portrayed the lovestruck med rep Arkisha in Ex With Benefits also under Direk Gino. Excited and thrilled as she was with all the acclaim and attention she gained and the delight and contentment she felt as she played those roles, the choice was clear.
Coleen has now focused on her acting career full time.
She immediately went to work, sans a hectic noontime sked, concentrating on purely acting projects, beginning with a lead role in Love Me Tomorrow, also under direk Gino, opposite Dawn Zulueta and Piolo Pascual.
Daughter in Chains. ? Thank you to everyone who watched #MMKKadena, which was directed by Elfren Vibar! Pauline was diagnosed with borderline mental retardation/intellectual disability, auditory hallucination, antisocial personality disorder, and epilepsy. (Although I would love to elaborate each in detail, it would be too long to explain here. A bit of research should tell you a lot, though!) There are so many different mental health conditions (diseases, disorders) out there that we are not fully aware of. It really pays to educate ourselves on the many ways other people can differ from us. Many wrongfully generalize others with special conditions by simply using the term "baliw". We need to understand that there is so much more to people than just that one word. The more we understand people, the closer we get to actually helping them instead of turning to solutions that only worsen the problem. People with special needs cannot help themselves, and this is most certainly not their fault nor choice. And yes, this does concern us more than we know. Being unaware does not make our communities immune. I know it is especially difficult in our country because, here in the Philippines, a large percentage of our population works hard just to make ends meet and struggles when faced with hospital bills for physical health conditions. What more for mental health problems? ?? I hope that one day our government will have the means to give more attention to these issues. Nevertheless, awareness does go a long way, and it's always a great place to start! ?? Hope today's episode made you learn, and feel, something different. ?? Thank you so much, mga Kapamilya, for watching and for making #MMKKadena trend on the first spot on Twitter! ??
But her praiseworthy performance as the mentally ill Pauleen on the MMK episode “Kadena” on July 24 has truly highlighted her acting prowess on a higher level, proving how much she is capable and ready to take this route.
Coleen’s intense portrayal accurately depicted the character’s burdensome affliction of multiple mental illnesses that really touched viewers. Pauleen was diagnosed to have borderline mental retardation, anti-social personality disorder, auditory hallucinations, and to top it all off, epilepsy, which worsens her condition—indeed, a handful of difficult roles rolled into one, something so perplexing and convoluted for even a seasoned actress to portray.
But what made Coleen prepare for this challenge? First, by approaching the esteemed acting coach and director Ann Villegas, herself a TV-movie actress in the 1970s.
“She’s one of the very, very effective workshop heads or moderators or coaches I’ve ever had,” Coleen said. “Every time I have a role that I feel is a bit challenging or a bit over the top or out of the box for me, I go to her immediately and I tell her and she kind of gives me advice. We don’t act the scenes out, we don’t practice or anything. She just gives me advice and that’s what I really appreciate because when I do end up doing the scenes, they’re not at all rehearsed. They come directly from me, they don’t come from anybody else coaching me, telling me what to do with every movement, with every nuance and everything. It just all comes from me.”
And second, by simply doing her homework.
“What makes it so challenging is because it’s such a special case,” Coleen said. “Pauleen has so many diseases, so many different factors and different things that make her, her. Actually the MMK team, they were very specific, they presented me with research and with that research I went on to do my own research also.”
Being a psychology student actually helped her, as she dealt with the character akin to doing a school project.
“I’ve always loved being a student so I go the extra mile when it comes to research,” Coleen said, stressing that she studied and examined each condition closely, observed accurate gestures and mannerisms from real patients, and consulted with professionals and academics, most notably her school dean.
Watching the actual episode proves how Coleen can go further from strengthening her acting chops in an artistic sense to actually applying a scientific approach in playing a role—how methods are in play to bring out not only a fascinating portrayal but an actual, realistic depiction.
More challenging roles
Coleen is so thankful for this chance and would hope for similar challenging thespic outings in the future.
“Actually I have a lot of dream roles and the fact that early on in my career this early, I’m being given roles such as this,” Coleen said. “I mean I don’t know what else to ask for. I just want to accept whatever is given to me because I’m being given so much and there’s just infinite roles out there that I would love to play and things that I’ve never even thought about that they’re giving me. It’s really exciting and I’m really very grateful also for that and hopefully I get to work with new people, different directors. Just open to many different kinds of possibilities.”