Paolo Ballesteros honored to take on Joey de Leon’s ‘Barbi’ character

November 28, 2017 - 1:12 PM
Paolo Ballesteros in character as Barbi and with the original Barbi, Joey de Leon. (Photos from Paolo's Instagram page)

After his starmaking role in Jun Robles Lana’s black comedy, “Die Beautiful” where he won the award for Best Actor in the Metro Manila Film Festival, the Gawad Urian, the Tokyo International Film Festival and the Kerala International Film Festival, not a few wondered why it took a while for Paolo Ballesteros to headline another film.

One year after he and yes, his “Die Beautiful” alter ego Trisha Echevarria became household names, Paolo is back on the big screen and not just in one but two consecutive movies. Reprising his popular character, Lola Tidora from the “Kalyeserye” portion of noontime show, “Eat Bulaga,” Paolo co-stars with Jose Manalo and Wally Bayola in “Trip Ubusan: The Lolas vs. Zombies” which opened last November 22.

By Wednesday, November 29, Paolo will reprise another iconic character, this time one made popular by no less than Joey de Leon in a series of blockbuster movies during the late 1980s to the mid-1990s.

Yes, Paolo plays the title role in “Barbi D’ Wonder Beki,” the latest comedy presentation from OctoArts Films.

During the recent press conference for the film, Paolo admits that he felt a lot of pressure for him to live up to the role very much identified with Joey de Leon who incidentally is also in the film in a special role.

“I grew up watching the ‘Barbi’ movies and I really enjoyed them. I’m happy and honored to be entrusted with this role, it’s like Tito Joey is passing the torch to me,” Paolo said in mostly Filipino during the press conference.

Passing of the torch is an understatement. Paolo admits that having observed him work up close and personal due to the many years they spent together as hosts at “Eat Bulaga,” Joey has been like a mentor to him. While working together in “Barbi D’ Wonder Beki,”,” Paolo said he got a lot of pointers from the seasoned comedian.

Although not a direct sequel or reboot of Joey’s “Barbi films (“Barbi: Made in the Philppines,” “Barbi 2: For President,” and “Run Barbi Run”), Joey, who was also in the press conference said Paolo’s film does follow a similar storyline.

In “Run Barbi Run,” Joey played a straight guy whose life became endangered after witnessing a massacre. He was then forced to disguise himself as a gay impersonator. In “Barbi D’ Wonder Beki,” Paolo plays a closeted gay man who became the prime suspect of a murder he witnessed. While on the run from the law, he also had to change his appearance and work as a performer at Sirkus de Olé, the theater owned by his eventual benefactor, Mr. B. played by Joey.

Paolo said it’s one thing to work with Joey on “Eat Bulaga,” it’s another thing to be doing a film together.

“I didn’t know he was part of the film. But even if he wasn’t, I will try my best to be worthy of the Barbi he originated,” he admitted.

“It was a lot of fun working with him, even when we had to do some of our scenes late at night and he had to wait for me while I was doing my make-up, he was always there and ready for our scenes.”

Joey, who considers himself semi-retired at least as far as doing movies is concerned, said he only accepts projects he likes nowadays. He added that being part of “Barbi D’ Wonder Beki” is also his way of supporting Paolo.

As for Paolo, it has been a year since “Die Beautiful” became a big hit with both critics and audiences. he still could not believe his good fortune.

“It still has not sunked in yet to me. I’ve been in showbiz for many years. I remember going to Cubao and Makati just to do auditions for commercials. Now, I’m going to the press conference of my own movie, it’s a feeling that I can’t explain,” quipped the visibly overwhelmed actor.

A lot of things have indeed changed for Paolo. What has remained the same for him is his preference to do things by himself.

“I could probably hire a personal assistant and a driver but I love being busy and I love doing the little things from doing my own make-up to preparing all the things I need for my shoots,” he confessed.

But while he’s playing another transgender in “Barbi D’ Wonder Beki,” his approach, at least in terms of make-up, is much different from his interpretation of Trisha in “Die Beautiful.”

“My make-up for ‘Die Beautiful’ is more natural. No matter what I do, I still look the same. There was a lot more effort on my part for ‘Barbi.’ I opted for a different look for her.”

Also starring Joey Marquez, Ejay Falcon, Bianca Umali, Miguel Tanfelix, Smokey Manaloto, Nikki Valdez, Ruby Rodriguez, Kim Domingo, Benjie Paras, “Barbi D’ Wonder Beki” opens on November 29.

Watch the trailer here: