‘Nervous yet glamorous’: Melai Cantiveros takes on wacky debut lead role in ‘Ma’am Chief’

November 20, 2023 - 4:11 PM
A scene from "Ma’am Chief: Shakedown in Seoul" starring Melai Cantiveros. (Released)

Comedienne Melai Cantiveros portrays a police officer who finds herself in South Korea while pursuing a criminal in Ma’am Chief: Shakedown in Seoul.

The movie is Melai’s first lead role in a 14-year career that started in 2009 after winning the reality game show Pinoy Big Brother: Double Up.

“Sobrang kinabahan kasi hindi namin alam bakit ako ang napili [to play the lead role]. (I) felt so nervous yet so glamorous,” Melai jokingly told reporters at a press conference.

Joining Melai in the movie are Alora Sasam, Bernadette Allyson Estrada, Dustine Mayores, Enzo Almario, Jennica Garcia, Karylle Tatlonghari, Manel Sevidal, Pepe Herrera, and Sela Guia.

Making cameos are K-drama stars Do Ji Han, known for his roles in The Tower and Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth, and Lee Seung-gi, famed for My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho.

K-pop celebrity Yuju known for the hit “I’m In the Mood for Dancing” and the all-girl rock band Rolling Quartz, who popularized the song “Blaze,” are also part of the action-comedy film. 

Pinoy meets South Korean culture 

According PULP COO Happee Sy-Go, delving into filmmaking came from a desire to narrate a unique story based on the rich experiences accumulated from years of orchestrating K-pop events.

PULP Studios, the production team behind the movie, is part of the long-running concert production company PULP Live World.

“It’s really more of telling a story of what I have been through. For the past 14 years that I’ve been doing K-pop [events], I’ve been exposed to different fans, different communities, and this time, I want to tell their story through my eyes,” said Happee. 

She emphasized the intention to incorporate a Filipino character who embraces the fervor for K-pop and K-drama, adding a unique cultural perspective to the storytelling. 

Conceptualizing the film was one thing, executing these ideas presented an entirely different set of challenges, however. 

Happee humorously acknowledged the lack of experience in movie production among key team members. 

She mentioned, “My best friend Kring Kim, who is our director, it’s her dream to create a movie, but then she’s never done a movie, never produced a movie, and our writer Sofia [Hazel Calayag], she’s never written for a movie. So thank you so much, guys, for your trust.”

As for the casting, Happee said that the choices were made based on who they believed “would portray our characters the best.”

Melai recalled being told to be just herself in front of the camera to capture her genuine personality and humor.

“Parang naramdaman niya [Happee] na parang happy-go-lucky ako. Na parang huwag daw ako magka-character, ngunit ako daw talaga; no effort, ikaw talaga,” said Melai about her initial conversation with the producer. 

Touchdown Seoul 

The film’s narrative unfolds against the backdrop of Seoul, South Korea, featuring locations familiar to fans of K-drama series.

The cast and crew captured not only the scenic beauty of these places but also the country’s rich culture. 

They were also granted an insider’s view into the filming practices of their South Korean counterparts, leaving a lasting impression on Melai. 

She expressed admiration for their discipline on set, with working hours strictly adhering to an eight to 10-hour schedule, ensuring optimal use of time and resources for each filming session.

Melai amusingly remarked, “Doon, alam mo, walang tent-tent kasi gagastos ka pa ng oras para sunduin ang artista tapos babalik pa.” 

She was referring to tents that are commonly used as private dressing rooms on film sets. 

“Andun ka kang sa upuan mo kasi ang bilis doon gumalaw ng mga tao. Patapos na [yung scene] hindi mo pa nga name-memorized yung linya, acting na naman kami,” continued Melai. 

In a playful tone, Melai affectionately described the South Korean film crew as not just colleagues but also “mga oppa” and “mas glass skin pa sila kaysa sa amin.” 

Oppa co-stars 

In August, Melai generated buzz when she shared a photo with Do Ji Han, sparking speculation about a potential collaboration between the two. 

Next, she posted a picture alongside Lee Seung-gi, contributing to the early promotional efforts for the film.

Gushed Melai, “Grabe si Lee Seung, malayo pa lang ang bango na. Tapos nahiya ako kasi parang oppa talaga siya maglakad,” gushed Melai. 

Is it true that she has multiple South Korean leading men in the movie? 

“Yun na nga ang problema,” teased Melai. 

“Basta abangan n’yo na lang sa movie na ‘to. Kikiligin kayo. Magluluha kayo sa kilig.” 

Ma’am Chief is now showing in cinemas across the country.