TV/film/stage transgender actress BB Gandanghari has no qualms taking on the role of Molina, an imprisoned homosexual character in Halik ng Tarantula— the Filipino play adaptation of the highly-acclaimed musical and film, Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Originally a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (later adapted into a stage drama) by Manuel Puig, Kiss of the Spider Woman tells the story of two cellmates in Argentina in the ‘70s: Valentin, a young Marxist activist; and the gay window dresser Molina, a character poignant for his glib and dramatic narration of romantic films as a means of escaping the horrors in prison. Valentin and Molina, although poles apart in their attitudes and aspirations in life, develop an unlikely friendship.
In 1989, a Filipino stage adaptation of the said literary work was produced by the Philippine Educational Theatre Association (PETA). Halik ng Tarantula starred Mario O’Hara as Molina and Julio Diaz as Valentin. It was directed by Soxie Topacio.
On March 7, 8, and 9 this year, Halik ng Tarantula returns to the stage with BB Gandanghari set to portray Molina.
There is much excitement as to how the actress, fresh off her debut in theater in Sayaw ng mga Senyorita, will deal with the anticipated nudity and sexual scenes in Halik ng Tarantula.
A jittery but collected BB Gandanghari told media reporters present at the Teatrino press conference held last Tuesday, January 15: “Actually, this is the first mature project yata na gagawin ko na ganitong sa stage, na live yung audience.
“Hindi ko nga masyadong iniisip! Ako nga I just trust Direk [Soxy], I trust the project, I trust the script. So, whatever happens on stage, happens on stage.
“Definitely, it will be in the proximity ng professionalism at nung characters na pino-portray.”
The actress, who is producing the remake, assured that she will not interfere with her director even when the obscenities that the play might require becomes too much for her.
“Hindi siguro. Sabi ko nga, may cause, e.
“Alam mo yung I know exactly kung saan nanggagaling si Direk. So, kung meron man siyang hihilingin, I think maiintindihan ko yun… Hindi ko pinapangunahan.
“When I trust you, I let you do your thing. Especially si Direk.
“He’s my director so I trust him. Naggawa na niya ito.
“Sabi ko nga it must be very interesting for him kasi he has done this once. For sure may iba siyang nakikita ngayon.
“He knows this by heart so I’m really excited to work with him.”
WHO WILL PLAY VALENTIN? As of the January 15 interview, the role of Valentin was still open for auditions. BB informed us that she and Direk Soxie are meticulously sorting out and studying their shortlist because the role is crucial.
“Yun yung sinasabi ni Direk— [dapat] may rapport,” said BB, a Gawad Urian winning artist.
“Kaya mahirap. Kapag may mahanap ka, hindi lang porket guwapo… Minsan may hindi guwapo [pero magaling].
“Basically, Valentin is very charming. Politician siya, e. Political, idealistic. So, yun yung mga hinahanap namin.”
BB further pointed out that in choosing their Valentin, the initial question was whether to get a known showbiz actor or not: “May name o walang name? Baguhan o may name na?”
She answered the rhetorical question, “Right away alam na namin. Dun tayo sa baguhan…
“Kasi I feel this role is a good break for a new one. If he wants to be taken seriously sa pinapasok niyang trabaho, I think this is a good one.”
FAMILY’S APPROVAL. Halik ng Tarantula’s poster shows BB as Valentin. She is facing the camera, sitting on top of Molina whose back is turned against the lens. The image is provocative. Both actors are almost naked— Valentin stripped down to his underwear.
Considering she will be at her sexiest and boldest, did BB Gandanghari have to consult her family prior to accepting Molina’s part?
The actress replied, “Hindi. Why? With no disrespect, this is already a professional decision na I can make as a forty-year-old actor.”
She said she showed them the poster and even posted the image shot by Niccolo Cosme as her profile picture on Facebook.
“Wala akong tinatago because I’m very proud of this one.”
BB knows they all saw it: “Lahat sila, mga kapatid kong babae. I don’t know kung si Robin nakita na niya…”
According to the actress, her family’s initial reaction told her that she was not about to receive support from them.
“Dun ko pa lang nakita na, ‘Ay, hindi namin kaya panoorin.’”
As if she has long accepted it, BB quipped, “Yeah, hindi nila kaya.”
In her heart she wants the Padillas to see him play Valentin.
“If they can see the character, hihiwalay nila si BB, oo. Kasi napakaganda nga nung istorya!
“This is really a theater treat not only because … but this is based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel na minsan-minsan lang natin napapanood sa atin dito sa Pilipinas.
“Yung pinanggalingan ay script na napaka-ganda at sinulat ng napakagaling na tao.”
REJECTION. Since coming out in 2006 on national television via reality-show Pinoy Big Brother, the actress’s transformation from the superstud Rustom Padilla to the stunning BB Gandanghari has been a shock not only to the public but to his family.
While the Padillas— not to mention BB’s brothers who have always projected a gruff, brutish, manly image in the industry— have previously stated that they acknowledge BB’s sexuality, the actress feels that she has not been completely accepted by them.
“Wala naman,” BB said upon being asked if he and his younger brother, Robin Padilla, the Bad Boy of Philippine Movies, are having problems in their relationship.
Told that Robin mentioned in a previous interview that he misses Rustom, BB’s eyes lowered.
She went on to say, her gaze finally on her interviewer, “Hindi, alam mo kasi, this is the real truth…
“Wala kaming problema ni Robin. And also, [it’s] okay if he says namimiss niya si Rustom.
“Kaya lang nga, ang problema, how can I do something when in fact, I’m BB. I cannot even do anything with regards to Rustom. So, dun may problema, di ba?
“So, if he wants to see Rustom, Rustom’s not here anymore. So, that’s my problem.”
The actress stressed, “Actually, kung sa walang problema, fine, good. But that’s my problem, di ba?...
“With all due respect, Rustom’s here no more. Di ba?”
CALL ME BB. The siblings are “civil” or courteous around each other and respectful of one another’s private affairs. Do they send text messages to each other? How do they communicate?
BB told, “Hindi naman talaga kami ganyan ever since. It’s just that ngayon, siyempre may…” And her words trailed off.
“Kasi pag tinawag akong Rustom, na-ano— ”
A question cut the actress: “— Do you look when called Rustom?”
“Hindi nga. Hindi talaga ako… Ayoko talaga,” BB replied.
“As far as … basta, I am BB. Call me BB. Parang ganyan.
“If you wanna talk to me, please refer to me as BB because I am BB.”
The non-calling of her person as BB in their family has apparently affected the actress’s relationship with the Padillas.
She misses them, yes, but BB would find her herself hesitant to be in family affairs because she still feels downright rejected.
“Kasi how would you feel kung nasa isang lugar ka at tinatawag ka sa isang pangalan na sa palagay mo hindi na ikaw yun.
“It doesn’t represent you anymore. Di ba?
“Ang tendency tuloy, hindi ka na pupunta para wala nang masaktan, parang wala nang ma-feel rejected, di ba?
“Because BB’s still rejected when you call me Rustom.”
ACCEPTANCE. As a transgender actress in the country, BB said that the Filipinos can be more accepting.
“Wala naman akong nararamdaman na [rejection]. Oo, wala e, at all. In fact, very embracing ang Filipino audience sa akin.”
Whatever it is that her family still has against her, she puts into words: “It’s basically more of a shock.”
She tried to makes sense of how her brother perceives her.
“Yung kay Robin naman, in all fairness— maybe in denial [pa siya] and that can be— nasa tamang proseso lahat.
“Stages yan, e. And I do understand. And I do understand na hindi madaling…
“Siyempre, siguro talagang... close naman si Robin at Rustom noon.
“I understand where Robin is coming from. It’s just that this is their reality now.”
BB assumes that perhaps this is her family’s “initial reaction to everything.”
The actress, paused pensively, and took back her last statement: “Though, what? It’s been three years? Or four years, actually, since I decided to be BB.”
Asked if she can openly talk about her sexuality with their mother, Eva, BB said yes: “Si Mama lang. Kaming dalawa yung nagkakausap. Siya yung nagsasabi sa akin, ‘O ganito, ganyan.’”
She then shifts back the topic to Robin, “Ang gusto ko talaga in the end, one day, I’m sure magkakausap kaming dalawa ni Robin na kaming dalawa yung nagkakaintindihan.
“Maiintindihan niya ako bilang si BB. At a, siguro naman hindi sarado yung puso niya.”