Kate Valdez' piercing eyes mirror the darkened soul of her character, the troubled Natalie on the Philippine soap opera Onanay, broadcast on GMA. Serving as the show's teenage villain or kontrabida, Natalie is ironically the character most worthy of sympathy. Valdez' sensitive portrayal reveals the broken heart in her core, hidden beneath the veneer of narcissism and treachery essentially inherited from her upbringing.
Blinded after being left behind on an deserted island, Valdez captures her pain with agonized realism. Watch carefully as her eyes point randomly, giving the illusion of having no eyesight with vivid sharpness. For an actress who is only 18, Valdez displays remarkable maturity in the role. Like Natalie herself, there is a depth to Valdez beyond her stunning beauty. Valdez' Instagram appeal vaults her as the Philippine idol, but there is an It quality to her that has the potential to cross overseas. Kate Bishop, the female Hawkeye, has yet to appear in the MCU, but Valdez would be the perfect actress to capture her infectious mix of spunk and snark. There is an undeniable physical resemblance to Bishop as well -- the long dark hair and incandescent smile. With Marvel Studios opening the doors to Asian actors, Valdez has the pristine looks, youthful exuberance, and sharp acting skills to break through into that world and onto Young Avengers.
Valdez is a star who also sparkles from within, displaying class, warmth, and a humble nature in this interview.
Mikey Sutton: You made your professional acting debut in Destiny Rose in 2015. Prior to that, when did you realize that becoming an actress was a career path you wanted to pursue?
Kate Valdez: To be honest, I wasn't expecting that I'd be given the role. I was still doing workshops when they told me that I will play the part of Violet in Destiny Rose. I was nervous, but I'm glad it happened. As I do more shows and projects, I realized that this is what I really want to do. And I am willing to work hard on improving myself and my work as an actress.
M: How did GMA discover you?
K: I initially wanted to be a model. I was regularly doing casting calls and go-sees when after a gig, someone from the GMA Artist Center came up to me and gave me a calling card. As I was waiting for a call back from the clothing brand I auditioned for, I remembered the GMA Artist Center. So I tried my luck, had my VTR taken, and it was fortunate that I got called several times for screenings with GMA executives. Then, after a month, the GMA Artist Center offered me a management contract.
M: Your character on Onanay, Natalie, balances light and darkness. On one hand, she is self-centered and bullying, but there is a tenderness beneath that abusive exterior that hides the real person in her heart. Is it challenging to bring out both sides of the character? How do you prepare for the role?
K: My character in Onanay is very challenging for me because Natalie has a very dynamic personality. She could be cunning and unreasonable, but she is also loving and kind. However, being the antagonist is more difficult because I have to convince the audience that I am a bad person. I am thankful for the guidance that director Gina Alajar has been giving me so I can portray my role well.
M: What caught my attention about your acting in Onanay is that you remind me of American actress Camila Mendes, who plays Veronica Lodge in the Riverdale TV show. Both of you have expressive eyebrows, and that balance of sultriness and innocence. Do you have fun playing the bad girl?
K: Thank you, sir! At first I was afraid to be the kontrabida because it's intimidating to receive mean comments. But I am slowly learning that this is a craft and being able to portray any character is something to be proud of. For the comments, I realized that it helps also with my performance. I can also handle them well because of the help of my mom, co-actors, friends and my management.
M: Your acting when you lose your eyesight in Onanay is sensational. You sell it so well with how your eyes are not directed toward anyone, like you really are blind. How much practicing did you need to do to pull that off?
K: I have to give director Gina Alajar my big thanks because she has been with me in every step of the way. She helps me bring out the best version of myself, and I am humbled that I was able to move the audience with that performance.
M: You're surrounded by powerhouse Filipina icons on Onanay - Gina Alajar is one of your directors, and Nora Aunor and Cherie Gil are in your cast. What kind of advice have you received from them?
K: Ms. Cherie Gil is an inspiration when it comes to being a professional, and I look up to her a lot. As for Direk Gina, I learned that she always looks for the actor's eyes. She has to see it and feel it in their eyes. Ms. Nora Aunor is not the Superstar for nothing -- she is humble, professional, and very generous in giving advice to her cast. I feel so lucky to be part of Onanay.
M: Of all the characters on Onanay, Natalie is the one I have the most sympathy for. I feel she became that way because of how she was raised. Do you think that is the case, too? Do you feel she is simply misunderstood?
K: Yes, that's right! Thank you, sir. Natalie is misunderstood and had no choice but to adapt the personality and beliefs of the people who raised her. Her perspective is based on the privilege she had growing up. But deep inside, she has a good heart. And that is what we need to wait for -- how she would show the kindness she had all along.
M: What are your current goals as an actress?
K: As an actress, my goals are to play challenging roles, to work with respected actors, and to keep myself motivated and happy to work. Also, the most important thing for me is to have time with my family despite my busy schedule, and to surround myself with positive people.
M:Have you thought about becoming an actress in Hollywood? A few days ago, a friend of mine who works for Marvel asked me who I'd think should play Kate Bishop from the Young Avengers in a movie. I mentioned you immediately as Marvel is looking for Asian actors for their Master of Kung Fu film. They're going in that direction. Would you dream of being in a Disney/Marvel movie?
K: Wow, thank you for believing in me, Mr. Sutton. That would definitely be a dream come true! To have the opportunity to play an Asian character in the Disney/Marvel franchise would be such an honor.
Thank you again, Mr. Sutton, for this interview. I hope to meet you soon. God bless and more power to you!
(Special thanks to Christelle Mamaril, Pau Ducay, and Noel Layon Flores for the arrangement, and Kate Valdez for her kindness and professionalism.)
Writer/editor Mikey Sutton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.