Tikbalangs and tiyanaks and duwendes, oh my.
Starting June 11, Filipinos and everyone else around the world will be introduced to the mysterious and magical world of Alexandra Trese in Trese, the new Netflix anime original based on a Philippine graphic novel series by Budjette Tan and KaJO Baldisimo. Its original English voice cast includes stars of Filipino descent like Shay Mitchell, Nicole Scherzinger, Manny Jacinto, and Darren Criss. Leading the Filipino voice cast is actress Liza Soberano, who voices detective Trese herself, taking on criminal cases with supernatural origins.
At a press roundtable, we catch up with Liza Soberano who voices the titular character before its premiere at the stroke of midnight on June 11. Read highlights of the interview as she shares about her favorite ‘Trese’ character, her own experience with the supernatural, and more:
Question: How’s the experience like doing voice acting for this role versus on-cam acting. Can you take us through your experience and the training that you had to do for the role?
Liza Soberano: At first, when I found out that I was going to be lending my voice to the character, Alexandra Trese, I was very nervous and hesitant. I was scared because it’s something new for me. It’s something that I’ve never done before. And obviously I I don’t want to fail anybody. I know that in the comic world, like a lot of comic book fans, they’re really diehard and they really are passionate and protective of the characters that they love and the stories that they love, as would any fan be. And so I was just afraid of the backlash that I would be getting from them if I don’t do justice to the role and everything. That’s why when I accepted it, I made sure that I did everything possible to prepare for it.
First, what I did to prepare was I practiced my Tagalog for two weeks straight. I made sure not to speak in English as much as possible with my family at home. And whenever people would call me on the phone and in Zoom interviews, I would try to use Tagalog talaga, para masanay na yung tongue ko. And then I also get some self-research on YouTube, like how voice acting works and what kind of setup they usually have. Just some tips and techniques and warm ups that you’re supposed to do when you’re going to go into voice acting. And then I also requested for workshop with my voice coach, Sir Rudolph [Baldonado], and he kind of guided me through the whole process and helped me give life to the character.
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What appealed to you most about Alexandra as a character?
I’ve always wanted to portray someone that is a superhero. Unfortunately I didn’t get to push through before with Darna. So when this was offered to me, I was like, maybe this is in a way kind of a replacement for what I wasn’t able to do before. I was very excited because I feel like this is a new superhero that a lot of Filipinos are going to look up to, especially women. Because she is a very brave and bad-ass chick, and it’s very cool to see a female like that. ‘Cause most of the times we see male detectives, and we always see these amazing male superheroes. But nowadays there’s more representation for women and good symbols or characters that represent how strong-willed women are and how courageous we are as well.
This is a role almost completely different from anything else that you’ve done previously. So how do you think your friends, your family, and of course, your fans will respond to this? Is this something you think that they’ll latch onto?
I think that it’s something that my fans are very excited about because like you said, this is something very different from anything I’ve ever done. And as a fan, you always want to see, or you always imagine your idol–that’s how I am with the people that I idolize–you always want to see them doing different things, getting outside of their comfort zones and just exploring. And I’m at that stage right now. And I can really see that my fans have been very supportive of that. And I guess they’re excited to see me in kind of like a more mature role and just something different from what they’ve witnessed before. And speaking in terms of the Philippines itself, I don’t think we’ve ever done or made anything like Trese yet. So, not just for my fans will it be something new, but for everyone in the Philippines, or everyone in the world.
What was it like stepping into the character or in the mindset of Alexandra Trese?
I was going through the comics, ’cause that’s the first thing I had. When it was offered to me, I didn’t really know anything about Trese, which I wish I did get to know earlier, because it’s such an amazing story. But while I was going through it, I was enjoying it with every page that I would turn. And I was really trying to dissect my character for different nuances and the different emotions that she was feeling and the different decisions she was making Because I wanted to get a sense of who she is aside from the obvious in the book, whatever’s stated in the book or in the script. Because, as like with any project that I do, whenever I get the script, of course, whatever is written there is like the bare minimum.
You have to create this whole backstory in the back of your head. You always have to think of like, what’s their favorite food, what’s their favorite color? What do they do on a daily basis? You have to create that in your brain so that you kind of have an idea of who she is as a whole, as a person. And that was very fun for me because she lives in such a magical world. And sometimes I wish we lived in something as magical as her world. And even though what she goes through is kind of scary because she’s of course battling out with these evil supernatural beings. It’s still kind of cool and kind of fun because you can see how she’s not that afraid of them because it’s something that’s so normal to her already.
And I kind of had to like treat it, like if I were Alexandra Trese, I have to make that become my norm as well. It has to become natural and normal to me as well. And, yeah, it was just so fun dissecting through her character because there’s a lot of depth to her. She went through a lot as a child. Basically from the minute she was born, her life was already planned out for her. Everybody knew what she was going to be and what she was meant to do. I just had really fun going through her in her mindset.
Were you also fascinated with Filipino urban legends and supernatural creatures growing up? Can you share maybe a story or something that fascinated you when you were a kid about our folklore?
I was always actually fascinated with like ghosts and supernatural beings ever since I was young. I’ve always been into like fantasy genres of movies and everything. So even in real life, I tried to kind of bring that universe into my world too. So I was the type of kid to always ask questions. And when I first came to the Philippines, when I was 10, my family here in the Philippines kind of introduced me to these mythological creatures, like the tiyanak, mga aswang, kapres, and the likes. And, to this day, there are some mythological creatures that I feel like maybe true. Like they may be real. But there are some that I don’t know–to see us to believe, I guess.
But I did have one encounter when I was in the province because I studied there for a year in Pangasinan. There was a time that I was getting sick every so often. And then one day I remember I woke up with a big scratch on my thigh. So my dad brought me to an albularyo and then the albularyo was doing all these rituals on me and then closed her eyes. And she was like, “There’s a kapre. There’s a kapre looking through her window in her room, may crush sa kanya yung kapre. [laughs] That’s what the albularyo was saying. Stop making sampay her panty outside, because anung gawin ng kapre to her panties. So that’s just one scenario or one thing that I actually, experienced. I don’t, say I would actually have an experience with the kapre itself. Aside from the fact that she said there was a kapre.
Trese will introduce Filipino folklore to the rest of the world, for probably the first time ever. Which mythological creature are you most excited for people abroad to meet? Or do you have a favorite character, aside from Alexandra?
I love a lot of the characters. One character that I love a lot is Nuno. He’s seen in the trailer. It’s just because he’s so funny to me! Because it’s like you have to bribe him to get something out of him all the time. Like you have to give him chocolate just so that you can get information from him. And I feel like I don’t want to say that it’s a very Filipino thing, but sometimes it kind of is! [laughs] If you think about it. Not only that, he’s just so fun, he brings so much fun to the story and so much humor to it as well as Crispin and Basilio.
Why do you think people should watch Trese?
I think people should watch Trese because it’s so rich in Filipino culture and Philippine mythology. I feel like it’s a very good representation, even though it’s based on fiction, it still has a lot of truth to it. If you guys have watched the series already, you guys can already see that there are so many scenes in which we can all relate to. Going back to the trailer, in the scene where the MRT breaks down along Guadalupe, that is something that happens a lot here in the Philippines. Not necessarily in Guadalupe all the time, but our MRTs and LRTs are always breaking down. And I’m sure a lot of people can relate to that.
That’s just one good example based on the trailer, but if you watch it more, there are a lot of other things that everyone can relate to. Every Filipino can relate to. And I’m just excited for more people, non-Filipinos alike, to be able to kind of dive into our culture and get to know more about us because the Filipino culture is so rich and so colorful. And I feel like it isn’t shown a lot on a global stage, not a lot of people know about it, and I believe they should know more about us and, and how creative and how amazing our Filipino artists and creatives are.
Now that you’re voicing Trese, how does it feel to be the voice of an animated character who is sure to become a Filipino pop culture icon?
I am so excited and I’m so honored in voicing Alexandra. Like I said earlier, she is such an amazing character and the story is such an amazing story. I wish I could say more, but that’s all I have to describe it. It’s amazing. It’s rich in Filipino culture and she definitely makes me proud and I’m just so happy to be part of this project that I feel will launch or become the stepping stone for Filipino entertainment to be showcased around the world.
With the adaptation of the comics, what are your hopes for the show and other Filipino stories that hopefully get the opportunity of being seen by a global audience?
Well, first of all, I really hope that of course Filipinos love it because this is kind of like paying tribute to everyone here in the Philippines. It’s the first Netflix anime original that is based on a Philippine graphic novel. And it’s something that everybody should be very proud about, but I hope that once the Filipinos here in the Philippines start loving it, I hope the Filipinos abroad also start loving it. And hopefully they can share it with their friends. That way, it gets introduced to not only Filipino people, but even Americans or whatever race it may be. I just want everybody to spread the news and spread awareness to it so that more people can have access and more knowledge about it. And hopefully people become interested in Filipinos, Philippine culture, Filipino entertainment, and maybe it can open doors for a lot more projects or other things for the Philippines.
TRESE is directed by Jay Oliva (Justice League Dark, The Legend of Korra) who also serves as its showrunner. All six episodes arrives on Netflix this June 11, 12am.