Snarky remarks and snide laughter often comes first before they ask “Wait, are you serious?” when Jemuel Satumba shares that he’s an actor and that his true calling is either on a theater stage or in front of a camera. He’s had numerous supporting and starring roles in short films, including Cinemalaya 2019’s Audience Choice Award Winning “Heist School” , and a major role in Filipino streaming service iWantTV’s “Wild Little Love.” Catch him in Metro Manila Film Festival 2020 as Philip in the first Filipino movie in the boy’s love (BL) genre, “The Boy Foretold By The Stars”.
It’s a risky path that he’s chosen to take and Lemi had the opportunity to ask him how life’s gone since the day he decided a literal life of drama was the one he wanted. You can read more about Jemuel’s recommendations by following him on Lemi at @jcsatumba!
First of all, thank you so much for taking time out of your day for this interview.
It really is no problem. There’s not exactly a whole lot an actor can do during a lockdown.
Oh yeah, we can imagine. What have you been up to these days then?
Not much. A few online acting classes here and there. I’ve been reading a lot on how actors think, the art of the craft in general—just self reflection, really.
Alright, so let’s get started. What made you want to be an actor?
Back in high school, I was a dancer. When I got to college, I don’t really know what compelled me to change my creative outlet; but I decided to just pull the trigger and join the university theater guild. I didn’t really think much of it at the time, it was just something to have fun with. Right after graduating, I joined a production company, but not as an actor. I was the head stage manager, so I was making sure everything was running smoothly behind the scenes. In less than a year, though, I managed to land a part in a short film, and I’ve just been filming ever since.
Actually, back in college I didn’t really plan to pursue acting. My parents didn’t support me in this career path, and I don’t blame them. They’d much prefer if I tried for a more stable career choice. It’s just not practical to try and be an actor, especially in the Philippines. I got really lucky that opportunities happened for me.
Do you have any tips for new and aspiring actors?
For the new and maybe even the more experienced actors, it might be a good reminder that It’s important to know who you are. If you want to make it in the showbiz industry, you need to be truthful to yourself, on or off camera. Be a truthful person and be true to your character. Learn the ins and outs of the role you portray and do that role justice.
Another tip to keep in mind is always be prepared for your scenes. It doesn’t end at memorizing and delivering lines. There is a process. A long process that you should always prepare for. When you get a role or a script, eagerly study the role. Learn everything you possibly can. Dedicate the time to learn.
Lastly, and actually, I’d like to go in-depth on this in a list, but here’s the quick version. Absorb your surroundings. Feed off the energy of the world around you. A lot of my projects have been around the cities of Manila, which you’d think are all pretty samey; but each place is so unique with its own communities and cultures that it’s so easy to get lost in an entirely new world hiding right next door.
What are you looking to achieve long term?
I think a lot of people think actors are like these super egotistical people who aim to be big and famous, but I don’t think that’s the life I want. When I act, I’m not trying to put my name in lights. I’m doing this as a service, a performance of emotions. This art has the power to connect people and that, in itself, is a service. It’s extremely fulfilling as an artist.
As an artist, I’m not just expressing myself. I’m expressing the stories of other people—stories that they were brave enough to want to share with the world. I’m grateful that I get to be part of bringing that story to larger audiences. There’s a lot of stories that will never get told, but acting, performing, gives those stories a chance to spread like wildfire.
How has acting changed you on a personal level?
Actually, you’d think an actor would be extremely outspoken and lively, but I’m the complete opposite. I’m as introverted as they come, but I love talking to people. I love conversations about anything from the mundane to the extraordinary, but it’s hard to do that as an introvert. Acting lets me become someone completely different from who “normally” am. It’s like my mind just clicks. When I perform, I can see an extension of myself that gets to express feelings better than I could off-stage. With each play, story, film, etc., I create an entirely new persona and try to live vicariously through the art. I get to be someone else and I get a new perspective of the world.
What’s next for Jemuel the Artist?
Well, I think the vast majority of people can agree that the future is looking a little shaky right now. I’ve been very lucky to be given the opportunity to act. I even got to travel around a little bit thanks to acting, but this pandemic really hit me hard. I had a lot of shoots scheduled for this year, and this could’ve been a really big year for me, but now I’m stuck at home instead of getting to do what I love. I’ve been acting full-time for a while now, and so grateful that I’ve managed to support myself; but to be completely honest, I don’t think I can keep doing this full-time. I might venture off somewhere else to try and keep afloat, but the art of performing will always be my first love. I’ll keep on acting even if it isn’t as often. I’m not going to give up on my dream to showcase Filipino talent to the world. I’m going to elevate the art, and raise the public’s opinion of the art. I’m not looking to be famous. I’m going to bring stories.
Jemuel Satumba is on Lemi at @jcsatumba!