Aldrin Bundoc developed a love for performing in high school, pouring over epic escapist films like The Lord of the Rings. He had little to no Filipino representation onscreen to derive inspiration from, but Aldrin forged ahead, graduating from George Brown Theatre Conservatory.
Now, after amassing a significant body of work, Aldrin will star in Abroad, a satirical sketch comedy series that delves into how Filipino immigrants think, feel and deal with living in Canada. He plays a variety of characters in the series.
Recently, I had the privilege of chatting with Aldrin about his roles on Abroad, the importance of Filipino representation, relearning Tagalog, what’s on the horizon for him and more.
This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.
Melody McCune: We at GGA love a good origin story. What’s Aldrin Bundoc’s origin story?
Aldrin Bundoc: I was a big theater nerd in high school, watching many movies. At the time, in the early 2000s, I had no idea it was possible. There weren’t a lot of Filipino actors or celebrities at the time.
After high school, I told my mom I wanted to be an actor, and she was like, “Is that even possible?” So, I went into it blindly. I also remember being fascinated with The Lord of the Rings, and I almost believed it was from another time. When I was younger, I was like, “Where did they get this footage?” That was another aspect of what made me want to pursue acting.
MM: Let’s talk about Abroad. Can you tell me how you got involved with the project and what it’s about?
AB: Abroad is a comedy sketch series about the Filipino-Canadian immigrant experience. I’m one of the ensemble members. There are five Tagalog-speaking actors, and we do these written sketches. We get to perform these characters with Filipino identities and perspectives. It’s refreshing and one of a kind.
I’m proud to be a part of it. They wanted us to audition with a couple of the sketches they wrote, and one of them was transcribed to Tagalog.
I was like, “I don’t speak Tagalog.” I know how it’s supposed to sound; I can understand it, but I’m not a fluent speaker. I had to learn how to speak and act in another language.
It was nerve-wracking. It required a lot of phonetic work and acting training. To sum it up, the ability to speak, act and be funny in a different language. It was probably the most challenging experience for me.
MM: Can you talk about one of the characters you portray in Abroad?
AB: I played Dr. Hernando, who is a soap-opera-style evil doctor, and it was my favorite character to play. In the sketch, I attempt to kill Izzy’s (Isabel Kanaan) boyfriend to get to Izzy.
MM: Describe the series using three words.
AB: Revolutionary, fun and relatable.
MM: What can audiences expect from the show?
AB: I think there are a lot of different, unique Filipino characters they probably haven’t seen on TV before. That’s something that’s going to be refreshing. We had a lot of fun on this show. It was a beautiful experience. I hope that chemistry translates onscreen.
MM: Since the show shines a light on the Filipino immigrant experience in Canada, does this inspire you to create more space for Filipino rep in entertainment?
AB: Absolutely. I’ve learned from this experience that I can take up more space, and people are looking forward to hearing about our experiences. I think the industry didn’t know how to carve that space or whether or not it was going to be something sellable.
MM: What do you hope audiences glean from Abroad?
AB: I think there’s a lot about Filipino culture that people might not know. They might have Filipino friends and know Filipino people, but this is us as Filipinos finding the light on our culture and being able to make fun of ourselves. It’s our voice and our perspective.
During filming, one of the custodians, who was Filipino, asked us what the show was about. We told him it was about the Filipino-Canadian experience, and we showed him one of the pages of the script. It was in Tagalog, and he started to laugh.
That was the first time I was like, “This is why we’re doing it for people.” People like that Filipino custodian hadn’t felt represented on TV. The fact he could laugh at these jokes and be like, “This is me, this is my culture. I know exactly what this is” meant a lot to me.
MM: Are there similarities between physical theater and sketch comedy?
AB: The process was a bit different for physical theater. With physical theater, I try to work from an organic place to figure out where the breath is and figure out organically where the body wants to go next. But for sketch comedy, it was about acting it with confidence because the sets have already been written. I worked a lot on the language. That was very hard.
MM: Can you elaborate on your experience with speaking Tagalog?
AB: I had never been asked to speak in Tagalog before. I talked to Izzy, the lead and creator, and told her I was scared.
They transcribed the language into Tagalog, and it was almost Shakespearean, in a way. I say it’s Shakespearean because every word had a rhythm, like DNA or an etymology, that I had to understand. I had to practice the sounds of every word and the rhythm and then inhabit that in my body and get it to a place where I could freely express it without thinking about it.
It was interesting to tap into that aspect. I was telling a friend that it was like there was a part of me I hadn’t visited in a long while. I spoke Tagalog when I emigrated from the Philippines to Canada with my family when I was five years old. But after that, I learned English and assimilated into this culture. It was like an unvisited skill I had.
It almost made me feel like I was in between worlds. Yes, I’m an English speaker, but I didn’t grow up with that. My native tongue is Tagalog, but I’m no longer speaking that. Am I an actual English speaker, or am I a Tagalog speaker? Weirdly, I had to adapt.
MM: You felt like you were in limbo. Stuck between two identities.
AB: Absolutely. I think that’s a perspective of the immigrant experience. You’re leaving one and taking on another, and then you’re in between these two identities. But each country has a different economic, cultural, and, of course, a different history. So, here you are, trying to navigate both and survive. I think it will be fascinating to shine some light on for Abroad.
MM: Do you have advice for aspiring creatives looking to break into the industry?
AB: This has to be something you want to do because, as I said, the Filipino people I worked with stuck around and committed to being an actor. They didn’t give up. They are finally getting a break or being the lead on a show and proving their talent here.
I think it’s a matter of working on your craft and knowing what you want from the industry.
MM: What else is on the horizon for you, career-wise?
AB: I have this show called Slo Pitch, coming out around June. It’s a comedy mockumentary series about an LGBTQIA+ softball league. I just finished filming a short called Save the Date, and it will release at the Inside Out Film Festival.
MM: Have you binge-watched anything interesting lately?
AB: I don’t watch many TV series, but I like to watch films, and I did re-watch all the Scream movies. I’m a huge fan of Scream. It’s so nostalgic for me.
MM: Name your top five favorite films.
MM: Thank you so much for chatting with me, Aldrin! Congratulations on Abroad!
AB: Thank you, Melody!