NICO Antonio is so lucky to be part of the 8-episode Korean action-drama series, “Big Bet”, that will be shown on the Disney+ channel starting December 21. Among the Pinoy actors in the series, he has the biggest role as Mark Flores, an anti-narcotics operative assigned to investigate the killings of Korean citizens in the Philippines.
Most of his scenes are with Son Suk-Ku (“My Liberation Notes”), the Korean cop sent to Manila who becomes his partner in conducting the investigation. Their main target is Choi Min Sik (“Old Boy”), a Korean gambling lord in Manila named Cha Mu Sik. The other Korean actors in the show are Lee Dong Hwi (“Extreme Job”), Heo Sung Tae and Kim Joo Ryung (both from “Squid Game”).
In January this year, he learned that a Korean company is auditioning local talents for a new project and he took the blind audition without even knowing what it’s all about.
“They gave me some lines which I memorized and then delivered it,” says Nico. “Then sabi nila, do you have an acting piece. I did the comic scene with John Arcilla in ‘Big Night’ na nagbabaril-barilan kami. Then they asked for another movie scene and I did the scene from the movie ‘Tandem’ that ends with “Putang-ina!’ Nagulat sila, masyadong intense ang delivery ko. They said thank you, we will just call you. Akala ko, wala na. But after a week they called back and the director, Kang Yoon Sung, interviewed me. Then they told me I got the role at kung sino ang mga makakasama ko. I was stunned kasi they’re all big Korean actors.”
His mother, Atty. Joji Villanueva-Alonso acts as his manager and she asked the director why they’re getting Nico.
“I was wondering kasi he’s not really that well known as an actor here,” says Atty. Joji. “The director told me, ‘Don’t worry. After this, he will be very popular’. He said Nico is a natural actor. He knows what good acting is all about it.”
Nico shot some of his scenes in Seoul where he stayed for 19 days in July. “Nakapaglibot ako sa Seoul and I also went to Busan,” he says.
So what’s the difference between Korean and local productions? “The big difference is they have more money, a bigger budget. For this series, they spent P1 billion no less. Some of the interior scenes meant to be shot in the Philippines, they re-created the sets in a huge sound studio. For the Bolton Casino na kinunan ang exteriors dito, they built an entire set inside the studio. Also, the office of our CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group), they built the set there. The action scenes are spectacular hard action talaga. It’s amazing how they do it.”
How is it working with the Korean actors? Is there a language barrier? “Yung lagi kong kaeksena, Son Suk-Ku, he stayed in the U.S. and studied there, so very fluent siya in English. He brought me to the talent agency managing him at siya ang biggest star nila. ‘Yung others, they also speak English but broken English. Lahat sila, mababait, very professional. In Seoul, they take me to dinner with them. Mahilig silang maglakad. Palipat-lipat sila ng restaurants in one night. Nakaka-four restaurants sila sa isang gabi.”
Nico’s career is really doing well as he has also taped for GMA Network’s coming big project, “Voltes V: Legacy”, where he plays the important role of Gen. Ozlack. He is also currently taping for “Darna”. Nico is married to Angel Garces and they have two boys: Josiah, 10, and Jacob, 5. He is the eldest son of Atty. Joji and his siblings are all lawyers like their mom. Does he somehow regret that he’s not a lawyer?
“No regrets at all. I love what I’m doing. I took up law in college but I didn’t take the bar as I’m already into acting. I’m just like my mom. She comes from a family of scientists at siya lang ang naging lawyer. Pareho kaming nalihis.”