One series that I’ve been completely invested in is Almost Paradise, an engaging series that, along with being first rate escapist entertainment, places the Philippines front and center in its storyline. Christian Kane continues his collaboration with Dean Devlin (The Librarians, Leverage) with Almost Paradise, and he talked to us via Zoom about the family environment behind the program and why this has been a unique character for him to play.
Almost Paradise centers on Alex Walker (Christian Kane), a DEA agent who moves to the Philippines and opens a gift shop to escape the pressures of his previous job. His quest for peace is unintentionally upended when he helps two police detectives (Samantha Richelle, Arthur Acuña) fight crime in the surrounding area. The series, produced by Dean Devlin, airs on WGN America on Mondays (10/9c) and it also available for download on Amazon.
Can you talk about the Mabuhay spirit and was that a big part of what made the show a special experience?
Mabuhay is something that I didn’t know anything about until I got there. Of course it was scripted and I’m acting out stuff that has been written for me. And as I’m doing this, I’m realizing that I’m the only American here.
This Filipino crew and cast – they just embraced me. They knew I was away from home. They knew I was somewhere I had never been before working. I visited Boracay for like five days and now I’m (in the Philippines) for five months. And they just took me in and they embraced me. It felt like there was family. I never felt out of place; it actually felt like a home for me.
So while I’m acting this out, especially the first episode where we really talk about Mabuhay, I literally was experiencing that. Once I found out what it was to the script and to the acting, I noticed it in real life.
It’s true, man. It’s there. The spirituallness of these people. The friendships that I made and the family that took me in – that’s all Mabuhay and it’s a real thing out there. It does exist and I can tell you right now, it’s all around you.
What specifically works about your collaboration with Dean Devlin that works? And what do you find about his storytelling that sticks out for you?
Dean Devlin writes the movies that I grew up watching. He produces the movies I grew up watching. He’s one of the reasons why I wanted to become an actor.
When we started, it was over 13 years ago we did a show called Leverage. He cast me in that and we found this friendship and this way of me saying the words he was writing, and me acting stuff he was directing, and me just being the character he wanted me to be.
We both are cut from the same cloth. It’s so much fun to work with somebody like that because the reason I became an actor was to do stuff exactly like Leverage, exactly like The Librarians, and exactly like Almost Paradise.
When I get to do something I absolutely love, to get to do it on terms that I want . . . I just lucked out by meeting this man. He’s my boss and he’s also one of my best friends. It doesn’t get much better than that.
You’re fortunate enough to win the lottery and become an actor. But not a lot of people get all the roles that they want to play. I’m getting all those roles because I’m working for Dean Devlin.
I haven’t worked a day in my life for 13 years because when I show up for what they call work, it’s play for me. I was the 14-year-old kid who got down on his hands and knees and prayed to God that this would happen to him and I get to work with somebody who writes exactly what I want to do. I’m so fortunate in this business. I don’t know what I did, but I’ve been blessed.
That said, was it a challenge to play Alex because he’s a complicated character?
It was and the biggest obstacle I had to overcome there was the heat. For a hot natured guy like me, man it’s hot and it’s muggy. I was dealing with that body wise and then the fight stuff, everyone’s going to look at that as very physical, but I do that stuff for a living. I can do that with my eyes closed.
But the emotional side of this character, and the fact that he wears his heart on his sleeve and he rolls his sleeve up to show it, that was the fun part of playing this character. Instead of being the tough guy that swings all the time, he literally was just trying to cover up his insecurities and his downfalls with jokes and emotion.
It was fun to see where the comedy was coming from in a dire moment for him. Seeing where the tears were going to come from in a stressful situation and seeing how he acted to the other three beautiful actors (Samantha Richelle, Arthur Acuña, Nonie Buencamino) I was fortunate enough to work with who are all Filipino actors.
It was just absolutely outstanding to chase this character. A lot of times like The Librarians, they wrote that role for me. There was no problem trying to find that guy. And with Eliot Spencer (Leverage), me and him kind of grew up together, if you know what I mean. I had the same mentality as him. This guy was somebody different and I had to go search for him.
What is the key to surviving a long production when you are away from home?
Well it just depends. If you go into it with a positive mind and to me I didn’t really have to be away from home because a couple of weeks in, it really felt like a home. I had a lot of Filipinos around me that were just, like I said they made me feel like family.
It’s not a culture shock. It’s funny because you’re so far away and people look at it – if you go look at the map and look at the Philippines, you might say “My God you must have been so far away from what he knows and what he loves.” But it wasn’t.
We’re all people. It doesn’t matter where you go. Everybody speaks English there. I tried to learn some of the language and you make the best of what you can do. But if you’re going to get homesick, just remember, this is going to sound pretty bad, but there’s (numerous) other people in Los Angeles right now that would cut off their left arm to trade places with you.
The Philippines is pretty much a character in Almost Paradise, which is pretty great.
It is. The whole crew was Filipino and I’m the only American actor on the call sheet. We had some guest stars come in. We had two guys come in from America. Some came in from Australia and New Zealand. It’s a predominantly all Filipino project. My boss is half-Filipino and he really wanted to show the Philippines as a leading actor.
So the Philippines should have been on the call sheet because they are a leading actor on this. Like I talked about earlier, the spiritualness, the culture, the food, all of these are used in (the show). And Dean did a really good job in using (the Philippines) as a character and not just as a backdrop or a location. He used it as a character.
We’ve seen what Korea looks like. We’ve seen Japan. We’ve seen China. We’ve been to enough movies and TV shows to know what it looks like. There are some people who have never seen this part of the world and we get to take you there. We get to take you on a vacation every week and I couldn’t be more proud to be a tour guide.
Christian thank you so much and I appreciate you taking the time.
Thank you so much man and I appreciate talking to you. Thank you for your time as well.
*****To check out Christian Kane’s selection of his favorite movies, check out my Flick City post on my Find Your Seen blog.