Unlike other actors who were discovered by talent managers or casting agents, TJ Trinidad sought out to make a name for himself in the dog-eat-dog world of local showbiz. Three years ago, he approached Edu Manzano, a family friend, and asked about his chances of making it in the business. Seeing TJ's huge potential, Edu introduced him to his manager, June Rufino. It was also Edu who encouraged TJ to try acting.
"I looked for showbiz because I really wanted to become an actor," says the 29-year-old TJ. "I didn't wait to be discovered. I bravely tried my luck and thankfully, I have been given a chance. It has been rewarding for me, so far."
Armed with requisite good looks and talent to become a star, plus a college diploma to boot, the hazel-eyed TJ dauntlessly joined showbiz with much promise. However, he is not totally alien to acting. In school at Colegio de San Agustin where he finished high school and De La Salle University where he completed a marketing degree, TJ acted in plays. He was also a member of a parish theater youth group in Alabang, where his family resides. They did mostly fund-raising plays during the holiday season.
Before his showbiz salvo, TJ also appeared in more than a dozen TV commercials, which he had been doing since he was a kid. Among his popular TV spots were for San Miguel Beer and Swatch.
So far, TJ has done three films. He made his big screen debut as a killer in Quark Henares' award-winning film, Keka . TJ also appeared in two Joel Lamangan flicks I Will Survive and Aishete Imasu.
He starred with Judy Ann Santos and Robin Padilla in ABS-CBN's primetime series, Basta't Kasama Kita, where he played Judy Ann's chef-friend who secretly admired her. Next came another chance to work with Judy Ann in the fanta-serye, Krystala . In being paired with the actress, TJ inevitably got romantically linked with her, a rumor which he simply laughs off to this day.
"Juday and I are good friends," TJ grants. "We stay in touch. She was a very nice co-worker and is a very nice person, too. I'm happy to have been given a chance to work with her and I will not think twice about working with her again, on TV or in the movies."
Except for the gossip about his "romance" with Judy Ann, TJ is relieved he has not gotten enmeshed in any controversy. "There were a few negative write-ups in the past, but I took them with a grain of salt," he says. "So far, I haven't experienced any issue that has been intolerable."
Recently, TJ got the biggest break in his acting career as he plays leading man to Kristine Hermosa in ABS-CBN's remake of the 70s drama series, Gulong ng Palad. And the actor cannot be thankful enough.
"It's fantastic to be in the cast of this soap," TJ beams, referring to Gulong ng Palad . "Acting is what I really want to do. After Krystala ended last year, I wasn't sure on what to do. I auditioned for Gulong and luckily, I bagged the role as Kristine's leading man. The cast and crew are all working hard to make Gulong a success."
Directed by Jerome Pobocan and Erick Salud, the new Gulong ng Palad brings gloss to what was once a radio serial in the 50s and a TV gem in the late 70s. The current TV version brings the story up to date with the times, while preserving the core values that made the story a favorite for viewers all these years and adding ABS-CBN's trademark "film-style" look to the series.
Aside from acting, TJ is also passionate about music. In fact, he has a new band, Mofo, which replaced his previous group, Heavy Traffic. He counts Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Doors as his main influences. Ditto, he also goes for grunge music, as well as the early 90s tunes of Nirvana and Incubus or 80s glam rock bands like White Snake and Poison. Quite diversely, TJ adores Broadway classics, perhaps because of his theater experience.
"For my immediate plan, my band mates and I would like to record an album and hopefully, I want to perform in a theater production with Cherie Gil," TJ allows. "Music makes me express myself. Acting is an outlet and a challenge for me. I have crying scenes in Gulong ng Palad . It's a good way to let out your frustrations in life. I also want to work with a lot of other people in the business, like Bea Alonzo and Claudine Barretto."
As in the original radio and TV series, Gulong ng Palad tells the story of Luisa (Kristine Hermosa), the daughter of a poor family, who, along with her brother, vowed to save her family from poverty. In the original version, the role of Luisa was portrayed by Marianne de la Riva. TJ plays Carding, the Ronald Corveau character. Edad is Rio Locsin, formerly portrayed by Caridad Sanchez, while Emong, formerly played by Augusto Victa, is Joel Torre. They are Luisa's parents.
The precocious Peping, Romnick Sarmenta's erstwhile character, is portrayed by Star Circle Quest Kids grand champion Nash Aguas. Menang, formerly essayed by Tita de Villa, is now the role of Cherie Gil. Mimi, which Beth Bautista popularized, is played today by Andrea del Rosario.
Joross Gamboa is Totoy. Hazel Ann Mendoza is Nene. Luis Alandy and Roxanne Guinoo play Diego and Jojo, siblings who are neighbors of Luisa's family. They are new characters in the latest version. Tuesday Vargas is Saling, Luisa's best friend; and Raquel Villavicencio is Carmela, Mimi's mother. Others in the cast are Lito Pimentel, Amy Perez, Myco Aquino, Denise Joaquin, Mish Maravilla, TV Idol champion Ahron Villena and Pinoy Big Brother housemate Rico Barrera.
Gulong ng Palad creative consultant Loida Viria hopes the drama series will mark a return to old-fashioned Filipino core values of family, love, loyalty and forgiveness important traits in these times of permissiveness and alienation.
Viria was the original head writer of the megahit 70s soap, but she has a history with the project that stretches back for more than five decades, starting with the radio serial in 1949.
Viria herself played Luisa in the radio version of Gulong ng Palad , written by her sister, Lina Flor. It was the most popular daily series in its time, airing in 15-minute segments. In 1977, Viria took over as head writer for the TV version, which quickly became a widely followed primetime series directed by the late Marcial Sanson.
Deo Endrinal is business unit head of Gulong ng Palad, with Joan del Rosario as executive producer and Rondel Lindayag as creative manager.