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V animated

V animated
Thunder Road
By James Gabrillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Last updated 01:10:00 11/15/2008

VAN Ness Wu isn’t two steps through the door before I understand his entire career. On paper, his clean-cut all-Asian good looks make him an unlikely choice to play a suave university student in the wildly popular Taiwanese idol series “Meteor Garden.” Earlier this year we saw him play a part in the epic period film “Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon.” He’s one-fourth of the pop music group F4, now known as JYKV. Why then, you have to wonder, the need to play a guy who experiences an emotional rollercoaster so vigorous and never-before-seen that I’m actually quite nervous for Animax.

In “LaMB,” Van Ness lends his voice to bring to life the character of Dr. Jack Griswold, a man suffering the pain and despair of moving on after the loss of his wife, the struggle against the system of virtual imprisonment, and the helplessness and anguish of his seemingly doomed romance with a prisoner named Eve. Clearly, this is a character unlike those he played before.

But Van Ness says this one is something he’s truly proud of. “I’m very excited about my involvement,” he tells me in an exclusive interview. “Jack is a very complex character with many facets and strong emotions, and I am looking forward to meeting the challenges to bring him to life.”

F4 in 2D

When the producers of the series approached Van Ness and offered him the role, he found it such a privilege. Van Ness admits that ironically, while his face won’t be seen on screen, he thinks this is one role critics and fans will remember him playing.

“To be a part of any type of animation project is nothing but a dream come true,” he says. “I love the way that animation is able to create different worlds, different times. It challenges you to explore the imagination.”

Not surprising to hear from someone who grew up glued to varied Japanese animated series. “Ninja School, Akira, Gunbuster, Robotech, Naruto, Evangelion, Samurai Champloo—the list goes on and on,” he recalls. “I’m a big dork and a bit of a nerd. When I was young my cousins and I were too involved with gadgets and we were all crazy over animation.”

Dub-le trouble

While recording his dubs, Van Ness got entangled with a little challenge that he never foresaw—bringing out the extra dark emotions the role demands while caged inside a small, cold audio booth.

“There were no actors or actresses that were picked at that time. So pretty much the only other sound I was hearing was from the vocal producer at the other room,” he says. “And sometimes the simple throwaway lines like ‘I like to get a cup of water’ are the hardest to say.”

Silence of the LaMB

A few hours after I talked to him, I caught him being interviewed on television. It was a press conference—probably his one hundredth in the last week, I thought. When Van Ness entered the room, he walked with his head bowed down and eyes turned inward. Later he revealed that perhaps he got too burdened by inner turmoil after internalizing his character too much.

He kept his olive-drab military cap on backwards as he slid quietly on the spotlight, so only a few wisps of his auburn hair slipped free. The high cheekbones suddenly seemed skeletal, the large eyes clouded. While "LaMB" is a project for young audiences, Van Ness seems very much aware that this is his most mature role to date.

I continued to watch the press con. When someone asked about his childhood addiction to anything animated, Van Ness’ face lit up. It was one of only a handful of smiles I got to witness, but the effect is as remarkable as it is disconnected: his eyes clear, his body slouching rakishly against the chair. For the moment, he was easy-going and seemed to have no idea.

All grown up

As the press con wrapped up and I recalled our conversation early that day, I thought that Van Ness Wu is a likeable chap, if a little guarded. He tells you, “I’m guarded” and crosses his arms over himself. Then he tries, with admirable humanity, to un-guard himself for you.

The more mature Van Ness Wu is a Van Ness Wu who seems to have traded vanity in for something more useful: a color-palette of nuances and delicately tuned emotional truths. You don’t have to be an actor or a Buddhist to notice that he has impressive interior design—he’s done a dutiful job of his own character construction.

Not that he couldn’t still be vain if he felt like it. He still has movie-star good looks. He just prefers to wear it inside out these days. He’s filled up now, and looks better than ever.

“LaMB,” Animax Asia’s first HD original animation production, is premiering in early 2009 across Asia. It is based on the award-winning script submitted by Filipino viewer and amateur writer Carmelo Juinio to the Animax Awards 2007 pan-Asia scriptwriting contest.



Azrael Coladilla said...

alam ko yan LamB ng Animax.
gawa ng pinoy yan e.

pero buti na lang at sya yung nanalo hehhehee sa animation script contest.

meron ba Friendster fan page si Vanness?? pwede nyo pala icheck ang Friendster nyo sa Globe.

heto details para sa mga naka Globe

my_misyel said... not sure though if it's really him.