There are a great many Filipino actors in American media and entertainment, though chances are you don’t know that they are of Filipino descent. We’re not entirely sure why, but many of the best Filipino actors have given not only incredible acting performances, but also have stellar voices, rivaling any of the best singers from other corners of the world. One of them, in fact, has sung not one but two of the most popular songs of the last two decades. From acting and singing to dancing and action, these Filipino actors give us full reason to expect an onslaught of even greater talent in the future.
Barbara Luna is one of the most accomplished stage actresses in the history of Broadway. Introduced to the stage early in life, she has made herself a master of some of the most classic and unforgettable musicals ever to be staged on Broadway. She has appeared in such shows as South Pacific, The King and I, West Side Story and A Chorus Line. She has also appeared in countless film and television roles, among them the following: The Devil at 4 O’Clock (opposite Frank Sinatra), Zorro, The Wild Wild West, Dallas, Hawaii Five-O, and Mission Impossible. One of the roles for which she is most remembered is that of Lt. Marlena Moreau in the original Star Trek series. She continues to reprise the role at Star Trek conventions to this day, delighting fans who memorialize her in the role.
Does the name Lea Salonga sound familiar to you? If it doesn’t, it should, as she has been the voice of two of the most popular Disney heroines in recent memory: Princess Jasmine of Aladdin and the lead character in Mulan. Yes, you read right: she is the singing voice behind Alan Menken’s immortal love ballad A Whole New World as well as Mulan’s powerful solo Reflection. They say that once an actor voices a Disney animated character he or she has achieved immortality, as the animation lives on forever. If that’s true, then Lea’s achieved double immortality! Even if she didn’t have the Disney credits to her name, she would still be a name to reckon with, as she won universal acclaim for the role of Kim in Broadway’s Miss Saigon. She won nearly every type of award one can win for her performance in Miss Saigon.
From the delicate sophistication of Lea Salonga we move on to the rough and tumble antics of Michael Copon, a young actor best known for his work on the children’s megahit television series Power Rangers. Though some parents may not have been big fans of the series, their kids certainly were, which explains why there were two television series and whole slew of films based on the popular franchise of high school kids turned super heroes. But Copon has also done much more than simply don the Power Ranger suit and kicked a few butts. He is also an accomplished singer (notice a pattern here?) and an actor, having appeared in series such as Scrubs and CSI: Miami. At just 27-years-old, you can expect big things in his future!
Alec Mapa is another one of those actors you instantly recognize the second you see him. He has been seen a lot in recent years on several of ABC’s hit dramas and comedies. He appeared as Gabby’s gay best friend on Desperate Housewives and had a hilarious recurring role as Suzuki St. Pierre on Ugly Betty. He’s also done small roles on shows such as Friends, Seinfeld, Dharma & Greg, Roseanne, NYPD Blue, and the Jamie Foxx Show. His first big break came on the stage when he was selected to replace B.D. Wong in M. Butterfly on Broadway. He is also a wildly popular stand-up comedian, something most people who have seen him on television assume anyway. His comic timing is second to none, as those of you who have seen him on Ugly Betty will surely attest. Comedy, drama, stage, television, musicals, stand up . . . what can’t he do?
Just like the other four accomplished actors and actresses discussed above, Paolo Montalban is one helluva gifted singer. He can carry any tune, as witnessed in his most popular role to date: Prince Charming in Disney’s live action remake of Cinderella starring Brandy and Whitney Houston. Ah, now you know who he is! He won many a heart playing the charming Prince. In fact, he was so in demand for the role that producers insisted on casting him in the stage version of the movie opposite Deborah Gibson and Jamie-Lynn Sigler. His other major credits include Mortal Kombat and Law & Order: SVU. A few years ago, he released an album in the Philippines to great success (we told you they can sing!). Born in the Philippines, he was raised in New York City near the Julliard School and the Lincoln Center. Maybe all that talent and artistry rubbed off on him!