“Maria Clara at Ibarra” was supposed to be David Licauco’s “one last hurrah.”
Disheartened by his seemingly stagnating career, the 28-year-old actor was ready to call it quits with show biz last year. However, the unexpected success of the said GMA 7 series and his screen tandem with Barbie Forteza had David changing his tune, his talent manager, Arnold Vegafria, said.
“He was thinking of focusing on his businesses instead. He felt that nothing was happening with his career, that it’s stagnant, not moving. He has been raring to do lead roles in a soap opera, but he couldn’t land any. ‘Maria Clara at Ibarra’ was supposed to be his last hurrah,” Vegafria told a small group of reporters in a recent chat.
In fact, David and his team weren’t even planning on accepting the role of Fidel, the haughty best friend of Crisostomo Ibarra (Dennis Trillo). “But GMA 7 managed to convince us. And we’re like, ‘OK, why not give it a shot? Let’s see … we might get lucky this time,” said Vegafria, who heads the management company ALV Talent Circuit. They did.
Good portrayal and chemistry
Fidel was originally meant to be nothing more than a supporting character. But when the creative team behind the series realized that his scenes and the funny cat-and-mouse dynamic he had with Klay (Barbie) were gaining traction among fans, they adjusted the script accordingly. “I told David, ‘Even if it’s just a supporting role,’ try to get noticed. Show them what you can do. Study your role well. Magpa-cute ka!’” Vegafrida related. “We didn’t expect that the show and characters would click. David delivered a good portrayal. He also had chemistry with Barbie.”
“That’s why they had to make some rewrites,” he added. “There was luck involved, too. But of course, David’s dedication and hard work were also big factors … ‘So, hindi ka na hihinto [sa show biz]?’ I asked him. ‘Dire-diretso na tayo.’”
Prior to his recent career breakthrough, the only way David could land a starring role, Vegafria admitted, was if they themselves produced the project he would star in. At the moment, he top bills with Barbie the weekly anthology “Daig Kayo ng Lola Ko.” The “FiLay” love team is also set to shoot a film and another series.
“Back then, we used to have a hard time landing roles. I had to beg networks to give him a role. Or we had to produce a movie for him so he could get noticed,” Vegafria related. “But I still believed in him. And if I believe in an artist, I’m very passionate. I will really push for him. I saw that he has the X factor and that I can do something to help him.”
For the longest time, David’s image has been that of a hunky chinito heartthrob. Fans gush over his physique that he flaunts in sexy photo shoots and advertisements. But now that he’s dubbed “Pambansang Ginoo” and has attracted a lot of teenage girls and young fans, his team thought it was only prudent that David stopped modeling for a big clothing brand’s underwear line. “Of course, if he goes to the beach, for example, it’s only natural for him to go topless. But we also have to listen to the children and the teenagers who look up to him as a role model,” Vegafria pointed out.
“It was our personal choice. We talked to the brand and they understood everything. They pulled him out from the underwear line. In exchange, they intend to make him one of the faces of the brand’s main line, as well as the skin care, hair care, activewear lines,” Vegafria said. “So from one [endorsement], he now has four.”
One of the things Vegafria admires most about David’s recent rise to fame is his humility. “Usually, popularity breeds inflated egos. But it’s the opposite with David. He’s the kind of person who became even more humble after achieving fame,” he said.