During a set visit early this month, actor-turned-politician Arjo Atayde was all muddy and “bloody” when he said “hi.” Drenched by artificial rain, Arjo was rehearsing punches with co-star Sid Lucero for an action scene under a rain rig. He is top-billing the family-produced action movie Topakk.
Having observed his showbiz journey from the time he starred as Jepoy in the ABS-CBN series E-boy more than a decade ago and was given a big break via Dugong Buhay, it was a delight to see Arjo coming into his own and wearing another hat. He juggles being an actor-producer with being the representative of Quezon City’s 1st congressional district.
“We’re here to push Filipino quality films and series,” the award-winning actor shared the vision of Nathan Studios, a family-owned production company. He co-owns the company with his sister Ria, mom Sylvia [Sanchez], and dad Art.
Arjo revealed that producing has long been suggested by his mom but it only went into fruition after the ABS-CBN shutdown. The network that has become home to the Ataydes lost its franchise in 2020.
Named after the street where Arjo and his siblings grew up, Nathan Studios is a form of homage to their childhood. Nathan has been handling production projects before Topakk and the list includes the thriller series Cattleya Killer, a co-production with ABS-CBN International Productions.
Topakk features Arjo in his first mainstream starring role. The project came after he made history as the first Filipino to win Best Actor at the 3rd Asian Academy Creative Awards in 2020. Arjo’s portrayal of “Bagman” Benjo Malaya in the crime drama thriller was so effective that he bested the most respected actors from all over Asia.
With Topakk, Nathan Studios’ recent project, Arjo and the team are taking a chance on tackling fresh issues in the action genre.
“We are dealing with some things that have never been or are not usually tackled in films,” Arjo introduced. The upcoming movie which also stars Julia Montes and is directed by Richard Somes dives deep into post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, a condition commonly acquired by men in uniform as they get into battles and fight for the safety and security of the nation.
Topakk is the story of a former special forces operative suffering from PTSD who – in his bid for redemption as a security guard – attempts to save the life of a woman being hunted down by a corrupt police death squad working for a drug cartel. The twisted narrative finds Arjo’s character waging war between his inner demons and those that exist in reality.
To prepare for his role, Arjo did his homework. “I watched different videos on YouTube. I don’t peg but I observe depending on the situation. I definitely studied [my role] through videos. That’s the only way I had since I had a lot of work to do,” Arjo shared. He playfully added while pretending to push buttons on an imaginary tablet, “YouTube time! I watched videos before sleeping. It was my assignment.”
Arjo admitted his contribution to the production business is limited to providing creative insights and concepts during family discussions as he takes public service seriously. Asked if he ever gets confused juggling three jobs, Arjo gave a quick no. “No, no, no. At the end of the day, this is my playground. I know work is work. I enjoy what I’m doing and I learned a lot of things through the years,” he smilingly explained.
Given the wealth of learning, it made me wonder what hack Arjo has unlocked to make the most out of his 24 hours a day. I was curious about how he is taking care of his well-being while working on different roles that demand a lot.
I can clearly remember how Arjo’s intense role as Joaquin in the record-breaking and top-rating primetime series FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano was so heavy that it took time for him to completely detach from it. This time, he knows better.
“I take a day off at least once a week, at least Sunday, unless there’s an important event in the district,” Arjo was thrilled to share. “I relax on a Sunday and spend some family time. I make sure to work from Monday to Saturday so I have to breathe,” he added.
There is so much to watch out for in terms of Arjo’s career and even personal life. Friends and fans are beyond thrilled when he and host-actress Maine Mendoza got engaged last year. There is a huge chance the much-awaited wedding is happening this year.