Five young actors were tasked with leading GMA’s historic, biggest and most ambitious series to date, no pressure.
Adaptation. It’s a word that can cause people to rejoice in glee or wince in fear. After all, hearing that a beloved series is getting remade into a new medium isn’t welcome news to most fans. So, when GMA announced in early 2020 that they were adapting the Voltes V anime into a live-action series, the broadcast company was entering a cultural landmine with little room for error. Anime has always been a popular genre among Filipinos, but Voltes V stood out among its contemporaries.
MIGUEL WEARS RED BUTTON DOWN TOP BY CHRIS DIAZ, RAPHAEL WEARS A RINGER TEE AND SHORTS FROM HUMAN, MATT WEARS A KNIT SWEATER FROM URBAN REVIVO AND GREEN POLO SHIRT FROM H&M, RADSON WEARS A SUEDE FRINGE JACKET BY NERIC BELTRAN AND PATCHWORK PANTS BY KRISTINE ORDINARIO
The classic, which initially aired in Japan from 1977-1978, became a favorite among many Filipinos. The story of a group of teens and their allies using advanced robots to stop the Boazanians from taking over the planet was the must-see show in the country until it was banned from airing during the Marcos Sr. dictatorship. Still, that didn’t stop the youth of then from fawning over the show. And thanks to re-runs and dubbed versions in the decades since, generations of Filipinos have come to revere Voltes V in Pinoy culture.
To adapt such a series can be a risky move. But the team behind Voltes V: Legacy approached the adaptation with respect all while looking to deliver a project for the new generation. And at the heart of it all is the core five team, who are played by actors who know the history they are stepping into.
TIME TO VOLT IN
Voltes V: Legacy has many moving parts to it, but one of its main pillars is the lead characters. Brothers Steve Armstrong, Big Bert, and Little Jon, and their friends, Mark Gordon and Jamie Robinson, are the centerpiece of the adaptation. The production team needed to cast the right actors for the roles, and the audition process led them to five actors as diverse as the characters they play with Miguel Tanfelix playing Steve, Ysabel Ortega bringing to life Jamie, Radson Flores taking on Mark, Matt Lozano embodying Big Bert, and Raphael Landicho rounding out the crew as Little Jon.
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Before their casting, the stars had varied recollections when it came to the mecha anime. “Nakikita ko lang siya [on TV] before I go to school,” recalls Miguel. Matt watched the 90s Tagalog dub version, Radson lived in a family who loved the show, Ysabel was familiar with the series’ cultural impact, and Raphael didn’t know much of it. Each actor also had their own story on how they were cast on the show.
Initially, Miguel was supposed to play another character, so his turn as team leader Steve Armstrong came as a surprise. Ysabel was the last person to audition for Jamie and tried out for the role on the very last day of auditions at the behest of her handler. Matt, meanwhile, felt that an acting career was no longer an option because of his pivot to music in 2016. An audition for Big Bert proved otherwise.
VELVET CUTOUT TOP URBAN REVIVO
But while their stories are varied, they all shared the common fact that they knew how big of a deal it was to take on one of the lead roles. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and as an anime fan, it’s a dream come true,” shares Radson, who noted that he experienced surprise, fear, and happiness at the same time. Ysabel adds, “I already knew how big of the deal it was. Jamie is the only woman in the team, so I feel like it’s going to be a good way to represent women in the show.”
Needless to say, these young actors had their work cut out for them. And like with the training, trials, and tests the Voltes team had to go through in the anime, the young actors were about to enter a gauntlet of a production.
BLOOD, SWEAT, AND TEARS
To say that the cast prepared for their roles is an understatement. “I think one of the things that all five of us did together was overprepare,” declares Ysabel. Not only did they rewatch the anime, and in Matt’s case, three times, but they also worked with the series’ director and avid Voltes V fan Mark Reyes to properly figure out their characters. The production team wasn’t going to skimp on this 100% Filipino-made adaption. Sets, costumes, and props were being built from the ground up. The locally-made CGI and VFX were given the proper time and budget to make them right, an admittedly rare occasion in the local industry.
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Everything was coming into place that made for one of the most ambitious local TV productions in Philippine history. That is, until, COVID-19 came in early 2020 and proceeded to delay the show’s filming to 2021. Still, that wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of the main cast. When it was time to step on set, the five young actors were transported into recreations of iconic Voltes V locations. It was an overwhelming yet fun experience.
“Parang naging bata ako,” recalls Matt on his time on set. “I felt like I powered up, I felt like a superhero,” is what Raphael expresses on what it was like getting to wear the flight suit. The ambitious production design gave that added layer that the cast played around with.
But being a big playground wasn’t the vibe for all the actors. Radson candidly revealed that the early days of production were not kind to him. Scared was an apt way to describe what Radson was going through as he navigated filming his first series for GMA. He eventually found his footing with the help of the cast and crew, which is why it felt like a joyous occasion for the young actor to see the show finally come to fruition.
JACKET FIFTH CODE, BLUE BUTTON DOWN H&M
“Naiyak ako kasi sobrang tagal na shinoshoot ito,” reminisces Radson has he remembers his favorite moment on set. They were in La Union as the show was reaching 95% completion. As the director had the core five wave goodbye for a drone shot, Radson couldn’t hold the tears back anymore as he realized the accomplishment they had just achieved. “Ako ang unang umiyak, tapos nakita ni Ysabel na humagulgol [ako], tapos umiyak din siya.”
THEY’RE A FAMILY
Voltes V: Legacy has all the makings for a Triple-A production, from the sets to the CGI. But aside from its epic scale and tale, Voltes V: Legacy is also driven by the story and relationships Steve, Big Bert, Little Jon, Mark, and Jamie have with each other. These five heroes serve as the emotional core for this modern adaptation. This aspect, in fact, is what the cast felt was the biggest deviation of Legacy from the anime.
WHITE GRAPHIC TEE HUMAN
“Kailangan namin bigyan ng layers ang mga characters. Mas mapapaniwala ang character kung may depth ‘yung gumanap ng role,” expresses Miguel. The cast and crew made a concerted effort to turn literal 2D characters into actual people you want to care for. It’s a distinction that Radson strongly relates to when it comes to his portrayal of Mark Gordon. “You’re going to see different ranges of emotions in Mark na will make it feel humanized as compared to the anime.”
But while it’s one thing to focus on building the relationship of the core team, it’s another to actually feel it among the actors. Luckily, the family we see in the series was reflected in how close the actors got during the production. They didn’t need to fake anything when the love and bond came from a real place. Even as the pandemic forced them to hold their initial meetings online, they used the time to get to know each other.
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“Bago pa mag-start ng lock-in taping, sobrang bonded na kami and may foundation na ‘yung relationship namin,” shares Miguel. These online hangouts made way for a smooth transition when they finally met each other in person. “We ended up being like family already. I really think that I won’t be able to develop a relationship this close in any [future] series,” Ysabel asserts.
FOR THE FANS
Three years since its announcement, Filipinos finally got to see all that hard work on screen when Voltes V: Legacy made its TV premiere on May 8, 2023, with the Cinematic Experience arriving a few weeks before that. It’s an achievement the cast couldn’t be happier for. “It still feels so surreal because I was so used to keeping it a secret,” remarks Ysabel. “Kung excited ang audience, mas excited ang Voltes team,” shares Raphael.
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As much as it is a recognition of their hard work, the show finally premiering will be the chance for fans to see their labor of love. As Matt puts it, “Excited ako para sa sarili ko and at the same time, excited para sa mga fans.” The pressure is real, but so is the relief and the anticipation to see what the fans have to say.
And speaking of fans, it is through the passionate fan base of the anime that the discourse of Voltes V: Legacy is driven, both good and bad. Understandably, an adaptation of a beloved anime that holds cultural sway among many Filipinos will get people talking. A scroll through the comments on posts about Voltes V: Legacy will eventually yield criticism and other negative opinions towards a potentially divisive project.
To that, the main cast of the series welcomes what fans have to say, regardless of what it may be. “If walang nag cricritizie sa amin, I think hindi magiging maganda ‘yung kinalalabasan ng projects…that keeps actors and directors on their toes,” muses Radson. Still, there is a fine line between constructive criticism and toxic bashing. And the cast wants to make it known that this series was not a cash-grab or half-hearted attempt, but a passion project. “The story was made for everyone, even the fans. We want to make them proud and put on a good show,” Ysabel says. To further, Miguel states, “Ayaw naming lumihis sa main storyline sa Voltes V. Alam naming na madami ang madi-disappoint kung hindi ‘yung pinanood nila.”
HONORING THE LEGACY
Voltes V is a show that wasn’t just popular, but also spoke to a deeper sense that connected with Philippine culture, and continues to influence many to this day. Naturally, you can’t please everyone, and there will be people whose skepticism towards Filipino shows is warranted. But ever since the show was first greenlit in 2020, the cast and crew approached this series with the love, talent, and dedication it deserved.
Director Mark Reyes and writer Suzette Doctolero worked with their teams to deliver a show worthy of the Voltes V name. Unlike most Filipino teleseryes, Voltes V: Legacy had all its episodes shot before it went on air, allowing the post-production team ample time to do the necessary work. And as seen by the reviews of the Cinematic Experience and first week of the show, that time was well-spent with some of the best CGI among local productions. The Filipino production team worked closely with TOEI as their Japanese counterparts gave their approval on the show’s many moving parts. Julie Anne San Jose even delivered a rousing cover of the iconic Voltes V No Uta theme song in full Japanese. No expense was paid for GMA’s biggest series to date.
Adaptations succeed or fail by how well they manage to finely walk that tightrope of showcasing the best of the original while adding new spins that give the adaptation a reason to exist. By many accounts, Voltes V: Legacy is looking to do just that, bringing to life the anime’s story all while breaking new ground on the core team.
Above all, Voltes V: Legacy is a reflection of Filipino excellence and talent and proof that Filipinos can do more. A show like Legacy has been unprecedented in Philippine entertainment and could signal a new era for what a Filipino teleserye can look like. “We hope that it’s a start for a new era for Philippine television and film because it’s the first time GMA has done something like this,” says Ysabel in a sentiment shared by the rest of the cast.
From the late 70s to the 2020s, Voltes V somehow manages to find itself at pivotal inflection points in Philippine history. The anime resonated with the youth during oppressive times, and the live-action adaptation is positioning itself as a potential catalyst and a game-changer that raises the standard for Philippine television and cinema. Not bad for a group of teens fighting aliens to save the world.
Order your copy of the NYLON Manila fanzine featuring the cast of Voltes V: Legacy now at shop.nylonmanila.com.
Photography: Cru Camara
Assisted by: Jobert Eugenio
Creative Direction: Angelo Ramirez de Cartagena
Art Direction and Styling: Lyn Alumno
Assisted by: Raf Villas
Production Design: Rocket Sets
Makeup: Lala Flores (Miguel), Raffy So (Ysabel), Dexter Gonzalgo (Matt), Nathan Ferolino (Radson, Raphael)
Hair: Dale Mallari (Miguel), JA Feliciano (Ysabel), Dexter Gonzalgo (Matt), Nathan Ferolino (Radson, Raphael)
Video Direction: Kenneth Dimaano
Shoot Coordination: Mika Tafalla
Shot on Location at Pak! Studios
Continue Reading: 5 Things Voltes V: Legacy Has Been Doing Right So Far