Rhen Escaño moves past sexy image, takes stab at horror

Rhen Escaño —RHEN ESCANO/ FACEBOOK

After playing supporting roles on television and films in the first 10 years of her career, Rhen Escaño finally found herself on the mainstream radar when she went down the sexy-drama route on Vivamax in 2021.

But while that career move brought her some success and opened new doors for her, Rhen is now determined to go beyond the sexy image, expand her portfolio and “prove herself as an actress.”

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“I’m making sure that I’m more careful with the projects I choose. I want to level up with the things I do. I want to contribute to the industry and do more quality films and content … I want to try more genres and challenge myself as an actor,” Rhen told reporters at a press conference for the horror flick “Marita.”

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“I don’t want to end up thinking, ‘Am I doing the right thing? Is this what I really want?’” added Rhen, who has topbilled such sexy dramas as “Adan” and “Paraluman.” She also played a supporting character in “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano” for a year and starred in the Singaporean film “Sunday.”

Given the chance, the 26-year-old actress would love to experience what it’s like being part of a love team.

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“I hope I get to experience being in a team-up that gives kilig, a team-up loved by people. But if not, it’s OK—I’m fine doing solo projects. Success or the fate of your career doesn’t have to depend on that … You just have to do well, excel in whatever you do,” said Rhen, who hopes to work with Paulo Avelino someday.

“I watch his drama series and he’s so good,” Rhen said. “I know I will learn a lot from working with him. And I think it will be a challenge.”

That’s not to say, however, that she’s completely shutting her doors on showing skin. “As an actor, I always say that giving what’s needed is part of the job. You can’t say you’re an actor if you don’t give your 100 percent. If the material calls for skin exposure, it’s not something I would turn down … As long as a project will help me grow as an artist, I won’t say no,” she said.

Escaño as Marita —VIVA FILMS

Haunting theater revival

In “Marita” (Viva Films) which is now showing in cinemas, Rhen plays the titular character, a renowned university theater actress threatened by the arrival of younger talents in the club’s roster. Marita sees them as competition.

But Marita’s not about to go quietly. As her final act, she commits suicide in front of an audience.

Years later, students push for the revival of the theater group. Sandra (Louise delos Reyes) takes charge and calls for auditions. But once workshops and rehearsal get underway, mysterious and sinister things start happening: Props go missing, sets end up getting ruined; freak accidents start to happen. Someone’s trying to recapture the spotlight.

“Marita is vengeful and full of bitterness and hate,” she said.

One of the challenges is acting while wearing prosthetics that took hours to put on. But it was all worth it. Her entire look was so scary, she said, she couldn’t even bear looking at herself in the mirror.

“I was always in a rush whenever I used the toilet because I didn’t like seeing myself in the mirror. It was all fun, though, since I was the one doing the scaring. But it was tough because I had to wear white contact lenses and my nails made it hard to do anything … I had to limit my water intake; I didn’t want to inconvenience the staff for retouches every time I took the costume off,” she said.

Testing her limits

The scene that really tested Rhen’s limits was the suicide act that had her climbing up a ramp and wrapping a noose around her neck. “The ramp was high. And when I saw the harness and the rope, it was as if I felt what the character was really feeling,” she related. “I started to think and feel who she is and where her wrath is coming from,” she related

“I wasn’t satisfied with the first take because it was obvious that the rope was loose, so I wanted to do it again,” she said, adding that she made sure she was thoroughly prepared for her scenes.

“I didn’t want to waste my appearances. Bakit pa nag-horror kung hindi nakakatakot?” she said.


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But despite physical and emotional challenges, Rhen said she found doing horror a fun learning experience. “It was a weakness. I wasn’t used to doing horror. I didn’t know the right timing and how the scenes were built up. But later on, I realized that it can also be fun,” she said.

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