AlEmpoy Talks Soulmates In Walang KaParis Reunion
Paris becomes the newest destination of the AlEmpoy tandem as Alessandra De Rossi and Empoy Marquez reunite for a riveting love story in yet another romcom with a pun for a title, Walang KaParis. The film marks the return of the AlEmpoy love team six (6) years after their first outing in Kita Kita.
The film’s name seems like a play on the Tagalog word “kapares” or “love pair,” and its Paris setting. However, when read in full, “Walang Kapares” also means “unmatched,” especially in a romantic context.
In the recent press junket, Alex and Empoy, as well as Direk Sig, expanded on the other inner workings of the film and revealed a deeper look into the cast and the story prior to the March 23 premiere.
#AlEmpoy Goes To Paris
Interestingly enough, the pun also seems to be an immediate hint on the film’s premise. In Walang KaParis, Paris-based Jojo (Empoy) spends much of his days as an artist looking for the woman who always appears in his thoughts whenever he makes art. Moreover, things become weird when he meets Marie (Alex), who claims to be exactly the woman he’s been looking for.
This is quite the new approach to the love team compared to their first outing in Kita Kita, which was also helmed by Sigrid Andrea Bernardo. As fans recall in the Japan-set film, freshly-arrived OFW Tonyo (Empoy) finds companionship and a sense of home in the visually impaired Lea (Alex) as he struggles to cope with life in quiet Sapporo.
While the art-themed synopsis of Walang KaParis already makes for an exciting love story, the trailer adds a new layer of mystery as it reveals almost nothing about the announced premise. In the trailer, Jojo and Marie are revealed to have known each other since high school, with their “story” beginning as far back in their days in Baguio. As the trailer showed, the pair at some point wanted to give their potential for love a shot after seven (7) years of crossing paths with each other, with hints of that “spark” short-circuiting after quite some time.
However, if there’s anything modern love stories show, it’s that trailers are never to be taken at face value.
With Direk Sig once again helming the AlEmpoy film, fans would notice the pair’s evident strengths in Kita Kita also shine as early as the Walang KaParis trailer.
Whereas Empoy seems to remain the comedic center of both Kita Kita and upcoming Walang KaParis, Alex is poised to bring her signature Pinay charm and dramatic flair in both films. However, it feels there’s more than meets the eye beyond Empoy’s iconic quips and Alex’s piercing stares.
New Roles, Not Just Themselves
Just because there was collective acceptance of Kita Kita’s irreplaceable status in the hearts of the masses doesn’t mean Walang KaParis wasn’t to be taken seriously.
In fact, the pressure was on ever since Direk Sig began thinking of tapping AlEmpoy once more for a project.
“I was close not to pursue the idea (Walang KaParis) at all, because what could top Kita Kita?” Direk Sig explained in Taglish. “However, with the current pandemic and after having some time for contemplation, I think it was finally time to give the idea another shot.”
“The tandem was still fresh in Kita Kita, and we’re able to see them as themselves,” Direk Sig added. “This time around, we have to level them up. Back then, I tailored the script to fit their personalities. It’s now time for them to portray different people.”
The One With The Script Reveal
When asked about their reactions upon seeing the script, Alex had quite an accurate recollection of what had happened.
“I called Sig as soon as I read the script,” Alex started. “When she answered, I said – ‘I read the script. Kaya ba ni Empoy?’” (Can Empoy handle it?)
Much to everyone’s laughter, Direk Sig attests this is what had actually happened. “I told her, ‘Ako bahala. Kaya ‘yan. Trust me.’” (I got this. We can do it.)
“And it was after hanging up that I started second-guessing. Can we really do it?”
And according to Alex, there were some times that, after a few takes, she would come up to Direk Sig and jokingly ask, “Kaya pa ba?” (Can you still do it?)
Being the butt of jokes was a normal occurrence for comedian Empoy, who didn’t fail to make quips despite coming from the junket fresh from taping (and having to leave soon after for another scheduled appearance). Regardless of the jokes, Direk Sig also praised Empoy’s strength for comedy.
“He’s an extremely talented comedian, but I wanted to check if he can pull off a drama role,” Direk Sig explained when talking about Empoy’s role as Jojo.
Even Alex, whose prowess in drama is already demonstrated in the likes of My Amanda (2021), Watch List (2019), Bambanti (2015) and Ka Onyang (2015), didn’t escape the watchful eye of Direk Sig.
“We already know Alex is skilled in drama, and she’s already kwela (gleeful) in real life,” Direk Sig explained, “But real life is different when she’s on the scene. I had to check if she got what it takes, and I’m happy she managed to pull it off.”
The Pressure Was On
The pressure was on, especially for the leads.
When Direk Sig teased about “leveling up” their performance, they took to none other than BAFTA-winning Dolly De Leon (Aswang, Hintayan ng Langit, History Ni Ha, Triangle of Sadness) to coach Empoy “in the ways” of acting, much to her “frustration.”
According to Empoy, he and Ms. Dolly had to wake up at 4AM to read their lines, to which Alex would cut him off and clarify he doesn’t really “read” his script. She said, there were times Ms. Dolly had to wait in frustration while Empoy was eating breakfast, to which at some point an exasperated Ms. Dolly, with script on one hand and a bottle of water on the other said ”Ano ba ako dito? Yaya?” (What am I here, a maid?)
And to answer, according to Alex’s gleefully-irritated narration, all Empoy could muster was, “Knock-knock.”
This cut off Ms. Dolly, but she did answer with “Who’s there?”
Alex explained she couldn’t believe what she was witnessing at the moment, and clarified Empoy would’ve gotten a slap had she been the receiving end of that knock-knock joke.
These quips aside, it was evident in the tightly-knit trio that Direk Sig’s guidance helped show Empoy’s more serious side and Alex’s penchant for the lighter things in life.
The Inevitable Kita-Kita Comparison
It’s unsurprising then how viewers may show concerns about Walang KaParis being compared to Kita Kita, given the latter’s success of Kita Kita as both a sleeper hit and its status as the current highest-grossing Filipino independent film.
And for Direk Sig, she believes the only way to cope with this comparison is to not do anything about it at all.
“We have to accept it,” she told members of the press during the junket. “We can’t top Kita Kita, and the success of that film can’t get in the way of creating a good story.”
Direk Sig does acknowledge that Walang KaParis wouldn’t have been possible without Kita Kita, and the former took being in the latter’s shadows to its advantage. In fact, fans who see hints of Kita Kita throughout Walang KaParis shouldn’t feel mistakened, as this was a deliberate move.
“There are bits and pieces of the story that are callbacks and come from Kita Kita,” Direk Sig teased. She explained that while Walang KaParis cannot be pressured into becoming “like” Kita Kita, it could at least remind viewers of the elements that made the AlEmpoy tandem enjoyable in the first place.
Alex also echoes these sentiments. “Kita Kita was magic, and nothing can top that,” she said. She does gleefully follow with, “But if this (Walang KaParis) somehow does, then thank you!”
Walang KaParis premiered on March 23, 2023 premiere via Prime Video, and is produced by Viva Films and Spring Films. KZ Tandingan, who also worked on Kita Kita’s soundtrack, will also return for Walang KaParis’s OST, while Joyce Bernal and Piolo Pascual are credited as producers.