She-Hulk's Ginger Gonzaga gets candid about comedy, Filipino roots

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·8 min read
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 16: Ginger Gonzaga attends the premiere of Netflix's 'Living With Yourself' at Arclight Hollywood on October 16, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 16: Ginger Gonzaga attends the premiere of Netflix's 'Living With Yourself' at Arclight Hollywood on October 16, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix)

Ginger Gonzaga, prior to appearing in Marvel's She-Hulk: Attorney-at-Law, has appeared in projects such as the comedy-drama series Kidding, where she shared the screen with fellow comedian and ex-boyfriend Jim Carrey. She also made her directorial debut (which she also wrote) in the 2017 short film Your Day, where she co-starred alongside Jason Ritter.

Now, she is a cast member in a popular multimedia franchise and set to co-headline True Lies, a television adaptation based on the 1994 spy comedy film of the same name. There, she is set to take center stage as “unfulfilled suburban housewife” and language professor Helen Tasker who teams-up with his secret spy husband Harry (played by Steve Howey) to save the world and their marriage.

But before working on two massive projects and hitting it big in the show business, where did Ginger Gonzaga start?

The funniest one there is

Growing-up in the “really, boring, boring country town” of Modesto, California. There, Gonzaga recalled Wednesdays of making costumes out of card boxes then going around town with friends, and of days impersonating her grandmother while wearing her clothes. The latter is something her friends even did with their own grandparents.

“There isn't anything to do, and I really have an active brain, and I like to be thinking all the time, and doing stuff. I have a lot of energy, so for whatever reason, when I was really, really young, I started doing silly creative things when I was playing a character,” she reminisced.

By the time she reached high school, Gonzaga participated in speech and debate programs that tested her improvisation skills. One activity Gonzaga named was “humor and turf,” one-person plays where participants play all characters by themselves, which “was a weird thing to explain but that was my introduction to acting. Kind of.”

After graduating one year in advance from the University of California, Santa Barbara (where she majored in Political Science), Gonzaga pursued comedy professionally in Los Angeles. For her, doing stand-up comedy is like gymnastics: some tricks work while some don’t, but trying new things make you “resilient” to failures.

“Improv teaches you to go with the flow, and when you're doing that as an actor and when something is coming at the top of your head, it's always gonna look like really good acting, ‘cuz when you’re a person, things come up at the top of your head even if you're an not actor. It's helpful to get an improv class if that is available to you, as it helps in confidence and not worrying about failing,” Gonzaga advised.

What makes Nikki very different from Gonzaga’s role is how much more energy she can display. She compared her experiences with her brief role in the 2012 adult comedy Ted, where “it wouldn't be correct. It would look weird if I’m like talking [sic] so quickly in a different tongue, but because of the tone of our show, it's okay to be kind of energetic, silly, [and] very fun. Nikki could be very silly.”

Aside from having an international audience, She-Hulk let Gonzaga act in sets that use more computer generated imagery (CGI). An experience that Gonzaga told Digital Spy needs some getting used to.

“You have to use your imagination a lot more, like when the Abomination is in a scene. They're just using a really tall ladder and someone stands on it with a ruler, and that ruler has a piece of tape on it, and then you go ‘ah!’ You’re like ‘oh no, a giant ladder,’ but then you’re just pretending it was the Abomination,” Gonzaga gagged to Yahoo Philippines.

Even with the CGI “fabulousness,” however, the Living With Yourself cast mate noted how she and the rest of the She-Hulk cast still get to portray “real people.” In detailing what it’s like working behind-the-scenes, Gonzaga recalled how co-stars Renée Elise Goldsberry and Josh Segarra (both having Broadway experience) would sing on set.

“You walk into [a] chamber of cameras, kind of. It looks really futuristic. You move in a circle like you’re a doll and they just take a million pictures of you in different angles and you feel like a robot when you would then Renée would like [sing] to me and that would make it fun.”

NEW ORLEANS - MAY 18: Ginger Gonzaga (right) pairs with Steve Howey in the upcoming action comedy spy series True Lies, inspired by the 1994 James Cameron-helmed film of the same name. Gonzaga plays language professor Helen Tasker, who learns that her husband Harry (Howey) is an international spy working for the Omega Sector. The show is set to air around 2022 to 2023 in CBS Television Network. (Photo by Alan Markfield/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - MAY 18: Ginger Gonzaga (right) pairs with Steve Howey in the upcoming action comedy spy series True Lies, inspired by the 1994 James Cameron-helmed film of the same name. Gonzaga plays language professor Helen Tasker, who learns that her husband Harry (Howey) is an international spy working for the Omega Sector. The show is set to air around 2022 to 2023 in CBS Television Network. (Photo by Alan Markfield/CBS via Getty Images)

A smashing good time

The comedian is never shy to acknowledge her cultural roots. While Gonzaga is Dutch on her mother Adele Tapp’s side, she is Cebuana on her father Christopher Delprine Gonzaga’s.

When asked about her visits to the Philippines, Gonzaga immediately talked about trips to Kawasan Falls in Badian, Cebu (which she plans to visit again in either Christmas or after shooting the True Lies show, scuba diving with her family, and riding jeepneys. She also remembered emceeing her cousin’s wedding reception at the very last minute.

Outside of these activities, she also fondly remembers the “simplest things.”

“The first time I went [was] when I was 12. I just love being in the neighborhood and walking and finding a shop where I can buy a little bit of shampoo. It's such a magical world for me. The Philippines is a magical world, and also when I was younger, my other grandma’s house was also magical. There [are] always treasures, things you can find, and the simplest things will be fascinating for me.”

On her first visit to the Philippines, she also recalled her brother “doing a little school documentary,” where her aunts and grandmother talked about living in the Philippines. “I’m grateful that my grandma has shared so many stories with me, such a resource to tap.”

The desire to have genuine Filipino representation on screen led Gonzaga to take-up a bigger responsibility. Such is the case with True Lies, sharing that “when I started negotiating for the role, I really realized [that] if I get cast as the lead of True Lies, then five other Filipino actors will be cast because they will have to cast my children, my mom, my dad. They have to cast all these people. [...] By accepting that job, I am able to make opportunities for my friends and other actors."

What can audiences expect from True Lies? For Gonzaga, she joked about experiencing more pain from doing stunt work and training exercises for the show. The actress also commended her young co-star Lucas Jaye, who will be playing her onscreen son.

What can viewers expect from Gonzaga moving forward? Between working on She-Hulk and True Lies, she seeks to represent Filipinos in whatever project she has.

“I really appreciate people like Jo Koy [who] don’t allow the industry, don’t allow others to tell them that they can’t succeed or that there isn't enough room or there is no market or that there wouldn't be fans, and I operate similarly like that,” she explained, recalling how Jo Koy used his own money to fund his own comedy special before Netflix bought his succeeding five.

In the end, Gonzaga feels that there is still more to be done to better represent different communities in the media.

“It's not over. There still needs to be way more representation not just because we have Black Panther or some movies with some diverse representation. [It] doesn't mean we’re done. We still are not completely showing what the world looks like,” Gonzaga continued.

With tears in her eyes and with a smile, Gonzaga hoped to continue “[working] hard to take care of a lot of people on the set, and I hope my tenacity will get similar results where it starts to balloon into everyone else. I just hope I can do a good job in my roles. I just want to do a good job and it means a lot to me.”

Catch Marvel’s She-Hulk: Attorney-at-Law only on Disney+. New episodes every Thursday until October 13, 2022.

(NOTE: This article is the conclusion of two parts. Read the first part here.)

Reuben Pio Martinez is a news writer who covers stories on various communities and scientific matters. He regularly tunes in to local happenings. The views expressed are his own.

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