Before South Korea’s "Gangnam Style," there was the Filipino prison dancers’ "Thriller" routine on Youtube. Mix prison dancers and Glee
and you have the Prison Dancer
(PD) web series directed by Romeo Candido.
At the center of this musical is Lola who gave the prisoners STD (sickness to dance). Accomplished gay Torontonian actor Jeigh Madjus, currently performing in La Cage Aux Folles
, plays Lola in PD. He joins former Canadian Idol Mikey Bustos and MuchMoreMusic VJ Matt Wells in the cast. Madjus engages Fab
in a chat about his gay experience wearing orange in a musical behind bars.
Brian Bantugan: How would you describe Prison Dancer?
Jeigh Madjus: It is about redemption, freedom, and acceptance. It’s about finding yourself through trials and struggle.
Lola was wrongfully put in prison and is trying to stay sane through dancing. Through dancing he was able to gain freedom.
How is PD relevant to you as a performer?
It’s about Filipinos trying to get themselves out there. It was so resonant to me because as a Filipino actor, especially in North America, there isn’t a lot of work for us.
Any memorable moments?
The web series is an amazing process because it was done so quickly. We basically shot 12 webisodes worth of footage in a week. It was crazy. It was filmed in December 2011 and it was freezing. But there was so much love in the project. It was amazing to be part of an original work and the creative process.
What is the gayest moment in PD?
It’s probably either Lose Your Way (Episode 4), or Sensation (Episode 12). It’s just about being fabulous, having fun, letting the music carry you away, and we’re dressed up in women’s clothes.
How is it being gay in prison?
When you think about the gay characters, they use it to their advantage. They have what other prisoners want. It’s fun playing around with that. They’re in prison. There a lot of guys and they’re only living with men. There’s some power in that – knowing that they’re basically the women of the prison.
Aside from Lola, who is the most interesting gay character in PD?
Oo Oo and NaNa (Lola’s minions). The two of them are the craziest pair. They are opposites but they complement each other. Then the three of us come together and we’re like the Filipino gay Supremes.
At the Reel Asian, PD will be presented as “performative cinema,” a one-of-a-kind combination of video, live performance and audience participation. Its director, cast and crew will be in attendance during its Canadian Premiere.
, a documentary about the lady boys of Thailand, and Stateless Things
, a non-fiction feature on two isolated Korean youths, are two other gay films featured in this year’s program.
Prison Dancer screens on Fri, November 9, 6:45pm, at the Royal, 608 College St. $15.
Reel Asian runs at the Isabel Bader, Innis and The Royal from Tues Nov 6 – Sun Nov 11. reelasian.com