By DAVID CASUCO
LOS ANGELES – Calvin King is not your run-of-the-mill Filipino-American artist. He is a highly positive and proactive person. The people that he had worked with would tell you the guy is purpose-driven, goal-oriented and willing to pay the ultimate price for the sake of his craft. You talk with him about films, acting, and songwriting and his creative juices would flow instantaneously, unceremoniously like a rain in summertime. They are unmistakably infectious as they are inspiring.
The passion, determination, and the purposefulness are in full manifest as he speaks about the little success that he got in Hollywood and the struggle and frustration that went along with it.
“And everything in between,” he deadpanned. These, he said, are the little else’s – anecdotes and funny vignettes that happened to him while making both ends in the LaLa land of people dreaming to be famous.
“I didn’t even have a legal status in the U.S., but it didn’t dissuade me in any way to focus on what I love to do most,” he said. “So then I have to work as a parking attendant, caregiver, waiter, and other seasonal jobs that I could grab.”
And as if to substantiate the fact that he essentially belongs to the world of exalted and veritable artists, the odd jobs that he took were always highlighted by disastrous misadventures. “I got fired as a waiter at a high end Hollywood café because I drenched a customer with a carafe half-filled with coffee,” he said. “The freshly-brewed drink percolated into the guys Armani suit and, from the looks of his eyes, a death on a cauldron of coffee is what he wanted for me.”
“Another misadventure happened to me is when I was working as security guard at the Universal Studios. I punched a number on my hand-held gadget to tell them I was going to the washroom. I punched the alarm button and in an instant the cops from nearby were all over my post. The next day I quit the job,” King said.
To make himself more connected, he took Vocational Nursing; finished but didn’t pass it. It was his acting classes at USC where he passed with flying colors.
For twenty-six years, Calvin King toiled long and hard to realize his dream – get a break and create his own Hollywood lore. He succeeded … well, he got rewarded with a dozen or so cameo roles in movies, great and small. A certified Screen Actors Guild (SAG) member, Calvin King played abbreviated roles in "Scorpion King" as a stunt performer, a bit role at Fox TV show "House," and played a lincensed teacher in Warner Brothers TV Comedy Sitcom "Nick Freno." As store clerk in “The Method,” as a nurse in a Mel Gibson’s starrer “Conspiracy Theory,” as a prisoner in “Little Weapon," a Jet Li movie; and one of a coterie of Asian actors in Densel Washington’s “Virtuosity” among others.
Only few meaty roles did come, like the co-lead role in "15 Minutes of Fame" and as a gritty warrior in "Letters from Iwo Jima," but the spunk and confidence from what he gained from those seemingly trivial experiences are certainly priceless. He thought he profited a different, if higher level of perspective about his craft. He became aware of the latest trends in acting and filmmaking in the entertainment capital of the world, no less.
Also in L.A., Calvin tried as stand-up comic. In 2004, together with accomplished comedianne Bujanka, he produced, conceptualized, directed, and acted in a lounge gag. He was nominated as best actor for the Virgo Awards. The stage play also got some caustic to excellent reviews from Fil-Am writers. And in 1996 did another mainstream comedy act with Greg Dean in Hollywood.
Now the necessary question: “Why come back to Manila after years of solid breakthrough in Los Angeles?”
“I admit I had second thoughts about going home, but the death of my father left my mom so vulnerable. Besides, I had to take care family business concerns,” he said. “On the one hand, this is my chance to have my songs recorded in the Philippines.”
The Cebu-born Calvin had his first song recorded by Vina Morales in the mid-80s. He has with him more materials that, he said, are tailor-made for Enrique Gil, Sarah Geronimo, and Angeline Quinto.
Calvin King knows that there are still a lot of works to be done, but he hopes he will eventually reign supreme in a kingdom where his subjects speak the exalted language of real thespians. And now that he is back in his home turf, this dynamo of an artist may yet found his niche sooner that he expects it.
(David Casuco writes sports and spirituality for Mabuhay News Service and examiner.com. He obtained his journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas and took expanded studies at the Angelus Bible Institute in Los Angeles).