A week since winning the Asian Star Prize at the 12th Seoul International Drama Awards in South Korea, a very happy and playful Gabby Concepcion sat down for his first interview on Wednesday with a select handful of Entertainment editors and columnists.
Looking handsome as he did at the peak of his movie career in the 1980s through part of the ‘90s, his naturally rosy cheeks blushed a tad bit more when someone remarked he can well give this generation’s leading men a run for their money.
In fact, he already did by snagging the Asian Star Prize for his role in the top rated GMA afternoon drama series “Ika-6 Na Utos.” There, he plays the famed character of Captain Jerome “Rome” Fuentabella, in a love triangle with wife Emma and mistress Georgia. Portrayed respectively by much younger actresses Sunshine Dizon and Ryzza Cenon, no further proof is needed that Gabby Concepcion has still got it!
“I was out one Sunday and there were these young moms pushing baby strollers with long hair—the same color are Ryzza’s. Giggling, they shouted out to me, ‘Puwede din kaming Georgia!’,” the 53-year-old actor recalled laughing.
“But really, I’m so grateful that coming back to showbiz after being away [in the United States]for so long, and starting my career over again, all this is happening to me,” Gabby added as he showed the group the heavy granite acting award from Seoul.
“I mean, di’ba? Ngayong 32 na ako, ang sarap ng feeling,” he deadpanned, drawing guffaws from a group that was mostly comprised of old friends.
Gabby animatedly talked about meeting the likes of young K-Pop stars. He had a photo taken with Park Bo Young who won the Best Actress for Hallyu Drama award (“Strong Woman Do Bong Soon). Quipping shamefully this time, Gabby said,“Siya pala yon,” and gave away his era.
Gabby then recalled how he only came home to be with his dying father sometime in 2008, without any intention of reviving his showbiz career.
“My brother who’s an oncologist in the States said that even if we wanted Dad to have his treatments there, he was in no condition to fly out. His heart was only functioning at 15-percent at that time, so my brother told me, ‘Unless you can be on the phone with him 24/7, you better go home.”
Being Gabby Concepcion, news of his homecoming immediately drew offers to do TV shows and movies. “I said to myself, OK, I’d have passive income while waiting with my Dad… but again, here I am, still getting projects like ‘Ika-6 Na Utos,’ and it’s just unbelievable.”
With his thriving career further buoyed by an international award, Gabby didn’t know how to answer the question how long he’d continue in showbiz.
“Like I said, may mga offers pa and may mga gusto pa akong gawin. Like I’m set to do an indie, which I’ve never done before, with Laurice Guillen very soon.”
As if he knew what the next question would be [his shelved reunion movie with ex-wife Sharon Cuneta, which many say is one of the major reasons why the Megastar is on an emotional slump], Gabby started to put on the charm oh so expertly that the group had almost let him off without explaining his part of the failed deal.
But much as he crinkled his gorgeous eyes and smiled his Close-up smile, journalism prevailed and Gabby bared his soul.
“Gustong-gusto ko gumawa ng reunion movie because matagal nang hinihingi ng fans,” he began. “Pero, kasi gusto ko makabasa ng script bago ako tumanggap ng pelikula. Wala akong nakitang istorya—puro synopsis…
“Maganda kung may istorya, tapos from there, puwede sanang mag-contribute ng ideas, pero wala at ayoko silang [the fans]biguin… Hindi ko hinihindian yung movie. Istorya lang talaga…” he trailed off.
Gabby also said that after finding nothing to go on for the reunion movie, he took a friend’s advice to concentrate on his assignments from GMA Network. He had just signed a contract with them when he started meeting with Star Cinema’s production team—the movie-making arm of rival network ABS-CBN—and realized his friend had a point.
“Nahihiya ako sa Seven na gagawa ako sa kabila kasi bagong pasok ako,” he explained. “And with the success of Ika-6 Na Utos, a daily soap which was even given air time on a Saturday, I felt na ayokong mawala yung momentum. Kauumpisa lang namin, tapos bigla akong gagawa sa iba, baka hindi naman din maganda.”
Saying he doesn’t blame the Sharon-Gabby fans for being disappointed, he insisted that once a good story falls on his lap, he would be more than happy to share the big screen with his ex-wife.
Asked by The T-Zone whether he was able to explain his reasons to Sharon for pulling out of the project, he clarified that they never had meetings together with the production team.
“Laging hiwalay yon,” he said. “And after everything happened… Kasi kami, hindi kami nag-uusap when it comes to our professional line of work, yung mga decisions na ganyan.”
Sometime in July, Sharon took to Twitter to express her feelings over the shelved reunion movie. She posted, “I was not the one, I did not cause the cancellation. Let’s just put it that way. Maybe [it’s because of] his schedule, I don’t know. I’d rather not investigate further, baka ma-hurt ako. Huwag na lang!”
Shortly after, rumors started circulating that Gabby turned his back on the project because of talent fees. To this, Gabby maintained, “Istorya lang talaga. Kaya sana wag na nilang ibahin ang rason.”
Turning playful again, Gabby was asked to comment about the durian he sent to Sharon in early September. While the Megastar thanked him for them on a social media post, she said somewhere in the comments section they seemed to “be going bad” so she couldn’t eat any.
With a glint in his eye Gabby ended the very candid interview saying, “Alam mo, ang durian, sabi nila mabaho, pero pag na-try mo na, ayaw mo nang tigilan.”
And yes, he got away with that one.