Actor Andrew Ramsay invests 200 percent in his job. To prepare for an award-winning performance, he lost 40 lbs, lived in a dingy boxing gym, and exchanged blows with underdog boxers.
The hard work and immersion paid off. He won Best Actor for “Ginhawa” at the 60th Asia-Pacific Film Festival. “Ginhawa” is an indie film about a boxer who sought the sport to escape poverty.
Andrew is one of the few Filipino actors with classical training. The youngest of five children, Derek Andrew III - DA to family - would tag along with his brother, Derek Arthur Ramsay Jr., to watch his kuya’s teleserye tapings. He would be fascinated by the buzz on the set and the interaction between the director and actors.
“I read a lot of stuff about actors. They said that with a strong theater background, they easily transitioned to film,” he recalls. Following his creative urges, Andrew took up acting workshops at the Philippine Educational Theater Association, where he learned acting basics, breathing exercises, vocal warm-ups, and script analysis.
The discipline was further reinforced when he took up Shakespeare and musical theater for a year at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts in the UK.
From 2015 to 2020, he worked for a Master of Fine Arts in Acting for Film at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. Andrew appeared in as many school productions and non-profit theater groups to discover his range from classics by Shakespeare to contemporary plays by David Mamet.
In 2018, he got a break by being cast as Malcolm in “Macbeth,” produced by the Shakespeare Center. “I got paid to do something that I loved,” he says.
Andrew was compelled to come home when the world went on a shutdown in 2020. To be productive, he and his friends put up a video production company, Cutaway Productions, which has since been working with advertising agencies and providing video marketing content for businesses.
Still, Cutaway Productions has its passion projects of short films and a feature film, “The Dust in Your Place,” which was shown at the Cinemalaya in 2020. They collaborated with playwright Joaquin Emilio Antonio, who transposed his play into a film script. The movie was about two couples, copywriters in an ad agency, who had previous relationships with their partners and how they managed to finish their jobs while coming to terms with their past.
In the early part of the pandemic, anxiety drove Andrew into emotional eating. “I looked like a couch potato at 175 lbs,” he recalls. When restrictions eased, Filipino-Canadian director Christian Paolo Lat broke into the clouds. It offered him the lead role in “Ginhawa,” loosely based on icon Manny Pacquiao's life.
Andrew delivered an impressive live cast audition with his formal acting training and got the part. However, he had to lose weight in four months to be a boxer who came from poverty. With training from coach Alfredo Fucio, customized meals, and working with a boxing coach, Andrew slimmed down to 135 lbs and developed muscle cuts to look the part.
Andrew plays Anton, who takes up boxing after the death of his older brother, an aspiring boxer. He strives to bring his family out of hardship by competing in Manila.
He slept in boxing gyms and pretended to be a boxer to get into character. He bonded and sparred with his “stablemates,” who taught him to stay calm and focused whenever he got hit.
“I learned that you don’t freak out when there are obstacles. Move forward. I apply that principle in life,” says Andrew.
One of the best tips he got came from his favorite acting teacher, Christopher Cass, the mentor emphasized the importance of breath work and how it mentally prepares the actor to get into character.
“Ginhawa” was presented in Cinemalaya 2022 and has been nominated by several award-giving bodies. With his first acting award, Andrew hopes to get more opportunities.
He admits that getting jobs has been challenging. After returning from the US, he auditioned for commercials but always ended up on the shortlist.
“The competition is stiff. It’s a numbers game. I’m part of this talent agency, which has a roster of over 100. The casting calls and auditions are posted in the group chat. Everybody sends their auditions,” he says.
Andrew prefers the on-site audition to the virtual one. Once, he acted his socks off in a livestream only to find out that he was muted. The panel requested him to repeat his lines.
This year, he landed a meaty role in the TV series “Batang Quiapo,” playing Bobby, the brother to Coco Martin’s Hesus Nazareno. Andrew has been learning a different system in the teleserye— creating his lines on the fly. “They tell you a situation, and you just do it. You learn to improvise in front of the camera,” he says.
Andrew is looking forward to 2024. His manager has been lining up auditions with international productions, and the actor keeps his fingers crossed.