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Elijah Canlas gets dream role in ‘Keys to the Heart’

It's no surprise to hear veteran actors fully-immersing themselves into a character they're portraying. But, to find out that Elijah Canlas — a young actor at 23 years old, who started acting less than a decade ago — is already going beyond his mandate to give justification to a special character is nothing short of amazing.

Canlas' latest role is that of Jayjay in the Filipino adaptation of “Keys to the Heart.” Now streaming on Netflix, he plays an autistic pianist with whom troubled and washed-up boxer Joma (Zanjoe Marudo) reconnects with.

Elijah Canlas with his ‘Keys to the Heart’ co-stars Dolly de Leon and Zanjoe Marudo. NETFLIX PHOTO

“This is a dream role of mine — something that's physically and mentally challenging to play,” Canlas said in a roundtable interview.

Surely, he could have just gotten away with watching the original film and revisiting classics that featured characters in the autism spectrum such as “I Am Sam” and “Rain Man” — all of which he admitted doing — but, after taking an extra step, Canlas said he realized he had to adopt a different acting device.

“We started to do seminars and immersions here in the Philippines. It's completely different from how it is abroad because the healthcare and education systems here are different. I've met different levels of people in the spectrum and they were all such beautiful and kind human beings.

“So, I had to scratch my plan and [instead of taking away points from other foreign films], just focus on what I studied, what I learned from my teacher, what we saw, and who we met. What we did is Philippine-based so it's completely different from the original material,” the actor said.

Besides preparing for mentally and emotionally for the character, Canlas also had to learn a new skill to convincingly play Jayjay.

“I started learning piano about a year ago, before I even knew about this project. But it was for songwriting, not classical, which is a different game. Thankfully, we managed it,” the actor humbly revealed.

He further detailed having a piano teacher on the set, watching videos of hand placements and learning basic musical note reading so he can play bits and pieces in the film.

His efforts didn't go unnoticed as his co-stars Michelle Dee and Zanjoe Marudo could not help but praise his portrayal.

“I just love the way Elijah invested and jumped into the role. If I saw anything different from how people with autism spectrum act in real life, then I would be one of those people to call it out. But because of his dedication, he really imbibed Jayjay. And to top if off, he had to play classical music. I was in awe,” Dee said.

“He was not acting, he actually became the Jayjay character. Everyone in the set would call him Jayjay, as if his character didn't end when the director says cut,” Marudo recalled.

Director Kerwin Go, especially, was delighted to see Canlas become one with his character.

“If Elijah did not get this part right, the whole movie will not work. So, imagine the pressure he had to endure. Kudos to him for really studying the role and spending time with people in the spectrum and absorbing it all in,” Go shared.

In ending, Canlas said that besides effectively playing Jayjay, he hopes the movie will help lose the stigma around autism in the Philippines and start better conversations for the benefit of people living with it.

“Keys to the Heart” — based on the 2016 South Korean hit movie of the same title — is now available for streaming on Netflix.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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