SINGAPORE — Carlos Ponce’s music accompanied me through secondary school and helped me learn Spanish, so imagine my surprise when I realised through Wikipedia years later that in addition to being a Latin Billboard chart-topping recording artist, he is also a telenovela star.
The genre isn’t all that prevalent in Singapore, but all you need to know is that long before the Koreans were donating vital organs to their pallid lovers and unwittingly dating their siblings, the Latinos had perfected melodrama first.
“I always say that, sometimes, real life is more shocking than (what) some telenovela writers could ever come up with. People like to watch TV for entertainment purposes and I think they definitely found a niche for that,” Ponce said.
He is the star of the made-in-Miami Telemundo series Perro Amor, or Cruel Love, which airs on DIVA Universal from Aug 4. In it, he plays Antonio “El Perro” (The Dog) Brando, a rich player who gets more than he bargained for when he pursues a sweet young thing for a bet. Yes, of course there is blackmail, money laundering, birth secrets and rehab over the course of the show’s 129 episodes.
Is Ponce a drama king in real life, too?
“No, but I have twin daughters and they are drama queens. I definitely know all about it,” the Puerto Rico-born 41-year-old said with a chuckle. “They are good manipulators. They work very well. They know how to get Daddy to do whatever they want.”
Say what you like about larger-than-life living; Ponce thinks being passionate about everything is “the key in life”. “If you’re going to eat, you have to be passionate about food. If you’re going to love, you’ve got to be passionate about that. If you’re going to make love, you’ve got to be passionate too. Passion is a big responsibility and a necessity. You’ve got to be the best at what you do, everywhere,” asserted the actor, who has had roles in the dramas Beverly Hills, 90210; 7th Heaven; Lipstick Jungle and Hollywood Heights.
He has also lent his voice to animated films such as Rio and taken on comedic roles in movies such as Couples Retreat, Chasing Papi and Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. And he will appear in the coming Paul Feig movie, Spy, starring Jason Statham and Melissa McCarthy. While Ponce doesn’t exactly make it a priority to do comedy, he said: “What I don’t like is monotony. I don’t like doing the same thing always. I like the challenge, I like to stretch characters, I like to develop new ones. But, yeah, I do have a weakness for comedy. I love making people laugh. And laughing as well.”
He not only acts in telenovelas — with his musical talent, Ponce also performs and writes their theme songs. “Usually, when I’m presented with a project, I usually ask, ‘Can I write a song?’ and make a music proposal for it. In this particular project, they wanted something very happy and we ended up doing a song-and-dance intro that is very different from any other soap opera — a little more like Bollywood, maybe,” he said.
With his last studio album released in 2002, will he plan for a fourth album? “I hope I do. I’ve been working hard doing different things but, when the right time comes along, I’m sure I will. I have at least 10 telenovela songs that I’ve written — maybe that’s an album right there,” he said with a laugh.
Catch Cruel Love starting Aug 4, weekdays at 5.10pm on DIVA Universal (StarHub TV Ch 522).