In Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan’s Pawl, Jon Jon Briones plays Dr. Hanover, an ambitious medical professional who runs a mental hospital in the Northern Bay Area of California. However, like all characters in the Murphy verse, he’s flawed, fractured, and struggles with his own demons as he attempts to deal with a staff of Type A nurses – especially the more recent nurse Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson). and her opponent, Nurse Betsy Bucket (two-time Oscar nominee Judy Davis). On top of that, as his flaws slowly unravel and expose his narcissism, his patients range from an unhinged serial killer (Finn Wittrock) to a woman with multiple personality disorder (Sophie Okonedo).
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Briones is a member of the exclusive actor collective that Ryan Murphy has assembled since the days of Joy (maybe even before that maybe even before that). He first appeared in the Murphy verse in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story American Horror Story: Apocalypse. Pawl marks the first time he’s played one of the main characters in a Murphy series.
Pawl serves as an origin story for the titular character of the iconic Milos Forman directed Flight over a cuckoo’s nest and book of the same name by Ken Kesey. The character would later become known as one of the most heinous villains in movie history. In the new Netflix series, which debuts on September 18, Dr. Hanover de Briones is a new character in this heightened reality of a series that explores themes of those in power and the mismanagement of that power as well as long-term damage removed. can screw up his psyche.
Briones’ connection to the original film dates back to when he lived in the Philippines, where he was born and raised. The actor remembers watching the film at a young age, but says his English was not good enough to understand everything in the film. However, he didn’t have to understand English perfectly to understand that Nurse Ratched was pure evil. Pawl gave her the opportunity to revisit this world and delve deep into her origin story and gain a sense of empathy to understand why she is the way she is. “You see how [her origin story] has shaped her entire psyche and how she’s been directed throughout life, ”Briones tells Deadline. “I bought it … I was like, ‘Oh, that’s great.'”
Briones first arrived in the United States in 1997 – not that long ago. As he mentioned, his English skills were not the best, but like many non-English speaking immigrants, he learned the language by watching TV and movies.
“I love the sound of the American accent,” Briones said. “I remember when I was younger I used to say gibberish with an American accent, trying to sound like John Wayne. He may speak it fluently now, but he admits he’s still perfecting the language and has a lot of help from his wife and kids.
“I’m still learning,” he says. “It’s the story of my life, I’m a late bloomer, I take my time to learn things.” English is his second language and Briones takes his time with the scripts. He soaks up the scripts so that he can fully understand each word and pronounce it correctly. “One week before starting filming Pawl, I need to fully memorize [the script] and totally fixed with it, so that there are no surprises for me, ”he said.
As they say, slowly and steadily wins the race – and that worked in Briones’ favor. He proved that you don’t have to be a certain age to start a new career – in his case, acting.
Briones was the entry into the world of showbusiness started in the original 1989 production in London Miss Saigon where he managed to land a role overall. His connection to the Broadway musical would continue over the years as he would play various roles, but it wasn’t until 2014 that he played The Engineer in the West End revival of Miss Saigon, a role that earned him a Laurence Olivier Award nomination. Three years later, at the age of 51, he made his Broadway debut when the production landed in the United States.
Its role in Miss Saigon on Broadway would open another door that would lead to towards Murphy. In 2017, he met fellow Filipino Darren Criss at the Tony Awards. the Joy alum told him he should keep an eye out for a coming role. Criss told Briones he would be perfect for that. Of course he was referring to Murphy Versace, in which Criss would later win an Emmy for playing Andrew Cunanan. Cunanan’s character is half Filipino, so putting two and two together it would make sense for a Filipino-born actor to play his father.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of it and then my agent said, ‘Okay, you have an audition for Versace, ” said Briones. “So I registered myself and sent it to LA” He said they liked the audition and they made an offer – but he didn’t know if he would be able to make series at because of its running on Miss Saigon – Thankfully, it all worked out because it secured him a place in the Murphy actor collective.
After Versace, Briones continued to take the Miss Saigon step. Murphy, Criss and Matt Bomer went to watch him strut as The Engineer and then Murphy chatted with him after the show and asked him what he was doing after his musical run was over. He told the mega TV producer that he was going to look for a job, to which Murphy said, “Oh, so I’m just going to have to rip you off.”
“I thought it was a Hollywood speech, but he spoke up and stepped in,” Briones said. “I found out there was an offer for me saying that I’m going to be in one of his new shows. I didn’t know what it was, but a few months later I got another phone call from my agent saying it was going to be Pawl and that he also wanted to put me american horror story. “
Murphy is known for his inclusive cast and amplifying under-represented voices in the industry, be it gender, race, age, sexual orientation, gender presentation and other communities that have been pushed to the margins. In Pawl, Dr. Hanover’s Filipino race comes into play quietly, bringing a sense of authenticity to the character and Briones.
“I had the first three scripts and one of the lines from my first scene with Sarah Paulson’s character Mildred Ratched, she asked me, ‘Are you of Filipino descent?’” -he reveals. Even though much of that scene was cut, Briones was happy to have recognized “the Filipino body in this character”.
Later in the series, we see more nuance of his Filipino heritage, mostly in an audience scene with his wife and child. He points out, “The first mention that I was Filipino in the character was great, but we didn’t go into it. We recognized it and moved on. Basically what has come through is this person’s story, how we have navigated this world – but deep in your mind you know he’s Filipino.
Briones has appeared in movies and TV series where his Filipino heritage has been mostly cast aside. When he first started auditioning, he admits he just had to swallow his pride because there were a lot of times he didn’t have a choice when it came to the roles he played.
“The role was always for ‘the short’ or Chinese or Vietnamese … and always a drug dealer or restaurateur,” said Briones. “But what I can control is how I play and what I give to them.”
He continued, “I feel like I realized it’s a marathon for me… it’s not a sprint. I take one step at a time. And he did. with every role he booked he would focus on that one and do his best – even just to get the chance to be noticed for that performance. If that didn’t happen, he just moved on. There were times when Briones wondered if that was what he really wanted, it was the world of theater that helped him thrive. Miss Saigon helped him keep an eye on the award because he kept doing what he loved and harnessing his talent.
“If you don’t sharpen your tools, they won’t perform well, so that’s what I did,” he says. “Luckily I kept doing this until Ryan came into my life and he saw what I can do and he liked what I brought to the table and here we are.
As Briones moves more and more into the limelight, the need to represent the Filipino community is always on her mind. “My success will be that of others, but at the same time, it is a double-edged sword,” he said. “You’re like, ‘Don’t mess this up because if you mess this up because if you do, you’re messing it up for everyone. There is that extra burden that you sometimes carry.
Even though the character of Dr. Hanover exists on a show that highlights fantastic hyper-reality on steroids, it still reflects real life and for Briones, seeing a Filipino character allows other members of the Filipino diaspora to see themselves. . “I think it’s so important – to have this story told by this body, by this person of color,” he said. “Growing up in the Philippines, I watched a lot of Hollywood movies and you see how Native Americans were portrayed. We have learned to hate Indians for being barbarians and savages – and we see John Wayne save the day. We never see them telling their stories. They are just a tool to tell the story of that other person. They are never the hero of their story.
He added, “No matter who you are, you are still the hero of your story, even if you play a bad person, but there must be a humanity and there is no humanity in a person that you. do not understand. Representation does that. It makes you understand and it empathizes you.
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