Tony Award and Grammy-winning producer Jhett Tolentino is set to make his feature directorial debut with the romantic comedy Asian Persuasion. Written by Mike Ang, the film features an all-Asian cast including Dante Basco, Toni Gonzaga, Paolo Montalban, Celia Au, Jax Bacani and Kevin Kreider.
Asian Persuasion follows underachiever, Mickey De Los Santos (Basco), who is fresh off of a divorce from his successful fashion designer wife, Avery Chua (Gonzaga). That said, Mickey devises an outlandish plan to avoid his substantial alimony obligations.
With the help of his best friend Caspian Jang (Kreider), Mickey creates a fake online dating profile for Avery with the intent of quickly marrying her off. The hilarity ensues as Mickey proceeds to coach an unwitting, yet eager suitor, Lee-Kwan Prince (Montalban), on the perfect ways to woo the unsuspecting Avery. The plan is off to a great start until Mickey realizes he wants a second chance with Avery.
“As we continue to suffer the proliferation of unconscionable hate crimes against our Asian communities, it is our social and moral responsibility to speak up, stand our ground, and elevate the Asian narrative,” said Tolentino and Ang in a joint statement. “We are presented with a pivotal and historical moment – a unique and lasting opportunity to create art that informs, inspires, and unifies rather than divides.”
Tolentino produced 19 theatrical productions in six years before expanding to film with his autobiographical short documentary Life Is What You Make It which will be released August 20. He also served as a producer on Isabel Sandoval’s critically-acclaimed Lingua Franca which premiered at the 76th Venice Film Festival and was nominated for the Independent Film John Cassavetes Award.
Asian Persuasion marks Ang’s first screenplay. He is lifestyle and entertainment entrepreneur and an engineer by trade. He advocates for the advancement of Asian American culture by creating opportunities in the entertainment industry.
Basco, who is known for his voiceover work in Avatar: The Last Airbender and his iconic role as Rufio in the classic pic Hook, debuted his own feature directorial debut at SXSW earlier this year with The Fabulous Filipino Brothers which he co-wrote and starred in alongside his siblings.
Gonzaga is one of wildly known in the Philippines as a premier actor. She won a FAMAS (the equivalent to the Oscars in the Philippines) for Best Actress in Starting Over Again (2014). She also served as host for Philippines’ Pinoy Big Brother since 2005.
An actor from stage, TV and screen, Montalban recently appeared in the 2020 dramatic musical The Girl Who Left Home. He is also known for playing the Prince in Disney’s iconic and super-inclusive 1997 TV movie Cinderella opposite Brandy, the late, great Whitney Houston and Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg.
Other cast members include Kreider, who you may know from the Netflix reality series Bling Empire as well as Au, who was seen in Netflix’s Wu Assassins. Asian Persuasion will also feature newcomer Bacani, a restaurateur of Ihawan, which is New York City’s oldest and most prominent Filipino restaurant. The film will also feature Geneva Carr (CBS’s Bull), Devin Ilaw (Broadway’s Miss Saigon), comedian Fe De Los Reyes and Filipino heartthrob Tony Labrusca. Grammy winner !LLMIND is set to score the film and write original songs to be performed by Asian American artists. Andrea Walter (Empty by Design) is attached as director of photography and Bess Fifer will serve as casting director. Celebrity makeup artist Aaron Charles Perkins is head HMUA. Additional casting and creatives will be announced soon.
Asian Persuasion is a Jhett Tolentino Production and is set to begin filming in New York City in the summer 2022.