Coco Martin, whose real name is Rodel Nacianceno, has in his young age already made a name for himself as one of the country’s most talented young actors mainly due to his early work as an actor in independent Filipino cinema.
His first work in front of the camera was as a member of ABS-CBN’s Star Magic Circle back in 2001 but his only notable appearance during this period was when he appeared in the movie Luv Txt in a relatively small role.
It was in 2005 when Coco appeared in the indepent film Masahista when viewers were next treated to his presence in the big screen. The film won awards including the Golden Leopard award in the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland. Martin himself wins an award due from the Young Critics’ Circle due to his work in this movie. Critics were impressed and began to take notice of Martin’s willingness to take on risque roles specially since he was still considered a newcomer at this point. In this movie, he plays the role of a son with a recently-deceased father who has to take on a job as a masseur and male prostitute.
His next big film was Kaleldo, which is actually inspired by Shakespeare’s play King Lear, and also helmed by Masahista director Brilliante Mendoza. Indeed two more of Coco’s breakout roles would be due to Brilliante Mendoza movies, Serbis and Kinatay. These movies would go on to gain many awards from foreign audiences and film festivals while remaining relatively less popular in the Philippines. Kinatay would even go on to win the coveted Cannes’ Golden Palm award even though reactions for it were mixed during the festival run.
However, due to all the awards that he and the films has been receiving, it was only a matter of time before local mainstream cinema and TV would once again take notice of this young actor. He would first appear in several GMA-7 productions Daybreak and Jay before moving to ABS-CBN where he would be given a slew of primetime roles.
He would appear in ABS-CBN’s Tayong Dalawa alongside fellow actors Gerald Anderson and Jake Cuenca. Here, he appears in a role that many critics claim he’s tailor-made for. He plays Ramon Lecumberri who is the younger, rebellious sibling of the two main actors. He wins the critics’ nods in his role as a antihero in the series and even ends up bagging the Star Awards for Television’s best Drama Actor award.
Like his fellow ABS-CBN star Jake Cuenca, he is given a lead role in the series Tonyong Bayawak which was a TV remake of another Ramon Revilla movie. Though the protagonist in this series, his role is again that of an antihero, someone who breaks te law and follows his own desires for justice only to end up servicing the greater good.
Another antihero role was up for him to play in Nagsimula sa Puso which was broadcast as an afternoon soap opera. His portrayal in the series was again lauded by critics and he was allowed to function as director for portions of the television series.
Just as viewers got used to seeing Coco Martin only in mainstream acting jobs, he starred in the movie Noy, an indepent film production that was later on released by Star Cinema. Coco Martin was in the lead role and he played a filmmaker who was making documentary about then Senator Noynoy Aquino’s run for the presidency. The film garnered high praise from the local Cinema Evaluation Board which then gave it an “A” rating. This film was also chosen to represent the country that year as the entry to the Academy Awards’ best foreign film category.
Because of his many effective roles in independent movies, Coco Martin has even been touted as the “Indie Prince of Philippine Independent Cinema.” However, in interviews, Coco Martin has also mentioned how he also enjoys his acting jobs in mainstream movies and TV.