Sid Lucero on The Deep Dive Into 'Smaller and Smaller Circles'
Having too much to work with on a character can be as daunting for an actor as having too little. The character of Father Jerome Lucero, the other half of the clerical detective team in Smaller And Smaller Circles, landed fully-formed on the lap of Sid Lucero (no relation) when he was handpicked by director Raya Martin to play the role. “Maybe I should’ve listened to Raya and read the book after,” he now says.
Between the book and the script, the character was realized on paper to such a precise, exacting degree that Lucero first felt that he had little room to maneuver. “Preparing for the role wasn’t that hard because my character is a Jesuit, and Jesuits are not just priests, they’re more philosophical, more flexible. But there were limitations with regards to how far I could take my character. You want to add as many flavors as you can, but you can’t.”
Lucero remembers the last time he worked with Martin, on the elliptical, psychedelic Independencia, set almost entirely in a lush but fake fever-dream forest, and cops to the relative difficulty of figuring out what the material demanded from him as an actor out of how it was abstract and obtuse. “It was a lot easier this time.” The narrative and aesthetic parameters of Smaller And Smaller Circles were rigorous and deliberate and specific. It is a murder mystery, after all, despite having a lot more on its mind than most murder mysteries, despite going off on tangents most murder mysteries wouldn’t. “It was surreal seeing Raya work in a more conventional environment.” The sort of film you don’t expect from Martin, really, much as if you look closer, it really sort of is. Like the film, the Father Lucero role only seems conventional on the surface.
Sid Lucero stage-named himself after the character his late father Mark Gil played in Mike De Leon’s Batch 81, echoes of which, perhaps not as coincidentally as it may seem, flit through Smaller And Smaller Circles, in the drab bureaucratic structures and the under-bubble of corruption and the lingering threat of violence. The body of work he has forged is as adventurous as his father’s, perhaps even more so. He may be more known these days for the corrupt soldier he plays in the massively popular cop show Ang Probinsyano, a stock villain he manages to tweak with refreshing ambivalence and a role that has given him newfound respect for the people who make TV, but Lucero is no stranger to navigating emotionally and psychologically intricate characters. He seems, in fact, to engorge on them, having centered films as diverse and as complicated as Paolo Villaluna and Ellen Ramos’ Selda, Lav Diaz’s Norte The End of History and Mario Cornejo’s Apocalypse Child. “I’m not a crusader.” his character insists midway through Smaller And Smaller Circles, which of course he ends up being.
Lucero’s younger, brasher Father Jerome and Buencamino’s older, pragmatic Father Gus embody a trope much beloved and much too familiar within the genre. Lucero is really the Watson to Buencamino’s Holmes—the apprentice, the muscle, the stabilizing agent. But he breaks his mold by complicating the nature of his character’s vocation and agency by tempering it with a worldly swagger and a wry cynicism. “I was kind of flustered at first, kind of overwhelmed. It was all a matter of figuring out how to strike that balance.” It’s a performance that doesn’t call attention to itself and ultimately becomes all the more resonant for it.
Denim jacket by Cushman, available at Regiment. Pullover shirt by CH Carolina Herrera, Greenbelt 5. Styled by Clifford Olanday; grooming by Joan Teotico using NARS Cosmetics; hair by Jayjay Gallego for Creations by Lourd Ramos Salon. Catch Smaller and Smaller Circles, in theaters now. For more information and screening schedules, visit the movie's official Facebook page.