In 2005, writer Budjette Tan and illustrator KaJO Baldisimo created Trese, an award-winning graphic novel series in the Philippines. On June 10, Netflix released a six-episode Original Anime Series based on the comics as part of the platform's push for more Asian content.
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Filipino-Canadian Shay Mitchell (Pretty Little Liars, Dollface) landed the role of Alexandra Trese. Oliva said the part was “challenging to cast,” but Mitchell surpassed his expectations and “delivers a performance of strength, determination, and family duty that is at the very core of the character.”
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In a behind-the-scenes interview, Mitchell, who learned some Filipino lines for the role, calls Trese “such a strong female.” Drawing similarities between them, she said, “We’re both very determined women, and I think that whenever she puts her mind to something, she gets it done.”
Baldisimo told Vice last year that the titular Trese was supposed to be a man, but they opted to make her a “badass” woman. The choice, combined with the detective-style narrative, earned the seven-book series several awards and a local cult following. (The Sandman author Neil Gaiman is also a fan.)
Based on Filipino horror folklore, some of the show’s monsters include a tiyanak (vampire baby), tikbalang (werehorse), and aswang (shape-shifter). Writer Tan told Vice that the first books were “based on experiences” and not research,” explaining that local superstition is alive.
The first anime from the Philippines, Trese highlights local stories and Filipino talent both on- and off-camera. Aside from hiring diverse directors, Oliva said, “I knew it was important that the cast reflect the heritage and culture, so we strived to hire Filipino and/or Filipino-American actors.”
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With the help of casting director Wes Gleason, actors including Dante Basco, Nicole Scherzinger, Darren Criss, and Manny Jacinto rounded out the cast. According to Oliva, Jacinto was “perfect for Maliksi” tweeting, “He was the first actor I reached out to.” The Good Place star responded, “Grateful to be a part of it.”
The series will also have a Filipino-dubbed version with a June 11 release date, and actor Liza Soberano will voice Alexandra Trese. Per Netflix, Soberano was “blown away” with the script, adding, “It’s beautifully told when it’s in Filipino, and it has more of a sentimental value and connection to me.”