The film 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten introduces Filipino-American transferee Magnus Snyder to a high school class that immediately bursts into whispers and excited laughter, their murmurs ecstatically comparing his looks to those of international ’90s boy bands. To the main character, Felix, and the rest of his peers, Magnus is an enigma waiting to be discovered, to be known. Much like the character he plays, the same can be said about the introduction of newbie actor Ethan Salvador to the world of show business. Who exactly, the audience asks, is this guy?
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Ethan grew up as an only child with his mother, surrounded by Filipino relatives. As a kid, all he really wanted to do was have fun, getting into multiple sports like swimming, parkour, breakdancing, and martial arts. Regardless of the varied interests and misadventures of his adolescence, Ethan’s secret passion had always been acting, even before he eventually found out that his estranged father, ’80s Regal actor Emil Salvador, was in the very profession he’d always wanted to try. Ethan recalls pestering his mom about his desire to act and his interest in taking acting classes and joining theater productions. However, she never indulged him due to her strained views on his father and the industry. Ethan would then record home videos as an outlet to play characters shot on his digital camera. “I had to make up a lot of scenes and ‘friends,’” he laughs.
Ethan only considered pursuing his dream career at 16, after he reconnected with his father, who suggested he try out show business in the Philippines. “At 17, I got my own job and paid for my own acting classes. I was originally going to go to LA, but it was getting really expensive. Life in America was kind of routine and I was getting really tired of that so I decided that I wanted to experience my culture in the Philippines. That was half the battle,” Ethan says. “After a year, I was working two jobs. I really wasn’t happy where I was and wanted an adventure—to meet new people and see what it was like in my country.”
Though his mom pleaded with him not to leave, Ethan took a gamble and flew to Manila to try his luck in the industry. One would think that a tall, well-spoken, and good-looking Filipino-American whose father was also an actor would easily have an acting or show business gig fall onto his lap. Despite his lineage, Ethan still had to work to get noticed.
After failing the Star Magic auditions twice, Ethan was finally accepted on his third try. His first venture into showbiz came in the form of the reality competition Pinoy Boyband Superstar, which he joined to get rid of his stage fright. He then immediately nailed one of the lead roles in indie film 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten while he was barely a year into the industry.
In the movie that he never expected to become a part of, Ethan portrays the aforementioned Magnus Snyder, one of two mysterious siblings who move from the US to a small high school in Pampanga. His role earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the 2016 Cinema One Originals Film Festival. “This was my first movie so I was like, ‘This is harder than it looks! This is tiring work!’ There’s a lot of effort that you’ve got to put into it,” he says. “I regret not putting enough studying while creating the character. We’re never really satisfied with our end results. I could’ve put so much more into it. For the next roles that I might get, I’d really want to work so much harder, especially after watching [Khalil Ramos] and seeing how hard he works.”
“We’re never really satisfied with our end results. I could’ve put so much more into it. For the next roles that I might get, I’d really want to work so much harder, especially after watching [Khalil Ramos] and seeing how hard he works.”
And 2 Cool has in fact opened more doors for Ethan, with many praising his portrayal for having the right amount of nuance and charm to complement Khalil’s performance, and thus complete the onscreen chemistry between the couple—a notable feat of the film itself.
Despite a good head start into his acting career, it isn’t difficult to notice that the 21-year-old is still very new to his work; he himself admits that he’s got so much more to learn. Ethan quietly adds “po” to his English sentences and is easing his way into the Filipino language to not get typecast in American roles, which he notes is his biggest fear. During the end of our conversation, he scratches the back of his head and smiles apologetically. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m really not good at doing interviews.”
At the shoot itself, our graphic artist teases him about his Filipino: “Mag-Tagalog na lang tayo ngayon, ha?”
He laughs and gamely responds, “Sige.”
Ethan’s dreams are nothing but honest, and he’s making sure he’s taking the right steps (with just the right amount of unpredictability) to achieve his goal of becoming Hollywood’s first leading Filipino actor. Grounded and hopeful, he’s got bright aspirations for not just himself, but the local industry as well.
“My teacher always taught me that you’re only as good as your last work. I just want to keep challenging myself and pushing myself to the limits with each role that I take—to keep climbing and developing my craft,” says Ethan. “I want be able to give something different, aside from the romance and the love triangles and the soap operas; they’re beautiful, but there’s so much potential for this country to expand to different areas. It just takes a little bit more inspiration to get people to step out of that and not be afraid to try something cool. There are so many cool stories the Philippines has to offer.”
Photography Koji Arboleda
Styling by Florian Trinidad and Matt Panes
Grooming by Peps Silvestre
Photographer’s Assistant Miguel Manzanero
Stylists’ Assistants Sandro Dela Peña and Franz Medina