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An Introduction to Anthony Sayo

The Universal Asian had the privilege of speaking with Anthony Sayo, an award-winning actor from the Philippines who is making his dreams come true in Hollywood.

Despite his parents’ preference for him to become a lawyer, Anthony Sayo found himself challenging the norms of his small Philippines’ provincial town. Growing up as one of six children in the family, Sayo was called at an early age to the world of movies and storytelling brought by the influence of his older brother, a big fan of fantasy films and wrestling entertainment. With his father a pharmacy owner and his mother a doctor, it was not a common dream for kids to want to be in the movies nor pursue a career in acting, let alone a career in Hollywood. However, Sayo says, “Even when I was a child, I was already very optimistic, I believe that if you have the drive and the willpower—you will be able to create an opportunity for yourself to make anything possible.”

Sayo followed this belief while holding on to his motto that we only have one life to live and we should pursue a career path that truly brings us fulfillment. He says, “When I realised that acting was the career that I wanted to pursue, I told myself that I will go for what I want. That is non-negotiable. My life is so precious to me, and I want to be doing what makes me happy.” Therefore, pushing aside his mother’s persistent wish that he pursue a medical or law career, Sayo focused his efforts on how to get to the U.S. to fulfill his dream of being in the movies.

After making sure he did his best academically, graduating with a Political Science degree from the University of the Philippines, Sayo found an acting school in the Philippines and enrolled in a one-year diploma program. For that year, Sayo studied under the wing of an American acting coach who trained mostly in New York, but has performed in both American and European TV/films. Sayo is very appreciative of this formal introduction into the world of acting and credits his solid foundation to his mentor.

Photo: James Valdez

During his year of study, his teacher told him that “Hollywood is a white man’s world” to keep him grounded about his expectations of finding work in Hollywood. Even with this dose of reality thrown at him, Sayo simply pushed on with the belief that talent will always find a way to be recognized, regardless of ethnicity or race.

While waiting for the right timing and opportunity to go the U.S. to pursue acting in Hollywood, Sayo decided to become a certified fitness trainer, and trained clients in Manila. He is also very passionate about fitness, and for six years he enjoyed imparting his knowledge and guiding his clients on a journey to a healthier lifestyle. During this time, he also took advantage of social media to build up a support network that he could use if he ever made it to Los Angeles.

Then, in 2019, one of Sayo’s sisters moved to Chicago to work as a nurse. He saw this as opportune timing to take bolder steps to fulfill his acting aspirations. During a family trip to visit his sister in Chicago, he booked a one-way ticket to L.A. and told his mom that he was returning to the Philippines, as he was now ready to embark on his acting journey.

As one might expect, Sayo had very little money when he arrived, but through his social media contacts and support network, he was able to meet people who kindly provided him with a place to stay and helped to get him started.

He went from audition to audition, and managed to get his first major role in “The Withered Ghoul’s Ceremony,” an independent film director’s debut. Sayo booked the leading role and won Best Actor at the Hollywood Blood Horror Film Festival for his performance. He has also played leading roles in films slated for release like the romantic drama “Tears at the Edge of the World,” and the crime drama “Daughter.” Sayo is also a part of the cast of the ”Mantis Club,” a horror comedy which is currently having success in the film festival circuit. Despite this, Sayo always keeps his eyes on the bigger projects. His next big target is to land a role in the mainstream TV or book a role in a studio film.

Thanks to growing advocacies for equal representation on the screen nowadays, there are more opportunities for people of color, and previously underrepresented ethnic groups in the movie industry, including Asians. He acknowledges that there are other Asian actors and Asian leading men who are leading the way, and he wants to join this wave of bringing more Asian faces to the screen. In the meantime, he says, “I am enjoying the process, to be honest, but there’s no way that I will say that it’s easy. So, I’m enjoying it because I realize that I belong here, because I can stand the ups and downs. I can stand the hits. I can stand the blows because there are also so many blows. It’s like being in a boxing match. There’s no way that you enter without being punched. I’m okay with taking punches and I’m also getting out my punches. So, I’m happy with the game.”

For those who aspire to be like Sayo, he advises, “Don’t listen to the noise. Don’t let anyone tell you that it is impossible. You have to follow your heart in whatever you do. So, if you’re already somewhere and you think your heart is not there, if you’re thinking you don’t love it, you only have one life and you can change the menu, you can change the channel.”


Cover photo: Still from “Daughter” directed by Yiwei Yao


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