Tatler Interview: "The Good Place" Star Manny Jacinto Talks About His Upcoming Projects
The Good Place star Manny Jacinto is going places. The actor, born in the Philippines to parents from Nueva Ecija, and raised in British Columbia, joins a stellar cast led by Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick. In addition, he cinched his next TV gig with no less than Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy in Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers.
His role as Jason Mendoza, a DJ/dancer mistaken to be a Taiwanese monk, is a principal character in NBC’s Golden Globe Award nominated The Good Place, topbilled by Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. Through this role, Jacinto earned acclaim and an increasing number of fans. The series, which ran for four seasons, ended last year.
The actor, who left the Philippines with his family at age three to immigrate to Canada, will play Yao, another principal character, in Nine Perfect Strangers, the adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s 2018 novel of the same name by the television icon David E Kelley.
“There were a lot of doubts on my part as to whether I should pursue my passion in the performing arts,” Jacinto says about growing up in a family of engineers. “A large part of it was because I had no other family that I could turn to who followed an artistic path.”
Despite growing up in Canada, the boyish-looking star identifies himself as a Filipino, with habits unique to the culture such as preferring “to eat with a spoon and a fork”.
Jacinto’s passions were in acting and hip-hop dancing, but he finished college as a backup plan. “I had a civil engineering degree in my back pocket so I knew that if things didn’t pan out, I could always go to engineering. I also have incredibly supportive parents who never frowned upon or hindered my need to explore the creative arts,” he shares.
Like many aspiring actors, Jacinto waded through small roles in film and TV until he landed the Jason Mendoza role in The Good Place. “I do see some progress in the variety of roles being offered to Asian men,” says the 32-year-old. “Luckily, my role in The Good Place diverted from these stereotypes; but the only way we can keep progressing is if we tell our own stories.”
Jacinto’s good looks, especially his cheekbones or jawline, have inspired rhapsodic gushing in articles not only in women’s magazines, but even in the New York Times. “It’s very flattering but the reaction usually involves me blushing and sweating in my palms,” he says about the adulation of his supermodel jawline.
Later this year, he plays a US Navy pilot in Cruise’s sequel to his hit, Top Gun. Working with the superstar and watching him do his own stunts inspire Jacinto. “Tom Cruise is nearing 40 years in this industry. The fact that he continues to be passionate about what he does and that he continuously challenges himself creatively and physically is incredible. You can’t help but want more out of yourself when you’re around that energy,” he gushes.
The Filipino-Canadian, who is engaged to actress Dianne Doan, hopes for more opportunities for minorities in Hollywood. “There’s an abundance of stories to be told from people of colour,” he says. “And there are so many outlets [streaming services, networks and independent film festivals] that can act as a platform for these stories. I look forward to seeing them all and hope that the next generation is inspired by them.”