VN: And yet, you always wanted to become a singer/actor? How was Aurelio Estanislao as a teacher? Was he the secret weapon of your voice?
WN: Reality check again. It's a given that it's almost impossible to negate the uncreative, stereotyped mindset of the industry players to cast a "comedian" in serious roles as if the efforts of Robin Williams, Peter Sellers, Charlie Chaplin, and our very own Dolphy went unnoticed. I've accepted that and had to content myself by pouring my acting skills instead in the creation of my characters who are known personalities and my singing talent to perfect my impressions of popular singing celebrities. Honestly, I didn't learn any new singing technique from the Maestro in the short sessions I had with him. It was fun nevertheless because each session was filled with "tsismis." The greater learning though were the very basic essentials he shared with me, like the proper pronunciation and syllabic stresses of Tagalog words (which even our broadcasters are miserable failures) and the objective of communicating a thought, an emotion, or the message of the song itself and sometimes going to extra length as far as to the time and events when the song was written. After all, he was a legitimate professor of History.
VN: How and why did you impersonate a person? Who were the first personalities you imitated?
WN: Initially I did impressions to make people happy and their varied reactions to it made me happy too. Later I realized it could be a potent tool to express a message or perhaps trigger an opinion like a devil's advocate. It is still an artform but no longer the old school description of art for art’s sake. The audience's reaction by applause, cheers, and laughter are my barometer of validation that indeed they understood the issues at hand or at the very least an acceptance that I have become their channel to express their anger or frustration over an issue or whoever person in power was responsible for it. Initially I mimicked animal sounds, musical instruments, and sound effects of recognizable objects. Then I moved on to impersonate popular radio and singing personalities. Times changed . Relevance and citizen awakening were the order of the day. Marcos and his cohorts presented themselves. So there.
VN: Is the fire as a tibak still alive in you being the country’s master impersonator?
WN: Yes. I guess that will not go away.
VN: These days when you say the word “impersonator,” they usually equate it with the lip-synching transgenders. What is your opinion?
WN: It's their job. It's their choice. I have mine. This is a free country . Everything's for sale. At whose expense?
VN: In the Phiippines, can a person feed his or her family by just impersonating? Unless you are a Willie Nepomuceno? Are you the highest-paid impersonator?
WN: So far my family lives decently. You don't have to be a Willie Nep to survive. If I were the highest paid I wouldn’t be wondering what my next job will be. Most of my comtemporaries have retired... with pensions to boot.
VN: Do you think you can change our society by impersonating?
WN: I have offered my craft to help serve that purpose in my own little way like a firefly in some dark-lit corner with a continuous buzz and flickering light.
VN: How do you prepare for each and every show? Please give some tips on how to become a good impersonator?
WN: Like it was always an opening show with recurring butterflies in my stomach. With apprehension whether my act will be acceptable to a discerning audience. That's the only way I know to become a good impressionist. Keeping in mind that your audience is spending hard earned money to buy tickets for your show, that they are paying high electric bills to watch your appearance on television, and using up precious time to be entertained though momentarily to suspend the realities of hard life. They deserve to get a fine performance from the best of my abilities.
VN: Do you have plans to put up the Willie Nepomuceno Impersonation Workshop or the Willie Nepomuceno School of Impersonation? Or it there is already an heir apparent in your daughter Frida?
WN: I don't think there's a demand for that . It sounds self-serving to me. I'd rather put up a school for good governance or public service. Joke!
VN: Any world tour?
WN: Can you find a producer willing to invest on a Famous Unknown for a World Tour? or did you mean a Bike Tour? Hehehe…