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Niña Dolino dreams of being a character actress

CEBU, Philippines - For someone whose main aspiration wasn’t to be an actress, Niña Dolino is showing greater promise than some of those who sought the limelight from the very start. She wanted to get school over with and create her own business right after, but fate had other plans.

The slim and bubbly TV personality disclosed to The FREEMAN backstage after emceeing and performing in an Ayala Activity Center event recently her career beginnings and how she never looked back since. “That’s the great thing about it, because joining showbiz was never my goal. It just so happened that my high school friend was working as a personal assistant in Wazzup Wazzup and she told me about an audition. I wasn’t doing anything after college, so I thought, why not? It started from there, but it was never part of my plans. I’m really a late bloomer when you think about it because I was already done with school when I began appearing on TV. What I’m trying to say is, it was never my goal, but I’m here, so I’m proud of that.”

As luck would have it, Niña won that ‘Beach Bum 2005’ competition cum audition and was offered a main segment host job for Studio 23’s defunct nightly news-satire show Wazzup, Wazzup whose main hosts then were Vhong Navarro and Toni Gonzaga. The two-year stint sharpened her on-cam wit and spontaneity that she became even more confident to try out for the MTV VJ Hunt in 2005 (she became one of the finalists), host corporate events and do guest co-host stints in other Studio 23 shows.

The sister network bosses naturally took notice and signed her up in ABS-CBN’s talent arm Star Magic, after which they had her appear in several drama shows like Pieta, Maalaala Mo Kaya, May Bukas Pa, and Precious Hearts Romances. The Ateneo graduate even became a fixture of ASAP as part of the song-and-dance girl group Cool Chix.

But it wasn’t until last year that Niña entered into mainstream consciousness. Her part as powerful werewolf heiress Clarisse Zaragosa and main villain to big stars John Lloyd Cruz and Angel Locsin in the top-rating series Imortal became her biggest acting turn to date.

The response to her portrayal was huge, she said. "From not being recognized before, more people know me now. Even if I’m not fully made up, there are still fans that recognize me. That alone, I could feel the big impact Imortal made. From the point of view of my co-actors, I also felt a little bit of recognition. Imagine that Star Magic and ABS-CBN has so many talents, so to be known and told by some that I gave a good performance on the show, in a way, those small words of appreciation meant a lot to me," said the pretty 28-year-old.

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Her ascent into the ladder of stardom might have been quiet and slow, but if there’s one thing she’s proud of, it’s that “whatever I’ve achieved now, it’s not because of anyone or because of politics. I really started from nothing.”

Niña also acknowledged how competitive the industry is, as there are only a few names among the many in its roster that her home network can aggressively build up at a given time. There’s wisdom in her not focusing on being a famous lead star, but striving to be better known as a credible character actress instead.

She said, “It’s a tough business. There are so many of us. So I’d rather dream of being a character actress such as the likes of Cherie Gil, Vivian Velez and Cherry Pie Picache. They are some of the actresses that I would like to be someday.”

While she doesn’t have follow-up TV projects yet, she will be seen next in two Star Cinema flicks. One will be Maja Salvador and Matteo Guidicelli’s big screen team-up that has the working title Basted; the second will be the movie that has Anne Curtis, Cristine Reyes and Derek Ramsay in the lead cast.

When not logging time in tapings or location shoots, Niña is a hands-on entrepreneur. She tends to her business in Manila - two franchise branches of the White Hat Italian Frozen Yogurt brand.

And did we mention her dad hails from Toledo, Cebu? That makes the dusky beauty a half-Cebuana and a pure talent we can all proudly root for.  (FREEMAN)

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