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Eugene Domingo: A leading lady rises

Dark victory: Eugene Domingo in a black dress from House of Laurel and vintage feather jacket by The New Yorker.

How does one go from a sidekick to one of the most bankable names in local cinema? Eugene Domingo has managed to transcend genres, network wars, and remain real in the land of make-believe. With the smashing success of her latest big screen offering, Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, the actress once again proves why she’s on every producer’s speed dial.

YOUNG STAR: What can you say when people suggest that you are a new movie icon?

EUGENE DOMINGO: Sabi? Sino nagsabi? ‘Pag sinabing movie icon, I think of Vilma Santos, Nora Aunor, and Gloria Romero. The mark of being a queen — meaning you have surpassed decades of being there, is having been able to crossover or play different roles and characters, mahirap o mayaman, you’ve shown your versatility and that you’ve learned to have class but people can relate to you, still. At this point, I’m still working on it. It’s a process. But I’m very happy that I know that I have the A, B, and C crossovers. That’s the most important thing. But they say if you watch a Eugene Domingo film, it’s like attending a gay convention. I like that and I think I will sustain that.

Ready for her close-up: Dress by Martin Bautista, belt from House of Laurel, shoes by Stella Luna

Were you surprised with the success of Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank, it being a small production for Cinemalaya?

Yes, because you can never really predict the taste of the viewers, especially in Cinemalaya. I know that there are a lot of intelligent filmmakers who are joining Cinemalaya because it’s the new breed. Hindi kami masyadong kampante, but I know that we have very strong material, very promising, and different. I got nervous when Star Cinema chose to release the movie in cinemas for a commercial release. Doon nagsimula yung nerbyos ko kasi hindi ko alam kung magugustuhan siya ng masang Pilipino. Hindi katulad ng mga taong nanood nung Cinemalaya, kasi yung mga nanood doon, naka set yung mind nila na ganun yung klaseng palabas yung mapapanood nila. That’s why I wasn’t so confident when they were going to release it in commercial theatres. It was feeding the masses new food. Fortunately, after one week, pataas ng pataas daw yung hype nung film, dito namin na-realize that the audience is hungry for new films. Huwag natin sila bigyan ng paulit-ulit. Bigyan natin sila ng choice. Kahit may mga Hollywood movies diyan, pakita natin na we’re not left behind.

I think it’s also great that more established stars such as yourself are also supporting independent films.

For myself, I guess mainly because I love my freedom. Gusto ko talaga wala akong image. Gusto ko hindi ako predictable. That’s why I never really sign for exclusivity to a network or a TV station — I will die out of boredom because they’ll always have the same expectations. I always want to surprise myself. Marami na ang sumuko sa pag try gumanap ng mas daring, mas unpredictable. Every actor is just waiting for the right material, especially those who are already established.

They say comedians are sad people. What’s your take on this?

Not naman sad, I’d say we’re just ultra-sensitive because hindi ka naman makakapag comedy kung walang drama. You can be more effective as a comedian kapag napagdaanan mo in real life lahat ng drama sa buhay. It makes you more aware of the different behaviors of people and with that, mas madali ma-interpret yung sense of humor kapag kabisado mo yung behavior ng isang tao, from drama to normal life to over the top.

Does the saying “Lonely at the top” apply to you?

Parang totoo kasi diba? Kasi ako bago pa ako nag commit that I want to go all the way showbiz, I’ve always been reluctant. Ngayon naman na nabigyan ka na ng spotlight, I feel so undeserving. Siguro, reluctant pa rin ako kasi ayaw ko mapunta dun sa track na I’ll be lonely. That’s crazy. Kaya mo naman yun pigilan, especially with the people around you, your family and friends, who help you understand that you’re going through some successes and that it’s not permanent. You connect with the real people around you, huwag ka masyadong kampante na parati kang sikat. I watch Broadway (plays) and musicals dahil gusto ko manood ng mga artists na alam ko na mas magaling sa akin because they humble me and they bring me back down. Huwag na huwag mong iisipin na you’re the greatest because tomorrow, you’re just like everybody else. Ayaw ko ng classic story na “It’s lonely at the top” and it takes a lot of intelligence.

You’re one of the hardest-working women in showbiz. How do you reward yourself?

I travel. I always go back to New York. Yung energy niya, hindi mo ma explain. I think it’s the diversity. And lahat dun, palaban. They’re proud of where they came from. At gusto nila parati ipakita yung creativity nila. It’s ageless. If you want to see lights and glamour, you go there.

RThe prime of Miss Eugene Domingo: Dress and belt by House of Laurel, shoes from Adora

What do most people not know about Eugene Domingo?

That I’m not always jolly. I have the tendency to eat people, especially during my period. Just like everybody else, I’m a normal person. I can’t be a jolly person 24/7 na pag nakasalubong mo ako, I will always tell you a joke. Not at all. Pag ganun yung mood ko, hindi nalang ako lumalabas. In other words, I’m very Kimmy, more than Dora. Also, I have a TV set but I don’t have cable. It’s only for DVDs. If I want to watch something shown on TV, I go use the Internet and look for it. Kasi meron ka nang iPad, cell phone and all that, kaya I want to go back to books.

Having achieved so much, what are your other goals?

To be able to invest. To save and save and save. To produce beautiful films, not only for me, but for people who have dreams of getting into our industry.

What do you want your legacy to be?

Legacy kaagad? You know, I’ve always admired Lolita Rodriguez because when she decided to walk away and just be a normal person, it meant that she was already satisfied and that she’s made a mark and that she would never be forgotten. So my legacy would be, before I feel lonely at the top, I would just walk away because even if you say that this business is really ungrateful most of the time, I’m still very thankful. You have to be satisfied with what you’ve done.

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