Viral pandemic story inspires Adolf Alix’s BL series Happenstance

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Viral pandemic story inspires Adolf Alix�s BL series Happenstance
Acting newcomers Kiko Ipapo and Jovani Manansala play the lead roles in Happenstance, an original GagaOOLala series written by Jerry Gracio.
Direk Adolf Alix's Instagram account

A viral pandemic story about decades-old love letters accidentally found in a house ceiling inspired the newest entrant in the country’s BL (Boys’ Love) landscape.

The story itself went viral when it was shared by STAR’s socmed platforms, which was about a lady house owner who discovered a bagful of poetic, handwritten love notes and faded pictures circa ‘70s in the ceiling of their ancestral home during a renovation.

“When I read the story online, it never left my mind,” director Adolf Alix Jr. told The STAR in a virtual interview.

The found letters, which turned out to be a tale of an unrequited love (the letter sender was eventually found by the news media), became the take-off moment for the story of the nine-episode series Happenstance, Alix said.

The supporting cast of the upcoming Pinoy BL series.

He got to pitch it to GagaOOLala, a Taiwanese subscription video on-demand service that specializes in LGBT content. Happenstance will soon be aired on the streaming service.

Directed by Adolfo Alix Jr.

“When GagaOOLala was asking if we could work on something together, (I thought) why not do (the story)? I also did my research and I also found out that there was a supermoon in 1974 and in the early months of this year, so I said that could be something we could work on,” Alix said.

With Jerry Gracio as writer, Happenstance became a story that unfolds with dual timelines.

“It’s about two people living in two different time zones but actually connected magically,” Alix said.

The supermoon phenomenon that happened in real life also became an important part of the story.

“We just decided to include that particular magical moment where portals may have opened... for those two people to actually meet. It’s all about chance, and love of course being a BL series.”

Cast as the main characters are Kiko Ipapo and Jovani Manansala.

The acting newbies underwent online auditions and several script readings before nabbing the lead roles. Alix had previously worked with Jovani, 23, in a cable TV project. He used to do commercials and appeared in TV shows such as MMK, Ipaglaban Mo, and indie films Jolly Spirit and Mamu, And a Mother Too.

Meanwhile, former seminarian Kiko is a social media personality and print model who marks his acting debut in Happenstance.

Kiko and Jovani play Wade and Jose Manuel, respectively, two heartbroken people who live in 1974 and 2020 yet find a way to meet.

In casting them, Alix said, “When I saw them separately — because both of their characters are lonely — what was crucial to me, of course, di naman siya teleserye, siempre lalake naman yung characters, they can be emotional but the level of emotionality is important.”

He continued, “When it’s someone new, ang tinitingnan ko lang naman yung level of emotion as well as the eyes. Lagi kong tinatandaan yung nabasa ko dati na acting is always what’s in the eyes. Kung mahirap dayain, you can redo the lines, but the eyes cannot lie.”

When asked how producing onscreen projects has changed amid the pandemic, Alix said, “There’s really a big change. Of course, the physicality of it, and the number of people that you work with, and then the protocols that you have to follow. We have to do several swabs — every time we stop shooting and every time we resume our shoots, then social distancing, sanitation and all.

“But more importantly perhaps, as content creators, yung nga sabi nila, cliché to say, we are making stories now in the time of limitation. We have to think of a way wherein you do something, even though it is limited, it doesn’t look limited when you mount it because you design it in such a way that fits the mold of the material of what you’re doing.”

And that’s what they did — creating a milieu for their characters that fit the times. “One is experiencing being heartbroken in the time of pandemic so he’s just alone in their vacation house. And the other one, in 1974, is being grounded by his military dad at home after he was found out to be in a relationship with someone. So, they have the same circumstance — they are trapped in their own rooms. So that set-up helped us propel the story to something that would be a love story maybe or a shared connection between the two characters.”

Asked if viewers can expect this series to be more hopeful or inspiring in tone given what’s happening today, Alix said, “I’m a fan of open-ended stories. Of course, they come from different time zones. In reality, it’s really difficult for them to, you know, meet with the 40 years of difference. That you will have to find out, how they were to resolve the time difference. But I think that’s the magic of love.

Meanwhile, Happenstance is just the latest player in the Pinoy BL field. Alix believes this is not just a trend. “It started in Japan but it flourished in Thailand. I believe this isn’t just a flash in the pan and it’s an ongoing evolution like we have discovered Mexican telenovela and now K-drama. And then patuloy nag-e-evolve ang field na ito.”

The ensemble cast includes Bembol Roco, Rosanna Roces, Alan Paule, Angeli Bayani, Erlinda Villalobos, Ken Anderson, Shu Calleja and Ken Anderson.

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