Janella Salvador hopes to make the late Cherie Gil proud

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Janella Salvador hopes to make the late Cherie Gil proud
Janella plays a villain for the first time as Valentina in the new Darna series starring Jane de Leon in the title role. From the long tradition of actresses who played the iconic character, she says the late Cherie Gil’s version was her favorite

Janella Salvador drew inspiration from the late Cherie Gil for her portrayal of Valentina, the main villain in the new ABS-CBN series, Mars Ravelo’s Darna. Jane de Leon stars in the title role, the latest iteration of the beloved Pinay superhero Darna.

Directed by veteran director Chito Roño, the Kapamilya show under JRB Creative Production, which replaced FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano starting Aug. 15, sees the 24-year-old playing kontrabida for the first time.

From the long tradition of “amazing” actresses who brought to life on screen the komiks character, Janella would have to say that Cherie’s version was her favorite and inspiration. The veteran star, who passed away on Aug. 5 due to cancer, played Valentina to Anjanette Abayari’s Darna in the 1994 film Darna! Ang Pagbabalik.

In an interview with editors after the Darna press launch at ABS-CBN’s Dolphy Theater, Janella said she hopes to make Cherie proud with her portrayal.

“Hindi ko siya nakatrabaho but I’m just hoping that wherever she may be, I hope maging proud siya sa portrayal ko,” she said in response to a STAR question.

“I wasn’t even born yet (when she played Valentina). But it’s still very classic. Parang hindi siya lumang tingnan. Obviously, her presence and mukha palang niya are very powerful na. Dagdagan mo pa by the way she acts. She’s amazing!”

Playing Valentina and her character’s alter-ego Regina officially marks Janella’s teleserye comeback after giving birth in the UK in October 2020. Since this was going to be a departure from the usual bida roles she did pre-pandemic, she admitted to having second thoughts when the TV project was first offered to her.

As Valentina’s alter-ego Regina, a lawyer and vlogger who deeply cares about socio-political issues.

She explained, “I wasn’t sure if it was the right decision and if it was the direction I wanted to go. Actually, I asked if they could give me some time to think about it as to whether I should read for the role. They made me read for it and I did.”

“Then I realized, this is my first big project after giving birth. Ano ang mawawala sa akin kung magbabasa ako? It’s such an iconic role and everyone would be honored to play Valentina, for sure! So, even though I wasn’t sure about it at first, because I had never played a villain, here I am now. I read for the role in front of direk Chito Roño actually and I got it,” Janella added.

In an apparent effort to help herself get into the character of the “serpent queen,” so-called for famously having a head full of snakes, Janella got herself a pet snake right after she secured the role.

“Honestly, I’m 100-percent enjoying playing this character because as much as di siya madali, it’s fun to get into it and play around it because (like Darna/Narda) dalawa din siya — Regina and Valentina. And I got myself a pet snake because I really love animals,” she shared.

“I’m embracing my character. I fell in love with the character the first time I read the script actually.”

When asked about the extent of her physical preparations given that she’s expected to engage in some fight scenes, Janella said, “When this role arrived in my life, that was also the time I was already losing weight. Sumakto siya because I really did gain weight — a lot of weight! I was really big. I asked for help from Dr. Vicki Belo to get back to work again. She helped me with lipo.

“But of course, hindi naman agad-agad yung payat after lipo. You still have to work out and that’s what I did. When I was strong enough, I would really work out every day if I could. Sumakto na tinawagan ako bigla for the role. I wasn’t at my best yet, but timing na I was fit already when we started taping.”

Besides the physical demands, she admitted that the “most challenging” part of playing Valentina was dealing with the pressure brought about by how iconic this role is. “Aside from the fact that it’s also physically draining, it’s a very complex character. It’s actually quite difficult to act. It’s emotionally draining as well,” she pointed out.

“Also knowing that the previous Valentinas were all so amazing and (the role) became iconic because of the way they portrayed it. Of course, I want to make it my own. Yun ang palagi kong iniisip. But at the same time, gusto ko siempre tumatak siya. So, the pressure is there.”

As of writing, Valentina/Regina has yet to enter the picture, but this is what we know so far: Janella’s character and Darna/Narda start out as good friends with “a lot of love for each other.” She also noted that audiences should expect to see a “more woke” Darna project.

“I think this is a more woke version of Darna, more modern and marami talaga siyang issues na ita-tackle na relevant. Like my character is a lawyer slash vlogger. So, I vlog about politics and my cases. Hindi lang si Darna yung makakaaway ko dito… because I’m against corruption, so maraming ganung aspects,” she said.

Meanwhile, in a separate interview at the mediacon, Janella spoke about how much she has changed as a person since becoming a parent to Baby Jude (her son with actor Markus Paterson).

“Siguro yung priorities ko ngayon, everything I’m doing is for Jude. I’m more inspired to work, to work hard, because I already have a child. I’m not just doing this for myself but also for my Jude,” she told the press.

When asked about her relationship with Jude’s dad, she echoed what the actor has also signified in interviews, “Masaya naman ako ngayon, happy, at peace. Okay naman kami. Basta okay kami. We’re both happy as individuals and our main priority is Jude.”

(The new Darna series airs Mondays to Fridays at 8 p.m. on the Kapamilya Channel, A2Z, Jeepney TV and TV5. It’s also available on Kapamilya Online Live, iWantTFC and The Filipino Channel.)


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