Jerald Napoles, Kim Molina work hard at their chemistry on and off screen

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Jerald Napoles, Kim Molina work hard at their chemistry on and off screen
Kim plays a heartbroken woman who wants to make her ex jealous by having a fake boyfriend played by Jerald.

Not all reel couples get along in real life. In the same way, not all real-life sweethearts can be successfully paired on screen.

But there are exceptions like Jerald Napoles and Kim Molina, whose relationship off screen somehow translates to the kind of onscreen chemistry that merits movies.

In a relationship for more than eight years now, they’ve managed to appear together in a total of six movies, three of which saw them outright as a “love team.”

The latest film that’s utilizing the couple as such is Benedict Mique’s Girlfriend Na Pwede Na, a co-production between the director’s Lonewolf Films, Inc. and Viva Films. It’s now screening in theaters nationwide.

The synopsis asks viewers: “In order to settle down, are you willing to settle for less? Or will you be brave enough to walk out of a tiring and dragging relationship and realize that you deserve so much more?”

In the movie, Kim plays Pam, an “okay” or “pwede na” girlfriend. Meaning, she’s not seen worthy enough for keeps, but OK enough to be GF for the time being while “the one” has yet to come.

Jerald Napoles and Kim Molina during the premiere of their new romantic-comedy film Girlfriend Na Pwede Na.

But Pam is getting impatient and looking to take her seven-year-long relationship with Jiggs (Gab Lagman) to the next level. But she finds out that hte latter doesn’t consider her as “the one”.

Hurt and heartbroken, Pam breaks up with Jiggs only to realize she wants him back in her life. With the help of friends, she decides to make him jealous through a pretend boyfriend in Isko (Jerald Napoles), a buko juice vendor who agrees to the proposition because of the money. He gets a free makeover and the strategy works. But Pam ends up falling for Isko.

Same yet different

While it sounds like the stuff traditional rom-coms are made of — typical boy-meets-girl narrative and “boyfriend for hire” trope — Jerald pointed out what made their film unique.

“The pivotal character, the main character, is Kim. But what I found interesting… is actually the fairytale of my character because I was hired — I am a buko vendor in the film — by Kim to make Gab jealous and to get what she wants to happen in her relationship with (him),” he told The STAR in an exclusive interview.

“However, a romance develops. The ‘hopeless romantic idea’ of the film (lies in) Kim’s character, but the fairytale is nasa (character ko). It got me interested because medyo sa lalake na side yung fairytale (for a change).”

According to him, this spelled the difference of their film from other rom-coms or romantic films out there. “I think the difference of our movie is yung boyfriend for hire, hindi ko alam kung iha-hire mo talaga eh,” he quipped.

“That’s why it’s a fairytale because how would this movie make people believe (it’s possible)? Yung characters namin ni Kim and even our physicality are very relatable to the (majority of people).

“So, how can we make people believe that one Jerald Napoles is capable of making Gab Lagman jealous? That’s the biggest difference… It’s very interesting because of the script and kung paano ba magko-connect yung character.”

As for Kim, she was drawn to Girlfriend Na Pwede Na because it’s far from their usual fare. “Alam niyo po yung mga ganung klaseng concept, boy-meets-girl, ‘di siya napupunta sa amin talaga… The movie basically, pwede talaga siyang hindi ibigay (and iba) sa kung ano man yung normally nabibigay sa amin,” she shared.

She also loved the collaboration on set. “The director (Benedict), the creators of it, gave us the opportunity to work around it para malagyan po namin ng twist. So, it was a collaborative project for us,” Kim said.

“Although we’d always portray characters and roles according to the script, (in all our projects) we would input some insights as to how things are being said in the real world.”

Kim in a scene with Gab Lagman.

Becoming a loveteam

They’ve done six projects together — The Write Moment, Jowable, Ang Babaeng Walang Pakiramdam, Ikaw at Ako at Ang Ending, Sa Haba ng Gabi and Girlfriend Na Pwede Na.

It was in Jowable (2019) where their potential as a love team was first “spotted.” But becoming effective as one took a long process, said Kim. She would say “level one” was their time in the hit jukebox musical Rak of Aegis. It was where they first worked together and eventually fell in love. Kim said she was the first to confess “crush kita,” to which Jerald recalled reacting, “I know. Hahaha! Yabang, akala mo naman pogi… Hindi, ano po, grab the opportunity while it’s hot, yan ang ginawa ko.”

Their hit Rak tandem, which got them dubbed as the “Kimerald of Theater,” led Kim to making a cameo in The Write Moment (2017), Jerald’s first rom-com co-starring Valeen Montenegro.

Then came the sexy-comedy Jowable, Kim’s “launching movie,” where it was Jerald’s turn to make a cameo in a hilarious “bed scene”. At that time, the actor was also doing his “jowa-vlogs,” which further gave followers an idea of their onscreen chemistry.

In Ang Babaeng Walang Pakiramdam, it was back to comedy, which Kim acknowledged as her boyfriend’s “forte.” The film also proved that it’s their forte together, which Girlfriend Na Pwede Na is now banking on. While the “romantic drama with a bit of action” Ikaw at Ako at Ang Ending showed that their chemistry could cut across genres.

Of course, the job of a love team or romantic leads is to deliver kilig and this is something that comes not without sweat.

To achieve kilig in their projects together, they have to “exert the extra effort” to establish early on that they are not playing their characters as themselves. “Sa tingin ko, it’s how we portray our character not as Kim and Je. Kasi the moment ilapag namin si Je and Kim, there’s nothing new for them,” said Jerald.

“Kasi naiisip din namin yan eh. Paano pa kaya sila kikiligin sa atin eh nag-va-vlog pa tayo, nag-podcast pa tayo… so how else can we make (the audience) feel kilig? I think the moment you portray the character as the character, people that are gonna watch it will see differently.

“So, kelangan solid na solid and umpisa pa lang, malatag na sa audience na hindi ito si Jerald and si Kim. As much as possible, you change your look and manner of speaking… That’s what I do personally and that’s what I also see Kim doing.”

Kim, on the other hand, credited their theater background for helping them build chemistry.

“That basically became our foundation. We became co-workers first, then friends, then bestfriends, then naging kami,” said the actress, who added that theater work trained them to disappear into their characters.

Another big help is doing script analysis and scene studies together. “We really work around it and we really work hard at it. So kung ano man yung nararamdaman nila when they see us on screen, it’s basically because of the characters we are portraying. We see to it that they see different people whenever they watch a project of ours.”

Girlfriend Na Pwede Na director Benedict Mique.
Photos courtesy of viva films

Close to real life

Nevertheless, both agreed that how their characters are in Girlfriend Na Pwede Na is the closest to their dynamics as a couple.

Jerald said his character’s background is close to his, with direk Benedict also having the actor do something in the film that he actually did in real life. Kim, for her part, could relate to her character because she’s also into live online selling.

Plus, the banter between Pam and Isko, especially in scenes that bring them to Baguio, is very similar to how Jerald and Kim are when traveling. “This movie is sort of the same as how we are as a couple,” admitted Kim.

Meanwhile, The STAR asked both Kim and Jerald for some tips to any person who wants to stop being a “pwede na” partner in a relationship.

Kim said, “I always say that before you commit to a relationship, you have to make sure that the person you’re committing to, ay hindi lang siya pwede na… because that’s not going to be a relationship, it’s just going to be about you. You have to make sure that you know you are enough and that person is enough as well, bago magkaroon ng kayo.”

“(I’ve said this in our podcast) I am happy and I feel blessed na kahit merong tayo, meron pa rin ako. And that’s the advice I would tell the people thinking, ‘Paano ko malalaman kung pwede na, paano ako magiging pwede na para sa kanya?’

“If you still have that idea kung paano ka magiging pwede na sa kanya, then you have to talk about it. You’re not supposed to feel that way in a relationship. You should know and feel confident enough you think that your partner thinks of you that way — that you’re enough.”

For Jerald, it’s a waste of each other’s time to be someone’s “pwede na”.

“Sayang ang oras kung wala kang plans. Even for the person na ang jowa niya ay pwede na, sayang din oras, ginirlfriend eh. Kung ako naman yung ‘pwede na,’ sayang din oras ko kasi ‘pwede na lang’ ako sayo.

“So, it’s the time. I think we have to think like that — time is really essential. If you’re not having fun and yet you’re spending too much time… basically we’re just wasting our lives.”

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