Linlang emerges as top pick on Prime Video PHL

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Linlang emerges as top pick on Prime Video PHL
Topbilled by (from left) Paulo Avelino, Kim Chiu and JM de Guzman, and produced by ABS-CBN and Dreamscape, the suspense drama Linlang debuts at No. 1 on Prime Video Philippines.

Linlang leads Prime Video’s roster of Filipino titles for the last quarter of 2023, claiming the top spot upon its debut last Thursday with its promising tale of deceit and drama.

Topbilled by Kim Chiu, Paulo Avelino and JM de Guzman, and produced by ABS-CBN and Dreamscape, the series may initially seem as another infidelity story — a topic well-trodden in Filipino entertainment. But from the two episodes, it appears to offer much more beneath the surface, while delving into the major themes of betrayal, deception, and complex family dynamics. In particular, it has begun exploring other subjects such as challenges faced by Overseas Filipino Workers, annulment, co-parenting, and the double standards in marital matters, adding depth to the story’s intriguing and already emotionally charged start.

A lot of things happened during the two-episode premiere. But without spoiling too much, we witness Victor “Bangis” Lualhati (Paulo), a former boxer turned seaman, grappling with suspicions of his wife Juliana’s (Kim) infidelity. Juliana’s confession and subsequent “blame-shifting” help set the stage for the narrative. Victor opens up about his situation to his half-brother Alexander (JM), a hotshot lawyer who handles annulment cases and readily offers legal assistance.

But Victor eventually discovers that the man — Juliana’s boss (Jake Ejercito) — that he earlier mistook and that Juliana herself claimed as the lover couldn’t be who he is purported to be. As he digs deep into his wife’s affair, the story suggests that the woman he loved and married may not be what she seems to be, and the people he trusted the most could be the same people who would betray and hurt him the most.

The Philippine STAR had a one-on-one interview with the series’ lead stars to talk more about their characters and the storyline of the 14-part suspense drama.

Kim, in particular, embraces a daring and unconventional role in Linlang, emphasizing how the streaming platform allows for creative freedom and exploration.

“What made me accept this project?” began Kim. “First, it’s about my growth as an actor. This project is very timely for my career. Because when will I do this if not now? Especially now that we’re on a streaming platform. That is very open when it comes to doing these kinds of stories,” she told The STAR.

“In a streaming platform, there’s nothing (bawal). You can do anything, even the words, even your physical appearance. You can show everything there. So, I think this is the perfect time for me to do this kind of role.

“But, I’m really nervous, to be honest because this is something different. And when I say different, it’s different, different. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. But I’m happy.”

For JM, portraying a lawyer posed a unique challenge due to his limited knowledge of legal jargon and related stuff. Nevertheless, he viewed this project as an opportunity to learn from his fellow actors, including Paulo, with whom he worked for the first time.

Paulo was also drawn to the project for the opportunity to work with talented co-actors and directors. “Well, they said Kim Chiu is doing it, so I said game,” he quipped.

“But mainly, I haven’t worked with so many actors here. Kim, JM, and a lot more. Also, I haven’t worked with FM Reyes, one of our directors (along with Jojo Saguin). I always accept projects based on what I haven’t done before. And when they presented this project, it gave me the chance to think of so many ways on how to improve the character.”

For this series, Paulo also pushed himself through a body transformation to embody his character’s journey.

“I think people would see that I was playing with my weight. Just to make it more realistic and give something else, something new for a TV show,” he said.

“It wasn’t easy, mainly because the character aside from the physical side is, I wouldn’t say heavy, but going through a lot. I also had to consider that, plus the weight I was gaining and losing throughout the show, it was doubly hard.”

The actor had to gain around 20 to 35 pounds at the start of the filming and lose around 20 pounds midway into the shoot that lasted for some six months.

From left: Directors FM Reyes and Jojo Saguin (leftmost and rightmost, respectively) with the stars of Linlang, from left, Ruby Ruiz, Maricel Soriano, Paulo, Kim, JM, and Kaila Estrada.
Photos courtesy of ABS-CBN and Dreamscape Entertainment

“But I had fun, I learned a lot, it taught me a lot about discipline. It taught me a lot about my body as well, and listening to my body. It was really a challenge and I hope I pulled it off,” said Paulo.

In terms of lessons, he said the series teaches about the consequences of mistakes and the importance of choosing what’s right and fair for everyone involved.

Paulo said, “Like normal human beings, we make mistakes. And sometimes those mistakes have ripple effects. It affects people around you, people you love. I think, at the end of the day, it’s always about choosing what’s right and what’s fair for everyone.”

For her part, Kim said that her character highlights the significance of attention, time, and security in relationships, particularly for women.

“What does a woman really need? A woman just needs attention, time and yes, security. That’s all she needs to feel loved, appreciated and feels accepted in many ways. So those are the factors that are lacking in my character. That’s where the story begins,” she said.

“As the story goes on, they (viewers) will realize that, ah, that’s why. And they will also see what’s wrong and right. And there are a lot of wrongs that I hope will be right in real life,” she added.

JM, on the other hand, learned about moral and legal aspects through his character’s journey.

“I mean, aside from being a lawyer, you should know what’s right and what’s wrong. And legally right and wrong,” JM said.

“My character is a family man. He’s also in love. So there are risks and problems in the relationship. So, maybe my character will show how to love. (And that there) are also mistakes. There are risks.”

Regarding the series’ themes, Paulo said that he always goes for simplifying complex issues.

“Everything is so complicated nowadays. There are a lot of issues that have been tackled here that I disagree with and a lot that I agree with,” he explained.

“But at the end of the day, I always want to simplify it: Right is right, wrong is wrong. If you love someone, love someone fully. And give it your all. If it doesn’t work, move on.”

Both Kim and Paulo pointed out the theme of co-parenting and expressed their concern for its impact on children.

“It’s not a trend, but it’s happening lately to people… and yes to you,” Kim said, referring to her co-star Paulo, to which he agreed.

“That’s one of the issues (co-parenting setup) that kids have a hard time with. But at the same time, I hope kids can see that it’s not their fault whatever happens to their parents. (We’d like to show here) the importance of a child’s self-worth. I hope they can see that.”

Added Paulo, “And (the importance of the) child’s welfare. I’m sure our audience will be mature… So they’ll see that a child’s welfare is very important. It affects them (children) when their parents fight.”

Said Kim, “Even when we were doing scenes, I felt sorry for my child (in the show). I don’t think it’ll ever happen (with me). I’ll protect my child as much as I can.”

JM, on the other hand, resonated with the theme of infidelity, the need for empathy and understanding for both sides of such complex situations.

“Because now on social media, we often see that when there’s an issue, only the other person is at fault. There’s a trial by the public (favoring one side). Here, you can see both sides. There’s empathy in both.”

The cast also urged viewers not to miss any episodes, as each one contains “easter eggs” that provide answers to the series’ overarching questions.

Linlang drops new episodes every Thursday and streams in over 240 countries and territories via Prime Video. It also stars Maricel Soriano, Ruby Ruiz, Kaila Estrada, Jaime Fabregas, Raymond Bagatsing, Albie Casiño, Jake Ejercito, Heaven Peralejo, Adrian Lindayag, Race Matias, Benj Manalo, Lovely Abella, Frenchie Dy, Ross Pesigan, Hanna Lexie, Juno Advincula, Connie Virtucio, Lotlot Bustamante, Meann Espinosa, Danny Ramos, Bart Guingona, Marc Mcmahon, Anji Salvacion, and Kice.

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