The sun is also a star
For her role as Dr. Maxine Dela Cruz, Jennylyn Mercado underwent basic medical training, including first aid.Dingdong Dantes plays hotheaded captain Lucas Manalo, whose loyalty to his duty overrides his fear of risks and even his superiors’ orders.
Photos by JL Javier Produced by Marga Buenaventura
The sun is also a star
Fiel Estrella (The Philippine Star) - February 8, 2020 - 12:00am

In Descendants of the Sun, a headstrong doctor and a daring soldier fall in love as a country messed up by war struggles to keep itself together. Far from being a clinch-cover romance or soapy melodrama, it depicts its characters’ stories with grace and a sense of cold, hard reality, which nonetheless fail to take away from its swoon factor. The original South Korean drama starred Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo and has had three adaptations so far — one of them being from the Philippines, a soon-to-premiere teleserye on GMA led by Dingdong Dantes and Jennylyn Mercado.

Jennylyn describes working with Dingdong as a wonderful time. “Si Dong, medyo kinakabahan ako, eh, kasi Dingdong Dantes, siyempre,” she laughs. “Pero nung nasa set na kami, talagang pina-feel niya sakin na napaka-comfortable katrabaho. Walang ere, napaka-professional, ang dami ko talagang natutunan sa kanya.”

The way Dingdong sees it, on the other hand, the project showcases a new side of Jennylyn that also still feels like it’s “Jennylyn na Jennylyn talaga.” We all know what it’s like when she’s in a romance, he says, and her penchant for deadpan humor endears. “Alam natin yung persona na minsan tamihik (si Jen) tapos bigla na lang siyang hihirit ng isa, pero ang lakas ng dating.”

“Si Dingdong, napaka-hands on niya sa lahat,” Jennylyn says. “Sa script, lalapit siya para tanungin, ‘Jen, okay ba ‘to?’ Open siya sa lahat ng suggestions, may freedom ka para gawin lahat ng gusto mo. Bilib ako sa kanya kasi ganun siya ka-passionate dito sa project na ito.”

“Collaborative kasi yung environment, kaya lahat nagiging mas productive,” Dingdong adds. “In our own ways, especially sa set namin, gusto namin yung working atmosphere na parang, ‘Uy, anong input mo?’”

In a sit-down interview, Dingdong and Jennylyn discussed how well they identify with their characters, the impact working on the show has made on them so far, and why we need stories like Descendants of the Sun more than ever.

SUPREME: Were you a fan of the original show? What did you find interesting or compelling about it?

Dingdong Dantes: When I watched it, I fell in love with it. I think it was brilliantly done in terms of the storyline, cinematography, all the technical aspects of it. Pero more to it, grabe yung puso na pinakita nung show sa kabila ng kung gaano kalaki ang pinapakita na eksena. Nakaka-relate kasi tayong mga Pinoy pagdating sa mga ganung kwento. Ang sarap niyang panoorin.

What sets this adaptation apart from the source material?

Jennylyn Mercado: Para sa akin, yung Filipino flavor (ang nagpapaiba sa kanya). Kasi siyempre yung kultura at tradisyon ng Pilipino, ilalagay natin doon at excited kami na idagdag yun at mapanood ng mga tao.

Dingdong: Tingin ko, hindi naman namin papangarapin na higitan (yung original) o maging katulad man kasi nag-marka talaga yun sa atin at hindi mapapalitan yun ever, yung impact na binigay ng Descendants of the Sun sa atin sa Pilipinas pati sa buong mundo. Pero nabigyan tayo ng chance to interpret it our way. Hindi mawawala yung message ng napakagandang kwento nila. This way, nagkakaroon ng magagandang opportunities like supplementing the backstory of the characters. Bilang Pilipino, mahalaga sa atin yung pamilya, so nandito yung mga magulang namin, nakikita mo kung bakit ganito yung life choices namin. Kung bakit ganito siya gumawa at magsalita, dahil ganito yung pagpapalaki. So mas nagiging solid and mas nagkakaroon ng Filipino drama.

How well do you identify with your character?

Jennylyn: Si Maxine, yung passion niya sa trabaho, na kahit ano pang challenges na dumating, talagang nandun siya. Binibigay niya yung sarili niya para magawa niya nang maayos yung trabaho niya. Gusto niya na mag-save talaga ng buhay, kahit ano pang kapalit, at sobrang laki ng respeto ko sa medical field. Ang dami nilang sina-sacrifice. Ang hirap din ng trabaho na dadalhin ka sa isang lugar at kailangan mong mag-adapt. Ang taas din ng respeto ko sa mga sundalo, kasi buhay nila ang nakataya sa pinaglalaban nila.

Dingdong: Yung character ko, always living on the edge, so very adventurous pagdating sa pag-take ng risks. Ganun ako dati, pero medyo hindi na ngayon (na may pamilya na ako). So nakikita ko yung dati kong pagkatao sa kanya. Minsan, he bends the rules. Kahit na malaki yung task na meron siya, susubok at susubok siya ng maraming paraan.

How has working on the show made an impact on you as an actor so far?

Dingdong: Sa adaptation, nagiging mas mahirap for actors, kasi alam na ng mga tao kung ano yung ine-expect nila. It becomes more complicated dahil very well-loved ang show, so paano natin mabibigay yung kaligayahan ng audience nang hindi nasisira yung essence ng original, and at the same time, mabigyan sila ng panibagong approach? Primarily ang task noon ay kung paano siya isulat at kung paano namin gagampanan as actors. In a way magiging training para sa amin na hindi lang umasa sa kung ano yung dati naming ginagawa. Kasi pag yung project mo, original, you’ll create something from nothing. Ito, from something, you’ll have to make it evolve and create it into something that is similar but different. Kailangang ma-reinvent pa namin yung characters bukod sa pagganap ng original actors.

Jennylyn: Malaki yung impact nito for me hindi lang bilang aktor, kundi as a person. Kasi nakita ko kung gaano kahirap yung ginagawa ng mga sundalo, kung paano nila binibigay ang lahat para sa bayan.

Why do you think Filipinos need to be exposed to stories like this, especially now?

Jennylyn: Sa lahat ng negativity na nangyayari sa bansa natin, sana kahit papaano, mapakita lang namin kung ano yung core ng existence nating mga Pilipino. Yung loob natin, yung ipinaglalaban natin sa kung ano yung tama. To remind people na importante pa rin ang pagmamahal at understanding.

DIDING DANTES JENNELYN MERVADO
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