‘Pearl Next Door’: Girls’ Love series lets queer women join the fun in BL wave
(Second of two parts)
A few episodes into the phenomenal Boys’ Love series “Gameboys,” it is clear that the show is more than just about, well, boys.
Fans were quickly drawn to the character of Pearl, played by the bright-smiled Adrianna So. Besides being a mediator and loyal friend to Cairo and Gavreel (Elijah Canlas and Kokoy De Santos, or EliKoy), she is queen in her own universe.
About halfway through season one of “Gameboys,” its creator The IdeaFirst Company announced in August that it was launching Girls’ Love series “Pearl Next Door,” directed by Ivan Andrew Payawal and written by Keavy Eunice Vicente.
The cast is comprised of Iana Bernardez, Rachel Coates, Cedrick Juan and Phillip Hernandez a.k.a. Davao Conyo.
“It was a no-brainer for us to do a GL series,” Vicente told INQUIRER.net. “As Direk Jun [Robles Lana] said, it was their way of telling audiences that Pearl is no sidekick to the two leads of Gameboys. She is their equal and also their champion.”
It is to the credit of “Gameboys’” solid characterizations and So’s charisma that Pearl stands out.
Scenes dedicated to Pearl show that her life revolves beyond her two friends’ love lives: she is pop culture savvy, has her own vlog (“It’s your girl, Pearl!”), and gets personal on social media (like admitting that she has kissed a girl and liked it).
“Pearl has been the supportive, bubbly, and selfless best friend that I’m sure everyone wishes they had,” Vicente said. “This time, we get to see her world, and other sides to her character, including her vulnerability.”
And as “PND” teasers show, she has other friends — and maybe love interests — to keep her busy.
“We get to meet the other people in her life. These characters are the people who make Pearl, Pearl. So I think the audience will love them too,” Vicente said.
As exciting as it is to meet new characters, will Cai and Gav still feature in Pearl’s life?
“[Viewers] will just have to be patient and wait for the episodes to unfold,” the writer advised. “But what I can tell you is that we’ll be focusing more on Pearl this time because it’s the queen’s time to shine.”
When asked why “PND” was a full-blown series rather than one special episode like “Alt Gameboys” — which featured two supporting characters from “Gameboys” (Kyle Velino as Terrence and Miggy Jimenez as Wesley), as well as a new one (Achilles, played by another IdeaFirst talent Kych Minemoto) — Vicente explained, “Pearl deserves to have her own series. There’s more to her than being a shipper.”
“But while PND is a natural extension of ‘Gameboys,’ it is also quite different and one that can stand on its own.”
For fans looking for more ayuda, Vicente teased too: “I’m not so sure that [‘Alt Gameboys’] is just a standalone episode. LOL.”
‘Strong female characters’
Vicente has been telling stories of queer characters as a queer woman herself. Her first screenplay “Distance,” directed by IdeaFirst president Perci Intalan, explored the homecoming of a mother who had an affair with a woman. When she wrote the iWant series “I Am U,” So’s character was attracted to the protagonist played by Julia Barretto.
“When I entered the industry in 2012, my dream has always been to write a lesbian romantic comedy,” Vicente said. “I hope it happens in the near future.”
“Our stories may take different forms, or shapes, or colors — but love is universal,” she explained. “Heartbreak is universal. Hope is universal.”
“And by telling the story of Pearl, I hope I get to connect with the people watching.”
While viewers look forward to a “bi icon” like Pearl, considering the lack of bisexual representation in movies and series here and abroad, Vicente stressed that the characters were more than just about their sexuality.
“From the very beginning, the creative team agreed that we wanted to portray strong female characters. We wanted to create characters that are independent, vulnerable, but also flawed,” she said.
“Being queer may be a huge part of their identity, but it’s not their only identity. They are also friends, sisters, daughters, lovers.”
Getting the tone right
Vicente disclosed to INQUIRER.net the “exhaustive process” taken to portray the LGBTQ+ community in the show. Consultants were also queer women, namely Bernadette Neri and Laurel Fantauzzo who are both authors and educators.
“Along with the whole team (cast, crew, and creative and production team), we had a SOGIE discussion with Atty. Claire de Leon of Babaylanes, Inc. just to make sure that all members of the team are on the same page before we started shooting,” Vicente recalled. “We understand that it’s a never-ending learning process, but we wanted to start somewhere.”
“Just to give you a sense of the exhaustive process we went through just to get the content and tone right: we finished shooting the pilot episode two months ago, but after consulting with our mentors and story consultants, we agreed to scrap it altogether, along with the 3 episodes I had already written, and start all over,” she said. “We’re pretty happy that we made that call.”
IdeaFirst chief creative officer and filmmaker Jun Robles Lana hinted at the pay-off following the grueling process. “Teary-eyed watching #PearlNextDoor,” he wrote on Twitter last Oct. 18.
“We wanted to get the tone right. Grateful to our SOGIE story consultants who helped us enormously.”
Teary-eyed watching #PearlNextDoor. Believe it or not, we shot the pilot in August but scrapped it, wrote a new script and shot pilot #2 in September. Scrapped it again, and shot script/pilot #3 early this month. It’s been a lot of hard work to get here but it’s so worth it.
— Jun Robles Lana (@junrobleslana) October 17, 2020
When asked about fans’ (rightfully) high expectations of “PND,” Vicente appealed, “Please be gentle with Pearl!”
“Kidding aside, I hope they enjoy Pearl’s journey as much as we enjoyed creating it.”
About three months since “PND” was confirmed, it seems eager viewers, particularly the fandom still on a high from “Gameboys,” will get to meet the queen soon.
After a Twitter poll asked fans about the best day for a date, it was revealed that Friday won out.
— Jun Robles Lana (@junrobleslana) October 20, 2020
As fans speculated that this would be the streaming schedule of “PND,” some argued that a Friday release will clash with other BLs.
One thing is for sure: the queen will take her rightful place this October, and no one is going to stop her. JB
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