Donny Pangilinan, Belle Mariano on adjusting to a ‘teleserye state of mind’
Belle Mariano took a seven-day crash course in Fookien, while Donny Pangilinan walked the streets of Binondo and Divisoria incognito as part of their preparation for their characters in the romantic drama series “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
“Up to now, I’m still trying to learn more about my character Caroline. I just know that she is my exact opposite,” Belle told reporters during the recent media gathering to introduce the cast and directors of ABS-CBN’s latest project that will start airing in two weeks. “I immersed myself in Chinese culture since Caroline comes from a wealthy Chinese family. Direk Mae [Cruz-Alviar] and I had a date, we spent the whole day just talking about Caroline.”
Donny said transforming into Bingo happens even until today, as the cameras start to roll. “I also immersed myself in my character’s environment. Our worlds are so different. Direk Mae and the team went with me to Binondo and Divisoria. We walked around incognito. She would whisper to me, ‘Donny, observe how this man carried his load!’ or ‘Look at how he tries to sell stuff.’ Bingo engages in so many rackets in order to survive. I wanted to make sure I know what Bingo is going through in life.”
When it came to how Bingo speaks and the manner he carries himself, Donny said he got a lot of help from his coactors, like Ketchup Eusebio and Hyubs Azarcon. “I ask them if my pronunciation is correct or if I can say a particular sentence better. I feel like turning into Bingo is really a group effort. We’re all in this together,” he said.
The series, codirected by Cathy Garcia-Sampana and Ian Loreños, is about Bingo, a hard-working seller who wants to save up to P1 million after his mother left him, and Caroline, the black sheep of a wealthy Filipino-Chinese family. Their worlds collide after Bingo saves Caroline from kidnappers who left her to drown.
Director Mae said that in the beginning, she found it so interesting to observe how Donny and Belle (collectively known as “DonBelle”) would “attack” their characters. “Playing Caroline and Bingo is new to them. Belle said it’s her first time to portray a character who is rich. She was always the girl-next-door in her past projects, while Donny was always the rich-guy type,” Mae began. “There’s one scene where Donny was supposed to ride a jeepney and he didn’t know what to do. He was supposed to squeeze himself through but since Donny is such a polite guy, he joined the queue and allowed everyone to get in first. I told him, ‘It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. You work on getting ahead of everyone.’ That’s when I thought of asking him, ‘Is this your first time to ride a jeep?’ and he said, ‘Yes.’ Nanibago siya doon.”
The underwater scene took a long time to shoot, Mae reported. “That very short scene—where Caroline falls into the water and Bingo saves her—took us so long to make. Belle is a floater, so she had to wear weights, around four kilos. We had to repeat the scene several times. Belle was already shivering, so Donny would sometimes get warm water and spray it on her. When Donny, who is a diver, requested for another take, Belle said, ‘Really? Another one?’ In the end, the scene came out perfectly. It’s worth our hard work.”
Belle added: “It’s a huge challenge to get to know Caroline and actually become her. She keeps everything inside. She’s reserved and stoic. She is such a complex person that when I leave the set, I sometimes feel that I still carry her baggage with me. Getting in and out of character is the challenge.”
For Donny, the hardest part about doing “Can’t Buy Me Love” is “shooting for a show that will last for quite a few months. A movie only takes less than a month to shoot, while our series, ‘He’s Into Her,’ only had 12 episodes. It’s hard to be part of a series that airs everyday,” he pointed out. “Most days of the week, we will be shooting, and, if not, we still have to think of our characters. I’m still adjusting to the ‘teleserye state of mind.’ I’m just grateful that I’m with a team led by three amazing directors.”
Donny also admitted to feeling a lot of pressure, especially now that DonBelle will finally be seen on primetime. “I guess it’s natural for us to feel this way. We have such a star-studded cast, amazing crew and directors. Who wouldn’t feel pressured? I just feel like Belle and I are able to use the pressure in a good way. We now see the hard work put in by everyone behind the scenes. The only way to repay them is to give it our all and put that pressure to good use,” he said.
This time, the goal is to live up to the expectations of their fans, Donny added. “Belle and I made it a point to remain true to ourselves. For any project we do, we would discuss how to best attack our scenes, remind each other what we needed to do for our characters, and talk beforehand about what we can still give to it without losing ourselves, our genuineness, and our love for our craft. We support each other 100 percent because, more than anything, we are here as teammates.”
More than just ‘kilig’
According to creative manager Jay Fernando, the difference of “Can’t Buy Me Love” from shows that also feature poor-boy-rich-girl romances is that, “There’s a certain dose of reality in the story. It’s something that this generation now is asking. Today’s audiences are now more demanding in terms of intensity of emotion, and quality of the story plots. In recent years, we’ve started hearing the word ‘bingeing.’ Is this show binge-able?”
Mae added: “Love stories today demand more than just kilig. Audiences are now very much aware because they have also gone through a lot emotionally. You have to be grounded and go beyond kilig. You have to talk about what’s going on in the world, about what’s real for them. Definitely, there’s more to this story than just romance.”
Joining Donny and Belle in this Star Creatives-produced series are Nova Villa, Celeste Legaspi, Agot Isidro, Rowell Santiago, Ruffa Gutierrez, Maris Racal, Albie Casiño, Kaila Estrada, Joao Constancia, Karina Bautista, Vivoree and Darren.
“Can’t Buy Me Love” premieres on Netflix on Oct. 13, on iWantTFC on Oct. 14, and on the Kapamilya Channel, A2Z and TV5 on Oct. 16. INQ