Why director thinks Donny and Belle are the next superstars
It’s how they stay strong despite the noise,” said film and TV director Mae Cruz-Alviar to explain what sets the onscreen partnership of Donny Pangilinan and Belle Mariano apart from others.
Mae is DonBelle’s director in the ABS-CBN produced romantic drama “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Prior to working with the duo, she has also done projects with the tandems of Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla (“KathNiel”), and Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil (“LizQuen”).
“Theirs is a love team that was created during the pandemic, so it would be interesting to know how they would describe the world they are in. They’re not used to having a lot of people around them. They’re experiencing this only now. When they had their first premiere night, it was enclosed. When they had their concert, their audience was very limited. Their career trajectory is quite unique,” Mae told Inquirer Entertainment during the recent media gathering to introduce the cast of “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
“To be honest, they’re both still like babies. They’ve been a tandem for several years, but it’s like they’re only starting to get used to seeing fans’ reactions now. When we shoot sequences outdoors, they get overwhelmed by all the attention,” Mae revealed. “I realized that while they are already popular, they can still become more popular because people who have not encountered them during the pandemic lockdowns will have access to them now. I’m excited for them to experience everything that the loveteams that came before experienced.”
DonBelle has a very active fan base, especially on social media, Mae observed. “It’s how they stay strong despite the noise that matters. The comments they read online still affect them in a way. That is why I say their experience together is unique to their partnership,” she pointed out.
Mae said two artists who play a couple on-cam do not necessarily have to be lovers off-cam in order for their partnership to be effective. “While chemistry is innate, it’s something that two artists can work on, too. You don’t have to be in love, but if you happen to fall in love in the process, then that’s your problem. That’s what I learned from Ma’am Charo (Santos-Concio, former ABS-CBN president). If you’re a good artist, you will be able to convince your audience that you are in love with your coactor. It’s work, you just do what is required of you,” the director said.
One instance that demonstrated DonBelle’s passion and dedication to their craft, according to Mae, was when they shot their underwater scene for “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
“Donny is a diver, so the scene was easier for him. The reason I said it was challenging was because Belle isn’t. She had to sink and Donny had to rescue her. She had to act as if she’s dead weight, while not knowing how deep she was going to sink. That was scary! The pool we used was really deep,” recalled Mae. “We had to do it several times because it required several shots. Since Belle was nervous, she would grab Donny’s arm involuntarily. We then had to retake the shot.”
The next superstars
What was good about the two young actors, said the director, was that they helped each other in order to pull off the scene. “I saw Donny trying to comfort Belle. He got a mug of warm water and sprinkled it on her because she was already shivering. He also guided her underwater, as he is the more experienced swimmer. It’s nice that they have that.”
With the positive reviews that the series has been receiving, DonBelle is now being called ‘’the next superstars,” something that their director is convinced will most likely happen soon. “They are good artists. They look good together. Their chemistry is oozing. They take their partnership seriously,” she said. “It helps a lot that people already feel kilig when the two are in a romantic scene, but what they give is way more than that. They’re very hard working. Their popularity now is something that they worked hard on.”
In fact, Donny went on an immersion trip with Mae in Binondo and Divisoria prior to working on the series. “We all wore masks so people wouldn’t recognize him. He was so thrilled to be out. He got to observe people around him,” she said. “Belle plays a very complex character. In the beginning, when she was still discovering Caroline, we would ask her for retakes. I really saw her patience. She did what was required of her no matter how tired she was. This was aside from trying to learn Fookien for her character.”
The series, which premiered on Oct. 16, begins with Bingo (Donny), a hard-working seller whose goal is to save after his mother left him, meeting Caroline (Belle), the black sheep of a wealthy Chinese Filipino family. Their worlds collide after Bingo saves Caroline from kidnappers. INQ