In the span of 16 years, Jennylyn Mercado has played a lot of roles in TV shows and in movies.
To date, GMA-7 has already shown 19 TV shows with Jennylyn as the lead, or where she played major roles.
Jennylyn has also starred in 21 movies, 11 of which featured her as one of the leads.
In this exclusive interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal), Jennylyn tells stories about 14 of her iconic TV shows and movie projects.
Encantadia was Jennylyn's first major TV show on GMA Primetime, after being part of the shows Joyride (2004) and Forever In My Heart (2004).
She played Lira, the missing heiress of Amihan (Iza Calzado) and Ybarro (Dingdong Dantes) who grew up in the mortal world. Lira later discovered that she has magical powers, and that she really originated from Encantadia.
Lira eventually fell in love with her mortal childhood sweetheart, Anthony.
Jennylyn says that this is the most memorable project for her because it allowed her to get her first taste of being a TV actress.
"Yun yung pinakamemorable kasi yun yung time na wala pa talaga akong alam, hindi ko alam na ganun pala kahirap mag-taping!
"24 hours pala, kailangan, nandoon ka, nakakatulog na ako sa set, ganun.
"So, doon yung pinaka unang experience ko kung paano ba magtaping, paano magtrabaho, ilang oras ba."
According to Jennylyn, what she loved most about her Lira character was her innocence.
She says, "Favorite ko kay Lira yung innocence niya kasi yung ano siya, e, napaka parang bata lang yung isip niya.
"Tapos nagiging confused siya kasi ang daming nangyayaring magical sa paligid niya, sa buhay niya, sa batang edad. I think 13 yata o 14 yung edad niya."
14 years later, after playing father-and-daughter in Encantadia, Jennylyn will be paired for the first time with Dingdong Dantes in the remake of Descendants of the Sun.
Blue Moon was an entry to the 2005 Metro Manila Film Festival, wherein Jennylyn and Mark Herras figured in a love triangle with Pauleen Luna.
The period drama required them to wear attire from the '60s.
Jennylyn played Corazon, a nurse who was secretly in love with Mark's character, who in turn was in love with Pauleen.
After many years, Jennylyn and Mark's characters met again, and they got married. However, Jennylyn resented Mark, thinking that he was still in love with Pauleen.
Jennylyn says about her Corazon character, "Si Corazon, gusto ko kung paano siya magmahal at kung paano niya binibigay yung sarili niya doon sa taong mahal niya."
The movie won Best Picture, Best Story, and Best Screenplay at the MMFF Awards Night that year.
For Jennylyn, Blue Moon was the movie that gave her first acting award: a Best Supporting Actress award at the 2006 Gawad Tanglaw Awards.
She recalls, "First award ko yun, best supporting! Nanginginig ako tapos parang hindi ako makahinga. Hindi naman ako naglakad!
"Noong tinanggap ko yung award, parang hindi ako makahinga tapos hindi ko alam kung ano yung sasabihin ko, nabablanko ako, mixed emotions."
NOW AND FOREVER: DANGAL
Dangal was the last installment of GMA-7's afternoon umbrella drama show, Now and Forever, aired in 2006.
It was Jennylyn's first teleserye without perennial onscreen partner Mark Herras, and her first drama series with Dennis Trillo.
"First team-up namin ni Dennis yung Dangal. Nahihiya pa ako kasi first time akong inihiwalay ng love team kasi palaging si Mark, si Mark, si Mark, parang ilang taon yun, tapos first time kong nagpalit ng love team, si Dennis."
In Dangal, Jennylyn played Alta, the sole heiress of the Roxas clan. Amid all the problems and the threats she experienced, Alta believed that she got allies with her adopted sister Giovanna (Desiree del Valle), their maid Iyanna (Katya Santos), and her best friend Celestine (Ciara Sotto).
Apparently, these three girls were teaming up to bring Alta down, with the help of Giovanna's real mother, Chandra (Cherie Gil).
Alta's enemies succeeded to the point that she lost her dignity and got confined in a mental institution. Worse, her boyfriend Adrian (Dennis), started drifting away from her.
It was Jennylyn's first foray into mature roles, after doing pa-tweetums projects in her earlier years in showbiz.
She says, "Challenging yun para sa akin kasi yun yung unang una kong mature na role.
"Iba yung level ng emotions na pinapakita ko doon, hindi na siya patweetums, hindi na pa-sweet."
After Dangal, Jennylyn's next TV show was aired on primetime. This was Super Twins, a superhero series with Nadine Samonte.
Jennylyn played the superhero Super S, the older version of the kid Shasha (Nicole Dulalia). She transforms into an adult Super S everytime she wears a magical ring that turns her and her twin sister Super T into adult superheroes.
Super T was played by Jennylyn's StarStruck batchmate, Nadine Samonte.
Aside from her reunion with Nadine, Jennylyn says that she enjoyed doing the action stunts in this Kapuso fantasy series.
Jennylyn says, "Happy ako, nag-enjoy ako, kasama ko si Nadine, kasama ko siya sa StarStruck, para ko na siyang kapatid.
"Nag-e-enjoy ako mag-taping kasi lagi kami magkasama tapos nag-e-enjoy din ako sa mga action scenes kasi gustung-gusto ko yun, yung medyo physical, challenging roles."
Super Twins also featured Dennis Trillo and Cristine Reyes. Before being tapped as the lead star of Marimar, Marian Rivera was cast in Super Twins as the mother of Jennylyn and Nadine's characters.
SINE NOVELA: PAANO BA ANG MANGARAP
Paano Ba Ang Mangarap, under GMA-7's Sine Novela umbrella series, was a remake of the 1983 movie starring Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon.
After many years, Jennylyn was paired again with her ex-boyfriend and former love team partner, Mark Herras.
Jennylyn reprised Vilma's character, Lissa, an impoverished woman who fell in love with the rich Benny (Hero Angeles). Unfortunately, Benny died from an accident.
Lissa then sought the help of Benny's rich family to provide a better future for their child, through Eric (Mark Herras). Lissa and Eric eventually developed feelings for each other.
Paano Ba Ang Mangarap was also Jennylyn's first TV show after giving birth to Alex Jazz, her love child with Patrick Garcia.
"After ng pregnancy ko, after ko manganak kay Jazzy, yun yung una kong naging show."
Was she scared back then about her TV comeback?
"Actually, nahihiya ako, kasi hindi ko alam kung matatanggap pa ba ako ng tao pagkatapos mangyari ng lahat ng challenges sa buhay ko.
"Yun yung time na hindi ko alam, hindi ako masyadong confident sa mga ginagawa ko kasi hindi ako sure kung papanuorin pa ba ako ng mga tao, e, ito yung nangyari sa akin. Okay lang ba sa kanila?
"So ang dami ko iniisip, worried talaga ako noong time na yun."
Despite Jennylyn's apprehensions, Paano Ba Ang Mangarap did well in the ratings game. Its pilot episode got a 21.9% TV rating, while its finale scored 27.8%.
Jennylyn says, "Nag-rate naman. Siguro namiss din nila yung MarkJen."
SINE NOVELA: GUMAPANG KA SA LUSAK
In 2010, Jennylyn returned to Sine Novela via Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak, a remake of the 1990 film directed by Lino Brocka, with Christopher de Leon, Dina Bonnevie, Charo Santos-Concio, and Eddie Garcia in the lead roles.
For the TV remake, Jennylyn reprised Dina Bonnevie's character Rachel, the mistress of the town's mayor. The TV version was directed by the late Maryo J. Delos Reyes.
Jennylyn recalls, "Isa rin ito sa pinakamahirap, kasi mga locations namin, presinto, tapos yung mga magugulong kalsada, yung mahirap talaga pagtaping-an.
"Isa sa pinakachallenging na roles at saka drama talaga siya, heavy drama."
It was also in Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak where the romance between Jennylyn and Dennis first blossomed.
Jennylyn narrates, "Naalala ko kasi, doon una naging kami sa Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak.
"Ano siya, hindi naman agad naging kami. Hahaha! Pero mga bandang end na ng show at saka naging kami.
"Masayang mag-taping kasi inspired ka. Usually, parang nakakapagod pero hindi nakakapagod kasi kasama ko si Dennis."
After Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak, Jennylyn worked with Dennis again in the 2010 movie Rosario, an entry to that year's Metro Manila Film Festival. Jennylyn played the title role, which was inspired by the story of the grandmother of Manny V. Pangilinan.
Jennylyn admits that this was one of the most emotionally taxing projects she did in her career.
She says, "Very emotional yung mga eksena palagi, walang mintis.
"Tapos ang hirap para sa akin kasi lahat ng scenes ko, nagsu-smoke. E, hindi ako nagsu-smoke, kahit makaamoy ako ng sigarilyo, naaano ako, e.
"Yun pa, siguro sa isang scene, kalahating box ng cigarettes. Ganun kahirap.
"Tapos laging emotional, laging hirap, iiyak, iniwan, ganun. So hanggang dulo, talagang malungkot siyang pelikula."
Still, the Kapuso actress is happy that she was able to do a project like Rosario.
"Para sa akin, maganda ring nakaka-experience ng ganung character or project kasi talagang natsa-challenge ka at saka ang dami mong matutunan. Ang dami kong natutunan kay Direk Albert Martinez."
Rhodora X was Jennylyn's 2014 TV show that aired on primetime. She played a character with Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID.
According to WebMD, DID (previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder) is a severe form of dissociation, a mental process which produces a lack of connection in a person's thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of identity.
In Rhodora X, Jennylyn played a woman named Rhodora who had two alter-egos: Roxanne, the evil one, and Rowena, the childlike one.
Jennylyn recalls the experience on this TV show, "Nag-enjoy ako diyan. Actually, isa yan sa mga favorite roles ko kasi gustung-gusto ko ng challenge.
"Minsan lang ako makagawa ng ganung klaseng character na sa isang tao, tatlo-tatlo yung pino-portray mo kasi meron kang identity disorder.
"Happy ako kasi kapag napapanuod ko yung sarili ko, 'Ha, oh my God, ako ba yan?'
"Hindi ako makapaniwala kasi nadadala talaga ako ng eksena. Kahit ang hirap niyang gawin, nadadala ako."
In this TV show, Jennylyn considers Roxanne as her favorite among the three personalities she portrayed.
"Gusto ko si Roxanne kasi ano siya, e, maldita siya. E, minsan lang ako makapag-portray ng ganoong role.
"Simula umpisa, lagi akong sinasampal, sinasabunutan, inaapi, umiiyak. Hirap na hirap ako, siyempre kailangan, totoong sampal, totoong sabunot, totoong sinisigawan ka.
"Minsan, nginudngod pa ako sa kalan na may pinipritong tuyo, talagang puro tuyo yung mukha ko, yung ang hirap talaga maging api-api palagi so nag-enjoy ako noong nabigyan ako ng chance na i-portray si Roxanne.
"Ang sarap pala maging kontrabida, di ba? Ikaw naman yung nang-aaway!"
ENGLISH ONLY, PLEASE
After doing the heavy drama Rhodora X, Jennylyn did a comedic role for English Only, Please.
English Only, Please was a 2014 Metro Manila Film Festival entry wherein she was paired with Derek Ramsay.
It was about Tere, a perky Filipino-English tutor who had a recent heartbreak. She became acquainted with Julian (Derek), a Filipino-American looking for a tutor to translate his angry letter to his Pinay ex-girlfriend.
Jennylyn says about the project, "Break ko yan sa pagiging comedienne! Haha!
"Sobrang happy ako na nagkaroon ako ng chance na gumawa ng isang project na masaya lang, talagang parang hindi ka umaarte, magaan lang, 'tapos nagpapatawa ka lang.
"Mahirap magpatawa pero parang ako, nae-enjoy ko kasi siguro dahil napagod ako sa puro mabibigat.
"So noong nagkaroon ako ng English Only, Please, sabi ko, chance ko na ito na magpatawa, gagalingan ko, promise!"
She managed to win the Best Actress trophy in the MMFF 2014 awards night. The movie also placed 2nd Best Picture that year.
MY FAITHFUL HUSBAND
After doing English Only, Please, Jennylyn returned to heavy drama via the GMA-7 series My Faithful Husband.
In the show, she was paired with Dennis Trillo. It was their first project after doing Rosario, and after their much talked-about break-up in 2011.
Playing the role of husband and wife, Jennylyn and Dennis worked closely with each other, and eventually rekindled their romance while doing the show.
Jennylyn tells PEP.ph, "Isa pa yan sa pinakamabibigat na projects na nagawa ko pero again kasama ko si Dennis so happy kami.
"Inspired ako magtrabaho araw-araw kahit palagi ako sinasabunutan ni Tita Snooky!"
In the show, Snooky Serna played Dennis's mom and Jennylyn's mother-in-law who beame violent, especially when she found out that Jennylyn's character slept with another man.
Snooky confronted Jennylyn's character and ripped off Jennylyn's blouse in the middle of a basketball court.
Recalling their trending fight scene, Jennylyn narrates, "Hanggang basketball court, kaladkad kaladkad ako!
"Ang daming tao, yung iba talagang nagba-basketball lang doon, nakita rin nila ako.
"Yung iba naglalakad lang, nakatambay lang, nakinood sila. Nakita na rin nila ako.
"Umiiyak ako hanggang matapos yung eksena. Sa dressing room, umiiyak pa rin ako kasi parang violated talaga yung pakiramdam, totoong totoo."
JUST THE 3 OF US
Just The 3 of Us, shown in 2016, marked the first time Jennylyn worked on a project outside her home network. This movie was produced by ABS-CBN's film arm, Star Cinema.
Jennylyn was excited to work with John Lloyd Cruz, whom she calls her ultimate crush.
"Excited ako kasi first time kong makakatrabaho yung ultimate crush ko.
"Bata pa lang kasi ako, dream ko nang makatrabaho si John Lloyd. Isa siya talaga sa tinitingala kong artista."
Way back in 2002, Jennylyn and John Lloyd already shot a short scene together, when Jennylyn was still a bitplayer during her pre-StarStruck days.
This was for the ABS-CBN teleserye Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay, top-billed by Lorna Tolentino, Bea Alonzo, and John Lloyd.
"Thankful ako na mabigyan ng chance na makatrabaho siya at saka si Direk Cathy Garcia-Molina, ang dami kong natutunan sa kanila."
About working outside GMA-7, the first StarStruck Ultimate Female Survivor tells PEP.ph, "Masarap din na nakaka-experience ng ganun na wala ka sa comfort zone, parang doon mate-test kung paano ka makikisalamuha at makikisama sa ibang tao."
MY LOVE FROM THE STAR
Jennylyn top-billed GMA-7's 2017 TV remake of My Love From The Star, a Korean drama shown on the Kapuso network in 2014.
She was cast as Steffi, an actress who falls in love with an alien named Matteo, played by then-newbie Gil Cuerva.
Jennylyn says about the project, "Masaya lang ito kasi loka-lokahan lang naman si Steffi, pero very emotional siya.
"Parang makikita mo yung front niya na lukaret, pero deep inside, malungkot siyang tao. Masaya siyang gawin."
Jennylyn also enjoyed working with Gil, who made his TV debut via My Love From The Star.
"Maganda sa kanya, very open na matuto tapos talagang ginagawa niya lahat para makapagperform siya nang maayos, kaya masarap din katrabaho."
In 2018, Jennylyn did a thriller TV series called The Cure, where she worked with Tom Rodriguez for the first time.
Jennylyn and Tom played a couple who wished to find a cure for an epidemic that turned humans into monkey-like zombies.
"Isa sa mga na-enjoy kong soap kasi iba naman siya, may pagka-thriller, habol ng mga infected, tapos may mga fight scenes kami.
"At saka ang sarap kasi wala kang make-up, dudungisan ka lang ng dumi dumi sa katawan pero ang sarap ng feeling na wala kang tinatanggal pagkauwi mo sa bahay! Ang gaan ng face!
"At saka parang sa set may workout ka na rin kasi maya't maya, hinahabol ka, nakikipag-fight scene ka, kaya okay siya, na-enjoy ko rin."
LOVE YOU TWO
At present, Jennylyn's TV show is the prime-time series Love You Two, which started airing in April 2019. It is scheduled to end its run on September 16, 2019.
In this TV show, Jennylyn is paired with Gabby Concepcion. Their co-stars include Solenn Heussaff and Sheena Halili, as well as newbies Shaira Diaz and Clint Bondad.
With a smile, Jennylyn declares, "Para sa akin, ito ang number one, pinakamasaya na nagawa kong project buong buhay ko sa showbiz.
"Ito yung pinakamasaya, from staff, production, sa cast, kasi si Direk Irene Villamor, talagang ang kulit kulit, masayahin.
"Tapos mula doon hanggang sa artist na kasama ko, sila Nar Cabico, sila Kuya Gabby, si Sheena, si Shaira, parang nakabuo kami ng isang family.
"Tapos nagkukulitan lang kami, hindi feeling na nagtatrabaho ka kasi ang saya lang, ang gaan, para ka lang naglalaro."
What Jennylyn loves most about her character Rafi is the strong family bond that she has with her siblings, played by Shaira and Jerald Napoles.
"Mahal na mahal niya yung pamilya niya at kaya niya i-give up lahat, even yung happiness niya para lang sa pamilya niya, maibigay lang yung dapat niyang maibigay.
"Kasi wala kaming parents, so kami ni Kuya yung tumatayong magulang kay Shaira.
"Ang dami kong ginive up, like yung una, di ba, ikakasal na ako dapat, ilang beses na nag-propose, pero hindi, kailangan kong unahin yung pamilya ko. Papaano sila kapag wala.
"So yun yung gusto ko kay Rafi, napakamapagmahal niya sa pamilya niya, ibibigay niya lahat."