GMA-7's new primetime series My Korean Jagiya introduces a new leading man for Heart Evangelista.
He is Korean actor Alexander Lee, a former member of the K-pop boy group U-Kiss.
Alexander--who is also called Xander by his colleagues--plays Kim Jun Ho, the "Korean Jagiya" of Heart's Gia character.
"Jagiya" is a Korean term that means "darling."
When PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) spoke to GMA SVP for Entertainment Lilybeth Rasonable, she said that Alexander's inclusion in the show is the product of their good working relationship with South Korea.
She pointed out, "We have a relationship with Korea for a long time now because we have partnerships in terms of mga trainings so may mga kakilala na kami doon na coordinators, mga people who are connected to television and film.
"So we went through them and then we shortlisted. Actually, Director Mark Reyes and our program manager and our executive producer, they went there and they auditioned. Hanggang sa napili namin si Alexander."
Why was Alexander a perfect fit to become Heart's partner in My Korean Jagiya?
Rasonable reasoned out, "Si Xander, batang bata pa, although galing siya sa U-Kiss, talagang umaarte na siya so magaling siyang mag drama.
"And we particularly chose him also kasi he can understand and speak English very well. In fact he speaks seven languages, now maybe eight because [including] Filipino!"
Meanwhile, in a separate interview, My Korean Jagiya director Mark Reyes said that Xander's familiarity with Filipinos was also a plus point.
He recalled, "First, meron na siyang seed of familiarity here because of U-Kiss. That was very important.
"That was a plus for him because familiar na like when he got in, ang dami nang sumalubong sa kanya sa airport. That was a green light na, 'Uy, kilala siya sa Philippines."
"Second, he is able to speak English. Others, hard, very hard, they're 30 or 40% equipped in English.
"Si Xander, he's not only an actor, he's also an interpreter for us. Tapos, kapag may kailangan kaming isulat ng Korean sa set, siya na nagsusulat, siya na interpreter!"
Apart from Xander, other Korean stars also have a participation in the new primetime series: David Kim, Michelle Oh, and Jerry Lim.
He continued, "It is easier to do this show because Xander is a multilingual person. He speaks Korean, he speaks English, he speaks Chinese so ang dali niyang makausap, ang dali niyang makatrabaho.
"If not, it's hard like David Kim, like Jerry, meron kaming kailangang daanang proseso na dalawa tatlong beses bago namin makuha kasi it's Filipino Korean pa rin. Kay Xander madali kasi he speaks English."
However, what Direk Mark finds challenging in working with Xander is how he portrays his character in the series: Korean superstar Kim Jun Hoo.
According to the TV and film director, Jun Ho is far different from Xander's personality in real life.
"Totally different. He's such a happy-go-lucky guy. He's always always smiling, he always like hugging people.
"E, si Jun Ho, may pinagdaanan siyang heartbreak na nagkulong siya sa monasteryo.
"He's masungit, typical na Korean leading man, masungit sila sa show.
"So I kept [telling him], stop being a nice guy! Ginaganon ko siya. You're supposed to be masungit! You're supposed to be mad at her! Stop smiling! That was the challenge."
PEP.ph were able to interview Rasonable and Direk Mark during the grand launch of My Korean Jagiya at K-Pub BBQ Restaurant in TriNoma Mall, Quezon City.
My Korean Jagiya will start airing tonight, August 21, after Mulawin vs. Ravena.
SHOOTING IN KOREA. My Korean Jagiya is the follow-up project of Direk Mark after the success of Encantadia's requel (remake + sequel).
Though this show is lighter compared to producing a fantasy show, the series also has its own set of challenges.
He admitted, "The challenges in Jagiya is very different like going to Korea and dealing with the Korean crew, trying to go to all the locations that we want and shoot.
"And then there's the difference of the culture and try to making it look like a K-Drama as much as possible.
"As we evolve naman with the show with the Koreans, our working relationship is dynamic already. It's very fun to do now. Dati may pakiramdaman pa, e. Ngayon, wala na."
The series also shows that the characters went to South Korea during autumn.
However, it was actually nearing summer when they shot the scenes.
Laughing, Direk Mark revealed, "If you saw the footage, akala mo it's a legitimate K-Drama because we really aimed and tried.
"Pero secretly, they're all wearing the layers and you saw the autumn, di ba? Mainit siya, nagsu-shoot kami!
"Kasi it's nearing summer pero siyempre, sacrifice for film na talagang sila Heart, sila Xander, game sila magsuot miski pawisan sila basta maganda yung itsura."
Rasonable considers it a joy working with Korean people.
"They're great, they're like us, they're very accommodating, cooperative, very professional kasi ang ganda rin naman ng television and film industry sa Korea."
Aside from Heart and Xander, My Korean Jagiya also stars veteran actors Janice de Belen and Ricky Davao, Valeen Montenegro, Iya Villania, and returning Kapuso Edgar Allan Guzman.
This new GMA-7 series was partly shot in South Korea's most scenic spots used in famous K-dramas.
These include: Nami Island (Endless Love II: Winter Sonata), Namsan Park (My Name is Kim Sam Soon), Love Padlocks at N Seoul Tower (My Love From the Star), and in Daejanggeum Park, the actual set built and used for the internationally-acclaimed series Jewel In The Palace.
These K-dramas also had its tagalized versions shown on GMA-7.
Thde Seoul Film Commission and Seoul Metropolitan Government provided support and assistance to the production team of My Korean Jagiya during their entire stay in South Korea.