Viewers did a double take when Dingdong Dantes emerged on our TV screens as Sergio Santibañez. Remember that scene when his character in Marimar was introduced?
He was driving a top-down sports car, and the ladies who were able to catch a glimpse of him fainted. Some found it nakakakilig; others said it was almost ridiculous. But Dingdong surely made an impression.
From his warrior roles in Encantadia (2005) and Atlantika (2006), the former teen star transformed into a dashing debonair—so lean, tanned, and oh, swoon-worthy.
It was not just his good looks that made TV viewers everywhere take a second look. The 28-year-old actor did prepare himself for the role, and his efforts paid off—he became the more popular Sergio.
No looking back since then. He graduated from teenybopper roles and started establishing himself as an actor.
Drama was not the path he envisioned though, so when PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) asked for his reaction about being groomed as a dramatic actor, Dingdong said he was quite diffident about it.
He said, "Hay, naku, a lot of fear...A lot of fear because I've always considered drama as the hardest thing to do for an actor."
GMA-7 recently announced that he would portray the intensely passionate character of Cholo in Stairway to Heaven. He has not read the script. He has not seen a single episode of the said Korean series. "Sa totoo lang hindi ko pa alam," he said.
Nevertheless, he was brimming with excitement. "That is what is I will work on, from the day onwards," Dingdong added.
And so, before he'd get too busy with his upcoming television project, we had a "drama-full" question-and-answer session with him.
Q: Who's your drama teacher?
A: Experience. First, experience what the scene is about. Kung nangyari, if there's a scene, kung dapat, in one way or another, na-experience mo yun sa buhay mo, for you to be able to really...to feel and know how to feel.
Q: How do you pepare for a role?
A: Nag-i-immerse ako.
Q: What makes you cry, and how?
A: Anything...Kahit sa baso, e, kahit tissue, kahit anong bagay basta ma-attach ako. Bihira rin ang mga moments na gano'n, so, that's why, when it comes, it's really there.
But he clarified, "Hindi ako iyakin as a person."
Q: What's your most dramatic moment?
A: Ah, kinilabutan ako. Alam mo bang ito yun, ha...Yung scene na yun, may extended version yun. Yung buong eksena na yun, meron akong monologue nun, kasi nahimatay siya. May monologue ako nun, sinasabihan ko siya, [pero] hindi ipinakita, hindi inere yun.
(He was referring to that heart wrenching scene in Marimar when Bella Aldama fainted in front of his car.)
Q: Why was his monologue cut?
A: Kasi, iniba namin yung istorya, because hindi ko dapat alam nung time na yun na si Angelika [played by Katrina Halili], parang papakasalan ko. Basta parang gano'n, e. Dapat hindi ko alam, pero sa scene na yun, ni-revise namin na alam ko na.
Q: How do you pull yourself back from reel to real world?
A: Yun ang challenge about acting: to shut down this reel from what is real. Pero I admit there are times na nako-crossover mo yun. Nadadala mo. So, wala, e, we're only human. Minsan nagkakamali ka rin.
PEP contributor Rose Garcia makes a follow-up question, "Kaya ba nade-develop ka sa halos lahat ng leading ladies mo?"
It will be recalled that most of his previous girlfriends, Antoinette Taus and Karylle, were his screen partners.
The Kapuso actor laughed before answering, "Choice ko yun."
Q: But if you don't fall in love with your leading lady, will that make you less effective as an actor?
A: Well, doon na papasok yung acting, on how you will apply it. It doesn't have to be na ma-i-in love ka sa babae. Maaaring in love ka sa ibang paraan. Alam mo yun? Depende, e, kung sa'n siya papasok. Yun yung greatest challenge.
Q: What's your favorite movie project so far?
A: Moments of Love with Iza Calzado and Karylle.
Q: What about your favorite character?
A: So far, siguro yung pinaka-memorable, si Sergio, pero itong si Cholo, mukhang interesting ‘to.
Q: Who are your favorite Hollywood and local actors?
A: Para sa ‘kin, si Hugh Jackman. Marami siyang movies na hindi naman kailangang tumulo ang luha pero talagang mapi-feel mo, e. Dun ako mas naniniwala, e.
Sa local, sino ba...Paolo Contis. Klaro sa ‘kin lahat ng performance, lahat ng execution niya. And alam kong pinaghahandaan niya, it's very real....
Q: What about actresses?
A: Kate Winslet. Sa local, ang dami, e. I can't name names, but off the top of my head, Cherry Pie Picache...
Q: What's your favorite local film?
A: Manila by Night.
He also related a movie starred by Richard Gomez and Vilma Santos. "Basta parang suspense na...basta killer si Richard. Ito, ha, mag-asawa sila, ginugulpi niya yung babae. Kasi na-rape siya, one time umuulan...‘Tapos yung babae, ka-affair si Tonton Gutierrez."
We were unsuccessful in determining the title of the movie he was describing. But the closest that came to mind was Dahas, which was topbilled by Maricel Soriano, and not Vilma Santos.
Q: If there's a film you would want to have a television remake, what would it be?
A: James Bond...Puwede rin yung role ni [Edward Norton] sa Primal Fear. Parang may split personality siya. Andoon din si Richard Gere...
Q: Are you ready for an acting award?
A: I'm sure halos lahat naman ng artista, gustong magkaroon ng recognition na gano'n," he began. "Pero more than that, it's [already] a privilege that the role was given to me...Yun pa lang masaya na ako.
Q: Be that as it may, when do you see yourself receiving an award?
A: Anytime. Sa akin, hindi naman yun ang primary objective ko. Kumbaga, kung meron, isang malaking karangalan, and good, thank you. Pero mas importante sa akin na naibigay sa akin ito. Para sa akin, it's more than an award. It's a great opportunity.
Q: Are you okay with being a drama actor?
A: Sa ngayon, okay sa akin na nandito ako. And like what you said, puwede nating itawid at ibalik yung mga mas maraming ganoong klaseng materyales. Siguro it's good to start somewhere. This project [Stairway to Heaven] is a good start for more like that to come.
Q: Who's your most favorite leading lady?
A: (Laughs) Sasagutin ko talaga ‘yan pero 'wag na lang...
Q: (Rehashing the question) Sino ang pinakagusto mong nakatrabaho?
A: Si Marian talaga.
A: Kasi siya ang pinaka-challege sa akin ngayon.
We asked again, why?
"Dahil ano yun, e, pasaway talaga sa umpisa yun. I mean, in a nice way. Yung tipong pagka-click namin, hindi siya pilit, kumbaga, it went through a process."
Q: Isn't he scared that breaking his tandem with Marian Rivera may prove to be not a good career move?
A: Nasa amin na yun on how you will create a different character para di nila [audience] maalala yung mga nakaraan.
Q: Lastly, aren't you nervous about this project which will catapult you to ultimate leading-man status?
A: I believe in the project. It depends on how it's executed. Very optimistic naman ako. May tiwala naman ako sa sarili ko, e. So with the help of many people and others, I believe I can.
Ladies and gentlemen, make way for this guy whom you will surely include in your Drama Watch List, Dingdong Dantes!