They may look Caucasian—chiseled jaw lines, fair skin, light hair—but these guys are very Filipino at heart.
Half-Filipino/half-British, all five—Michael McDonnell, Charlie Stucliffe, Daniel Marsh, Henry Edwards, and Brian Wilson— started exploring their Filipino roots through the video-sharing app Youtube.
Now, these hunks have been enchanting television viewers in Juan Direction, a weekend late-night, reality-docu program on TV5.
In this exclusive interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal), presenting the boys of Juan Direction.
How did Island Media Asia and Juan Direction started?
Brian: “Before Michael came to the Manila, there was me, Daniel, Charlie, Keys, Henry… all of us, except Michael, we started talking about making videos and we were coming up with ideas and stuff.
“But because we didn’t really have someone who knew how to edit [and] we didn’t really have cameras, obviously, we didn’t know how to start doing it.
“Then Michael came. Quickly he had a camera and he was already very good at it so that kind of made it possible for us to start making videos. They started brainstorming on the first videos. I wasn’t around at that time. Henry wasn’t there.
“Charlie, Daniel, and Miko [Michael] did the first video, the selling buko juice.”
Michael: “Like all things, when it started, it was kinda difficult. It was always kinda rocky. You don’t have the right formula to follow because it’s the first. So, you don’t have anything to fall back on.
“And it was obviously difficult, even just getting the whole team together was difficult and it kinda started coming together when I came. But it’s funny because Daniel, he told me all about the group, and it seemed like an audition the way I talked about it but it was not.
“He was like, ‘We only need you, we only needed an editor because that’s the only thing missing and every thing is ready to go. That’s all we need!’
“And then as soon as I came, there were a lot more needed. And it was nice to be part of something as it started. It was kinda like not just making friends but also building a family.
“Building a family kinda sounds funny but, you know, just building stronger relationships.”
What was the bigggest challenge you encountered in starting your own Youtube show?
Henry: “Well, at the very beginning, it was hosting. Trying to get comfortable in the camera kasi when the camera was like on me, I got a little shy and you know what they say. I learned a lot since beginning there.”
Michael: “That is so true because even for me, filming those first couple of episodes, like as soon as the cameras were recording, there was stage fright even though there was nobody around watching. You just wanted to perform well.
“It’s really good, because like those first couple or even the first ten episodes really taught us to refine our skill in front of the camera. And not just in front of the camera but in front of other people, too.
“So, it has given us a lot of confidence that is very useful on TV, and not just on TV but also in real life.”
Brian: “In a way, the Youtube videos were kind of like a learning process for us. If we went straight to the show and we never made those videos, it would be hard for us just to say those things in front of the camera.
“But because we made those videos, we got comfortable… we got more comfortable being in front of the cameras. Like the first time we made our Youtube videos, I was like messing up. It was just three and the camcorder and I was feeling nervous.
“So, imagine now we have a whole crew and the TV cameras. So, if we have gone straight into that with the TV cameras and the crew, we would have been really nervous. So, it was good that we have those Youtube experience first.”
Having experienced the culture in the country, what is the most memorable?
Henry: “For me, my favorite was the Maskara Festival kasi I’ve never seen that kind of festival before where people dress up and like wear masks, and dancing with their costumes. So that was a really great experience for kasi like… good happy vibes.”
Michael: “That’s one thing I lke about the Philippines. It has so many cultures like you go to different provinces and like they have like… festivals every year.
“It’s just so unique to experience each one because even though you’re in the Philippines, it feels like it’s a different area. Well, it is a different area technically but it just feels totally different from the next province.
“And that’s what really makes it unique, that everybody is so welcoming for you to experience it. And you know, once you experience it, it’s kind of a unique experience for youself that it becomes a part of you have throughout your whole lifetime.”
Brian: “And also going back to what Henry said about Maskara [Festival], I really enjoyed that because we were actually able to join in the dancing, with the Maskara. Which is something that I don’t think anyone gets to experience.
“Usually these were the people dancing in front of the barangays, but we actually had to join in the dance and we learned some of the dance moves.
“Most tourists go there just to watch what’s going on but we got to join in and participate. So, that was a lot of fun and that was one of my most memorable experiences as well.”
How long have you guys been friends with each other?
Brian: “Actually, Charlie, Daniel and Michael have known each other the longest, [they’re] from Cebu. I’ve known Charlie and Daniel for about three years when they came to Manila.
“So we all kind of made it in different time when we came together. It’s kind of like we work together and we’re all half-British, half-Irish. So we have this kind of connection, we all relate to each other. Yeah, that brought the whole group together.”
Do you guys fight?
Brian: “Not really. We, obviously, are a big group and there are seven of us in total. And you know most groups, you know you hear about boy bands and bands that split up because they can’t work together when there are too many people.
“It does come in to play. So we all have different ideas and discuss things but it never got to an extreme level where we all hate each other, punches are thrown or anything like that.
“We have discussion about things, we have disagreements but we always work them out in the end.”
Michael: “We never needed a referee to kinda mediate between us.”
Now that you've gained a huge following, how do you guys handle your fame?
Henry: “I don’t consider myself as famous or anything. I just see myself as a normal person interacting with loads of people. So I try my best to talk to every fan as much as possible.”
Michael: “As the weeks progress, I can tell that it is starting to get to that point. It’s still a long road to go but, you know, I see hints of it like we get a lot of friend requests and stuff like that. And that’s an easy thing to do, add friends and stuff.
“But to connect to with every single fan that we have on our Facebook, our Twitter or our other social media accounts, it becomes really hard to manage too.
“Once it’s hard to manage, the fans kinda see like you’re not replying. Obviously, you can’t reply to every fan. So if you have a thousand fans and there’s only one of you, it’s gonna be a losing battle where you’re just sitting in your computer all day just replying to fans.
“While a lot of them are very understanding, there are just a few who are different.”
Brian: “They like to use the word snob. That’s like my most hated word and some of our fans' most favorite word. Because they think, when you’re not replying, ‘Snob siya, bakit snob siya?’
“Of course we understand because they think they give us their support so they probably think they deserve at least a hi or something, But of course, we can’t reply to everyone as much as we try.
“In terms of the social media, Twitter, Facebook, everything is just blown up with so many messages now that it’s impossible, literally impossible, to reply to everything. Like we have to create new accounts just for the fans and stuff.
“But now, in general, in our daily lives, it doesn’t affect us that much. We occassionally get recognized when we go out but we can still live our normal lives so that’s good. So [our personalities] mainly exist in the social media world.”
Michael: “Everything is pretty normal so we don’t get attacked when we go out on the street or anything, which is a good thing because we are enjoying a little bit of both worlds. Eventually one day, it’s gonna tip in favor of not being able to enjoy your personal life for everything. It’s just out there but at the moment everything is still good.”
Are you guys single?
Brian: “I’m in a relationship for two years.”
Michael: “I’ve been with my girlfriend for almost four years now, and it’s funny because it’s just a short distance. I don’t know if you call it ‘short distance’ but just a normal distance, I guess. It's just a normal relationship where we’re both in the same place for three months but eventually it turned into long distance.
“At first, when you’re in a long-distance relationship, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I can do it when the right one comes along’ and we did do it but it’s really difficult. Definitely, [being] in a relationship.
“Even much more so, when you’re in a long-distance relationship. So, I’m glad that it’s not long distance anymore. I don’t even know how it got into long distance thing.”
Henry: “Ako din, I’m in a relationship [for] nearly two years now. So, that’s my longest relationship so far but yeah, really enjoyable, really kind person.”
Brian: “We’re all with Filipino [girlfriends].”