McCoy de Leon, 23, and Elisse Joson, 23, have been in showbiz since they were young teens.
Both began in Star Magic, the talent management arm of ABS-CBN, where they still belong.
McCoy started ahead, in 2011; Elisse entered two years later, in 2013.
It took some time for their careers to take off.
The upside was, with each bit role that McCoy and Elisse were given in major teleseryes, they were learning from the pros.
But, through the years leading up to 2016, she did the rounds of more teleseryes than he did.
Elisse had minor roles in the primetime series Forevermore (2014), Sana Bukas pa ang Kahapon (2014), and You're My Home (2015).
She also appeared in episodes of the weekly anthology shows Maalala Mo Kaya, Ipaglaban Mo, and Wansapanataym.
For his part, McCoy had only a few projects, with his role in Nasaan Ka Nang Kailangan Kita (2015) being the major one.
In 2013, the two appeared in the long-running daytime series, Be Careful with my Heart, but they were together in only one scene.
In the years that followed, McCoy found promising success as a member of Hashtags, an all-boy dance group formed for the noontime show, It's Showtime.
Elisse gained popularity for her heart-tugging commercial for a famous fast-food chain.
It took three more years before the future love-team partners would cross paths again.
FIRST WAVE OF SUCCESS
Year 2016 was the year it all began for them.
That year, both McCoy and Elisse became part of ABS-CBN's reality show, Pinoy Big Brother: Lucky 7.
It was on this 13th season of PBB that audiences caught the beginnings of another love team, one that fans would later refer to as McLisse.
Viewers were quick to spot McCoy's attraction to Elisse, which happened on their very first day as housemates.
Since then, people were drawn to their developing love story, and the network smartly capitalized on this.
After their successful stint in the PBB house, McCoy and Elisse immediately landed roles in the primetime action series, FPJ's Ang Probinsyano.
This would be their first major project as McLisse.
In the action serye headlined by Coco Martin, the two played JP and Lorraine. Elisse would stay in the show from 2016 to 2017; McCoy still appears regularly.
In 2017, McCoy and Elisse signed their first major endorsement deal as a love team, after which they released their first recording single, "If We Fall in Love."
McLisse was flying.
That year, McCoy and Elisse also landed their first major teleserye.
They were paired in the primetime ensemble drama, The Good Son, where they co-starred with Joshua Garcia, Jerome Ponce, Nash Aguas, Alexa Ilacad, and Loisa Andalio.
By the end of 2017, the two Kapamilya stars had their first solo film in the works.
The film, helmed by I'm Drunk, I Love You director JP Habac, would later be shown as Sakaling Maging Tayo.
TEST OF RAPPORT
The making of Sakaling Maging Tayo witnessed one of McLisse's biggest hurdles as a love team and as friends.
In early 2018, Elisse did the new Wansapanatym series, Ofishially Yours, and was paired with the boys of BoybandPH: Joao Constancia, Tristan Ramirez, Niel Murillo, Ford Valencia, and Russell Reyes.
Meanwhile, McCoy was paired with actresses Jane Oineza and Heaven Peralejo in two separate projects.
But at this time, the bond that McCoy and Elisse had formed in the two years they worked together as on-screen partners seemed shaky.
Elisse revealed, in an August 2018 interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal), that McCoy briefly unfollowed her on Instagram, and they were no longer in regular contact with each other.
By then, the big question became: Are McLisse still together?
Elisse was unsure of the answer.
She told PEP.ph then, "Hindi ko alam, actually okay naman kami na binibigyan kami ng separate work na individual projects, so okay naman...
"Ever since, dati, we always say, at end of the day, kung ano ang magiging okay for the growth of our career."
Despite the friction between them, McCoy and Elisse managed to finish the film by mid-2018.
It took a while for the young stars to open up to each other again.
When they had to be together for work, there would be an awkward silence between them. For a time, they actually preferred to be interviewed separately.
However, the promotion for Sakaling Maging Tayo helped break down walls.
McCoy and Elisse spoke to PEP.ph and other media about their reconcilation at the film's media conference last January 5, 2019, in a Quezon City establishment.
Both agreed that problems should be dealt with together.
Elisse said, "Kailangang mag-usap, kailangang ayusin to the point na, siyempre, personally aayusin mo din yung, not just work relationship, pero yung personal na pagsasamahan namin.
"And there was also a time na parang, kung hindi namin maayos-ayos, [dapat] nagawa naming i-set aside yun and nagawa naman po."
McCoy added, "Mahirap po para sa amin kasi baguhan kaming artista, first time naming magkaroon ng problema and, at the same time, kailangang mag-work...
"Naging lakas po namin yung mga taong nagpu-push sa amin, yung handler namin, director, producers, lahat ng mga nasa paligid namin.
"Yun ang naging lakas namin to finish the movie and, at the same, parang hindi naman lahat ng artista nabibigyan ng ganito, kaya parang ano ba namang i-treasure natin ito? I-set aside kung anuman yung makaka-distract sa ating trabaho?
"Awa ng Diyos, naibigay naman namin yun para sa project na ito."
In December 2018, PEP.ph sat down with McCoy and Elisse to talk about their journey as a love team.
Entering their fourth year as on-screen partners, the two actors say they realize that the key to a successful partnership is dependability and honesty.
"For me, yung advantage ng love team, meron kang kasangga.
"Sa araw-araw na pupunta ka sa trabaho, meron ka laging kasama... someone na mapagkakatiwalaan mo," Elisse said about dependability.
"Importante yun, kasi being an actor, mababaliw ka talaga, e, sa industry.
"Okay yung meron kang kasama to keep you sane, to keep you there on the ground. Yung lagi lang alam mong may taong nand'yan kasama mo?
"Saka yung nagtutulungan kayo talaga sa mga bagay-bagay."
As for honesty, McCoy looked back to their time as PBB housemates when they were told to be truthful to themselves, to each other, and to the public.
McCoy made clear, "Wala akong sinasabi na sa ibang love team, hindi sila transparent, ah?
"Sa amin kasi, sobra naming inako sa tao na galing kaming PBB.
"Nakita niyo kung paano kami nag-umpisa, at nakita niyo rin po kung paano kami nagiging okay at hindi okay.
"Kaya yun, yun siguro yung kakaiba din sa McLisse.
"Pagiging totoo sa bawat isa, saka sa mga taong nakatingin sa amin."
SOLO AMBITIONS AT PRESENT
McCoy and Elisse appear to hold a unique and exciting advantage as a love team.
Aside from working together in future projects, the two stars are free to take on solo assignments.
Elisse, whose recent solo project is as Roxanne in the current Joshua Garcia-Julia Barreto drama, Ngayon at Kailanman, sees this time as a chance to improve herself.
She tells PEP.ph, "I guess, nandun yung pressure talaga, e, of being a solo artist. And siguro, sa akin, to prove din to myself more than anyone else, na yung pagka-versatile, hindi lang nabibilang sa isang grupo. Kaya mo kahit ano...
"What I always say, kapag solo ka, wala kang aasahan. Wala kang ibang kakapitan, sarili mo lang.
"So, doon makikita yung kung ano yung capacity mo as an actor, even as a person, na kaya mo sa sarili mo mag-grow sa mga ginagawa mo...
"You don't have anyone else, so ikaw mismo, iaangat mo yung sarili mo."
McCoy, who has his regular gig as JP on FPJ's Ang Probinsyano, has been taking on roles in indie films. He says every project is a learning opportunity.
He says, "Gusto ko kasi, kahit anong ibagay sa akin, kaya ko. Yun po yung pinaka goal ko sa sarili ko.
"Siyempre, pagka binigay sa akin yung isang bagay, kailangan may knowledge ako doon.
"Kaya ginagawa ko ngayon, lahat ng nakakatrabaho ko, lahat ng beterano nakakatrabaho ko, humihingi ako ng tulong.
"Nagtatanong ako, humihingi ako ng knowledge para magamit ko sa pansarili ko.
"Kaya, ayun, naniniwala ako na pagka sa isang proyekto o kaya sa isang career mo, kailangan mo pa din talaga ng kasama.
"Kailangan mo ng suporta, kasi naniniwala ako sa mga magagaling na artista, nanggaling din sa mga magagaling na artista kaya sila naging magaling.
"Kaya, ayun, I want to learn pa ng marami hanggang sa ma-satisfy ako."
PEP: Favorite type of projects to do?
McCoy: Action and fantasy.
Elisse: Drama. Gusto ko din mag-try sa comedy.
PEP: Favorite genre to watch?
McCoy: Rom-com, cartoons. Nare-relax ako pag nanunood ng cartoons, animated.
Elisse: Romantic, chick flicks, horror.
PEP: Favorite movie to rewatch?
Elisse: The Notebook, Burlesque.
McCoy: Recent lang, e...
Elisse: Pursuit of Happyness.
McCoy: Hitch? Will Smith talaga. Saka Pursuit of Happyness. Alam ni Elisse yun.
PEP: Who would you consider as your "life peg"?
McCoy: Life peg? Sa industry?
Elisse: Coco Martin. Ay, sorry, sumasagot! [laughs]
McCoy: Sumagot? [chuckles] Kuya Coco, oo.
Elisse: See? Sabi ko sa inyo, e.
McCoy: Hindi lang naman dahil sa itsura. Kumbaga, sa pagiging genuine din niya, saka sa sipag din. 'Tapos siguro sa Hollywood: Will Smith, Johnny Depp.
Elisse: Gusto ko sila ano, e, sina Princess Diana.
PEP: Best advice you got from your parents?
McCoy: 'Mag-ipon ka' at 'Huwag kang magkakagalit sa katrabaho mo'
Elisse: Sa akin, 'Lagi mong lilingunin kung saan ka galing. Kung ano yung core values na natutunan mo growing up.'
PEP: Dream vacation spot?
McCoy: Korea, Japan.
PEP: Dream house?
PEP: Parehas kayong beach house, ah.
McCoy: Gusto mo, isang bahay na lang tayo?
Elisse: Akala ko siya yung gagawa ng bahay ko, e! Kunin na lang kita, noh? Bayaran kita. Architect.
PEP: Saang beach niyo gusto? Palawan? Boracay?
McCoy: Kahit saan, basta po marinig ko lang yung simoy ng beach.
PEP: Manila Bay, okay lang?
McCoy: Oo nga, noh? Pwede din.
Elisse: Somewhere secluded.
PEP: What makes a great partner?
McCoy [turning to Elisse]: Nandiyan na yung sagot, o... Ito na sagot niya. Kitang-kita mo na, e...
Elisse: Bawal mag right back at you, ah!
McCoy: Gustong-gusto niya marinig yung akin.
Elisse: Hindi, bawal nga!
McCoy: Ikaw na.
Elisse: Bakit ako? Ikaw na.
McCoy: Weh? Ready ka na, e... [pause] Lagi mong hanapin yung happiness ng partner mo.
Elisse: For you, ah?
McCoy: Oo nga, sabi ko nga.
Elisse: Ano ulit?
McCoy: Always find your partner's happiness.
Elisse: Someone who won't give up no matter how hard things get.
PEP: One thing you're proud about yourself?
Elisse: I don't give up.
McCoy: Nabibigyan ko ng magandang buhay yung pamilya ko.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Joseph Pascual
SHOOT PRODUCERS: James Patrick Anarcon, Rommel Llanes
SHOOT CO-PRODUCER: FM Ganal
ART DIRECTOR: Jeremiah Idanan
STYLIST for Elisse: Ryuji Shiomitsu
STYLIST for McCoy: Rodel Brinas
MAKE-UP for Elisse: Varda Atienza
HAIR for Elisse: Bee Amarga
GROOMING for McCoy: Ryan Panaligan
VIDEO PRODUCERS: Nicee Estores, Gabriel Cruz, Kyle Dela Cruz
SHOOT INTERNS: Therese Dionisio, Roselene Flore, Carla Pangilinan
Special thanks to Keia Inciong of ABS-CBN Films' Black Sheep