Kris Bernal has always been in love with acting.
She may have started her showbiz career in 2006 via GMA-7's reality-based artista search StarStruck, but Kris recalls, "Ever since bata ako, theater actor ako, e. Theater arts ako all throughout schooling."
In an exclusive interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal), Kris looks back on her humble beginnings before becoming one of GMA-7's homegrown, go-to drama actresses today.
KRIS BERNAL'S ROUGH START
Born Kristine Ann Bernal on May 17, 1989, Kris already knew she wanted to make it in showbiz when she was still a little girl.
Like any other showbiz aspirant, she would go to tapings, hoping to be discovered by directors or anyone from that world.
Laughing, Kris remembers, "Bata pa lang talaga ako! As in nagta-talent ako before, iyong mga tipong nasa likod lang, passers-by.
"Na-experience ko lahat iyan kasi gustung-gusto kong maging artista.
"So, kahit gaano kaliit o hindi ka kita sa camera, pinupuntahan ko iyong mga shooting at saka nagpapapansin ako kapag may nagshu-shooting malapit sa bahay namin! Dadaan ako, ganun!"
Kris Bernal attended a Basic Acting Workshop in ABS-CBN in 2003
After this simple step of wishing to be discovered, Kris took it to the next level when she went through workshops with ABS-CBN, and eventually, in 2004, she tried auditioning for ABS-CBN's Star Circle Quest.
Star Circle Quest was ABS-CBN's televised reality search for aspiring artists who wanted to enter the network's talent stable, Star Magic.
Unfortunately, Kris did not pass the auditions.
Two years later, in 2006, she once again tried her luck, via the teen edition of Pinoy Big Brother, which would jumpstart the careers of Kim Chiu and Gerald Anderson.
Stardom seemed to be elusive for the then-aspiring artista.
Kris narrates, "Hindi ako umabot sa pila, as in may resume ako, pumila ako pero parang nag-cut-off sila, so hindi ako umabot."
The Pinoy Big Brother experience seemed to be the last straw for Kris, who almost gave up on her dreams.
"Feeling ko, hindi for me talaga. Sabi ko, 'Bakit ilang beses na ako nagta-try tapos nagta-talent din naman ako, pero hindi ako nadidiscover? So, nawalan na talaga ako ng pag-asa."
A few months later, StarStruck happened to Kris.
KRIS BERNAL'S STARSTRUCK JOURNEY
In the latter part of 2006, GMA-7 held auditions for the fourth season of StarStruck, dubbed as "The Next Level."
During this time, Kris no longer had the drive to push through with her dreams, but her mother, Analyn Tan, was not one to give up.
Kris elaborates, "Noong StarStruck, ayoko nang sumali pero iyong nanay ko, pumila for me.
"So, nasa kotse lang ako tapos siya iyong pumila. Tapos noong malapit na ako, doon lang ako bumaba.
"Ayoko na talaga kasi pinanghihinaan na ako ng loob, parang hindi naman nangyayari."
This time, luck seemed to be on Kris's side as she made it to the final auditions, and eventually, to the Final 14 who would take on extreme artista tests and had more chances of winning the contest.
But at a young age, Kris had her own insecurities, especially after seeing her batchmates.
"Ang insecurities ko talaga, maliit ako, hindi ako mestiza, tapos mukha akong bata. At saka hindi ako sumasayaw, hindi ako kumakanta. Acting lang kaya kong gawin.
"E, tapos lahat sila, parang package, e. At saka lagi ako nasa bottom.
"Laging feeling ko, ako iyong matatanggal kasi lahat ng kasama ko palaban at saka meron silang maibibigay. Ako, minsan, hindi ko na alam paano!"
On the night of March 25, 2007, during StarStruck’s final judgment, Kris was declared one of the four winners.
She won the title of Ultimate Loveteam with Mart Escudero.
Until now, Kris cannot believe she rose above the competition and was hailed one of the winners.
"I consider it na miracle na nanalo ako. Sa dami ng magagaling, magaganda, hindi ko alam paano ako nanalo.
"Worst dancer ako and worst singer din ako, kaya miracle talaga na nanalo ako.
"Awa ng Diyos, teamwork talaga iyon ng family ko and supporters. Grabe rin talaga ang dasal nila sa akin, everytime. Pero kahit ngayon, hindi ko talaga mafigure out paano!"
ALKRIS: THE LOVE TEAM OF KRIS BERNAL AND ALJUR ABRENICA
She may have won the Ultimate Love team with Mart Escudero, but Kris's career flourished with another love team partner, Aljur Abrenica.
Aljur was also one of the winners of StarStruck: The Next Level, but he won the title of Ultimate Hunk.
Kris and Aljur's love team, which was known by their collective name AlKris, was given several projects where they played supporting roles.
Among these were: Zaido: Pulis Pangkalawakan (2007), Dyesebel (2008), Luna Mystika (2008), and the movie Loving You (2007).
Kris shares with PEP.ph the lessons she learned about doing these support roles.
"Ang learning ko noon, kahit support ka o kahit gaano kaliit ang role mo, mapapansin ka kung magaling ka.
"Wow! Hindi ko sinasabi na magaling ako, ha! Pero feel ko, dahil nagkaroon kami ng magic ni Aljur together, nag-jive kami, nagustuhan ng mga tao kaya kami nagkaroon ng mas malalaking projects."
In 2009, two years after they won StarStruck, Kris and Aljur were given their big break as a love team.
The AlKris tandem top-billed the afternoon series Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin?
Falling under the umbrella of Sine Novela presents, Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin? was a remake of the 1984 movie starring Sharon Cuneta and Gabby Concepcion, who played a couple whose marriage was broken after the guy's affair with an older woman.
During the remake's run from March to June 2009, Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin? remained a consistent top-rater of GMA-7's afternoon block.
It even finished as the No. 1 program on its finale episode, with a rating of 30.5%, a number usually seen only on prime-time programs.
Until today, Kris is proud of the show's outcome.
She says, "Grabe iyong show na iyon! Grabe kasi talagang pinag-uusapan talaga siya.
"At saka hanggang ngayon, tumatatak sa tao!"
It was also during this time when Kris fully embraced her craft as a TV drama actress.
"Ang director ko is Direk Maryo J. Delos Reyes, so talagang alagang alaga kami at saka feel ko magaling ako noon dahil kay Direk Maryo J.
"Doon ako na-enhance, doon nalabas lahat ng puwede kong gawin.
"At saka ayun, talagang noong time na iyon, parang kami iyong pinakamataas, parang titleholder iyong Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin? na pinakamataas sa hapon.
"Hindi ko lang kung hanggang kailan tumagal iyong ganun, pero tumagal din na pinakamataas iyong Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin?"
It was during Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin? when her love team with Aljur was at the height of its popularity, and Kris recalls how intense their fans were.
"Nahu-hurt sila kapag hindi kayo iyong magkasama off-cam!
"Iyong talagang parang kapag out-of-town show, sinusundan talaga kami ng tao!
"Like kapag nasa hotel kami, matutulog talaga sila doon sa hotel. Hihintayin nila kaming bumaba tapos siyempre, magkahiwalay kami ni Aljur, talagang gusto nila na magkasama kami, talagang gagawan nila ng paraan!
"Na-experience ko rin talaga iyong isang love team na may mga fans na magagalit kapag may iba kang relationship or kapag may ipinair sa iyong iba. Kaya alam ko rin talaga iyong buhay ng celebrities na nagla-love team talaga na may malaking fanbase."
After Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin?, Kris and Aljur top-billed GMA-7's early prime-time series, All My Life, which also registered good ratings.
While doing All My Life, Regal Films and GMA Films decided to launch Kris and Aljur as movie stars via the film Nandito Ako... Nagmamahal Sa 'Yo.
Unfortunately, the movie was a commercial failure.
While their first solo movie did not take off in terms of sales, Kris believes it was the right time for her and Aljur to do their own film.
It was simply a case of right timing, wrong material.
The movie required Kris to wear a bikini and get involved in a relationship with Baron Geisler, who was a bit older than her and Aljur.
Kris explains, "Parang it's the right timing naman to do a film kasi malakas iyong love team, pero feel ko, the material just did not work for us.
"Kasi ang movie, ang concept niya nagbi-bikini bikini ako, parang not yet right for my image or age, and hindi pa sanay mga tao na mag-bikini ako, parang bata ako.
"Nagkaroon din siya ng affair sa mas nakakatanda sa kanya, so feel ko lang, iyong theme lang and iyong kuwento just did not work for us.
"But if it would have been a different genre, baka puwedeng nag-click iyong first movie namin."
After their movie, Kris and Aljur top-billed their first solo prime-time series, The Last Prince, which also had good ratings throughout its run.
KRIS BERNAL AS A SOLO ACTRESS
After The Last Prince finished its run in mid-2010, GMA-7 decided to give Kris and Aljur separate projects.
Kris admits in this PEP.ph interview that at the time, she had her worries on doing a project without Aljur, who was her perennial on-screen partner for three years.
"Noong una talaga, natakot ako noong naghiwalay kami ni Aljur kasi mas alam kong mas nagta-thrive iyong career ni Aljur noon, e.
"Tapos parang feel ko, kumakapit lang ako sa fame niya.
"Sabi ko talaga noong nagsolo ako, nagsolo siya, paano na kaya iyong career ko? Kasi alam kong siya iyong magbu-bloom kaysa ako, kaysa sa akin."
But Kris's worries faded when GMA-7 gave her the afternoon series titled Koreana, where she played the title role.
She had a strong support system of veteran actors in the show: Lotlot de Leon, Eula Valdes, Angelu de Leon, and Eddie Garcia, no less.
Eventually, the show earned its own following, and registered high ratings in its timeslot, which was also the same timeslot of her previous successful show, Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin?
At one point, Kris's Koreana registered a whooping 8.6% against its ABS-CBN rival, Juanita Banana, which only registered 2.8%.
Kris recalls, "Alam mo, tuwang tuwa ako noon kasi binigyan nila ako ng solo show kahit wala si Aljur.
"Kasi iyon nga, iyong mga worries ko, mga fears ko na parang lagi akong nakakapit kay Aljur, nakadikit iyong pangalan ko sa kanya, so kapag naghiwalay, wala na, tapos nabigyan ako ng chance mag-lead role uli.
"And then, ang ganda ganda ng Koreana, ang ganda ganda ng kuwento, itriny din nila i-explore ako sa iba't ibang leading men naman, like si Rocco Nacino and Steven Silva, very fresh lang yata sila sa StarStruck noon.
"Tapos maganda iyong feedback so parang doon ko rin na-realize na, I guess, na-capture ko rin talaga iyong afternoon audience na parang panghapon talaga ako, gusto talaga nila ako nagdadrama and all!"
The success of Koreana paved the way for Kris to be called the GMA Drama Princess of her generation.
After Koreana, Kris immediately moved on to the prime-time slot when she joined the latter part of Machete, which was top-billed by Aljur Abrenica.
As Machete wrapped up a short while after Kris joined the show, the Kapuso actress started another teleserye titled Time of My Life.
Dubbed as GMA-7's "Danserye," or a teleserye set in the dance milieu, Time of My Life was a different challenge for her, especially since dancing is not her strength.
She remembers, "Sobrang nakakapagod iyong Danserye kasi nagte-training ako dahil nga hindi ako sumasyaw, in between, nagte-training ako tapos nagte-taping ako.
"Alam mo, may mga roles talaga na hindi ko alam bakit sa akin napupunta! Hindi ko rin alam bakit sa akin napunta iyon!"
After Time of My Life, Kris moved on to the afternoon show Hiram na Puso (2012).
She then reunited with Aljur in the remake of Coffee Prince (2012), and in the pre-prime-time series Prinsesa ng Buhay Ko (2013).
Kris also worked with Dennis Trillo and Koreana leading man Rocco Nacino in the prime-time series Hiram na Alaala (2014).
But what Kris considers as her most favorite project would be the light-hearted prime-time series Little Nanay, aired in 2015.
In Little Nanay, Kris played Tinay, a girl with intellectual disability who got pregnant by her neighbor, played by Hiro Peralta.
Years later, 25-year-old Tinay had to raise her nine-year-old daughter, same as her mental age.
Kris says about the project, "Pinaka favorite ko Little Nanay kasi first prime-time ko siya na title role ako, tapos nakatrabaho ko si Miss Nora Aunor, Sir Bembol Roco, and at the same time, tumatak din talaga sa tao iyong Little Nanay.
"Nagustuhan nila iyong role ko tapos ginagaya gaya nila.
"Hanggang ngayon, naririnig ko pa rin iyong Little Nanay. Nahirapan talaga ako pero iyon iyong masaya. Na-challenge talaga ako, hindi lang basta drama show."
KRIS BERNAL'S SECOND WIND
After Little Nanay wrapped up in the first quarter of 2016, Kris found herself in limbo, as it took a while before she was able to star in her own teleserye.
Because Kris was not doing any regular project with GMA-7, reports came out that the actress had plans of leaving her mother network.
In an exclusive interview with PEP.ph in November 2016, Kris admitted she was exploring other options.
But on January 1, 2017, GMA-7 released an omnibus plug for its 2017 programs, and it was announced that Kris would top-bill a remake of Impostora, ending speculations about her network transfer.
In this interview, Kris reveals the truth behind the network transfer reports.
She explains, "In fairness naman to GMA Network, inalagaan talaga ako, like wala akong reklamo.
"Masasabi ko, utang na loob ko talaga lahat ng nangyayari sa career ko.
"Siguro, noong time lang na iyon, meron akong ibang nakakausap na tao, nagkaroon ako ng friends outside GMA na nakakausap ko, then parang they wanted to work with me.
"And then, parang nagkaroon lang ako ng idea, and then may iba't ibang offer din.
"So, parang siyempre, you're just considering the opportunities na puwede."
At the end of her decision-making, Kris stayed loyal to the network that gave her a break in showbiz.
She continues, "I stayed with GMA it's because parang utang na loob ko sa kanila iyong binibigyan ako ng trabaho.
"Iyong magrereklamo ka pa, ako na nga iyong bida, magiging choosy pa ako.
"E, makakuha ka lang ng lead role, ang laking bagay na, ang dami-daming gustong magbida.
"So, parang 100 percent, sabi ko, I'll stay with GMA kasi alam ko, mas secured ako and dito talaga ako lumaki, ayokong sirain iyong relationship.
"Nanalo nga ako ng StarStruck, hindi ko alam paano di ba?!"
After Kris renewed her contract with GMA-7, she went on to do a dual role in Impostora.
The show was a combined remake of the 2007 Kapuso drama series starring Iza Calzado and Sunshine Dizon and the 1994 movie Sa Isang Sulok ng mga Pangarap starring Alice Dixson.
Both projects were based on the Komiks novel Sa Isang Sulok ng mga Pangarap written by RJ Nuevas.
Kris's Impostora received high ratings throughout its run, and its original 13-week run was extended twice.
Since Kris's version used more elements from the comics, it managed to sustain its extensions and run for eight months, compared to the 2007 series which only had a three-month run.
The Kapuso actress says, "Gustong gusto nila! Ang daming may gusto ng Impostora!"
But actually, there were moments when Kris wished for the show to wrap up because of the challenges she encountered in doing a dual role of a bida and a kontrabida.
"Iyon iyong pinakamahirap kong show. Kasi kapag gumagawa naman tayo ng TV, since it's everyday na airing, kailangan talaga ratsada iyong work.
"Ang hirap lang kasi kailangan kang maging bipolar, ganun iyong dating sa akin, kasi biglaan, kailangang magpalit ng emotion, palit ka lang ng buhok, palit ka na ng emotion. Palit ka lang ng damit, palit ka na ng emotion, sobrang nakakabaliw!
"Ang daming pinagdaanan noon ha. Nagkataon pa nga naging tatlong characters pa noon kasi nagpanggap pa si Rosette na Nimfa, sobrang hirap."
Nevertheless, Kris is thankful that the Kapuso viewers really tuned in to the show.
She says, "Parang so far, sa mga ginawa ko lately, mas umingay pa rin iyong Impostora kaysa sa Asawa Ko, Karibal Ko and Hanggang Sa Dulo ng Buhay Ko."
Kris has also been vocal in saying she yearns for an acting award in her 12 years in showbiz.
Finally, in 2019, Kris was recognized as the Most Outstanding Filipina Actress in Television by the Gawad Amerika Awards for her performance in Asawa Ko, Karibal Ko.
She plays Rachel, a scorned wife after her husband left her. Years later, she gets a second chance at love with Gavin (Rayver Cruz), but is met with a challenge when Gavin's ex, Venus (Thea Tolentino), gets in the way of their love story.
The plot twist? Venus is Rachel's ex-husband, who went through sex change.
In this interview, Kris admits she expected her roles in Little Nanay and Impostora to be the ones to win her an acting award.
She elaborates, "Iyong acting award, parang nakakakuha naman ako siguro mga four years ago, five years ago, nakakuha naman ako sa Impostora, but it's just that iyong hindi pa ako nakakakuha ng URIAN, PMPC, or FAMAS. Iyon iyong talagang nominated ako, pero hindi ko nakukuha. Parang iyon iyong next kong target.
"So, nangyari na nga iyong Gawad Amerika, very thankful ako kasi pinapunta talaga ako sa America to receive.
"Alam mo, ang pinaka ine-expect ko talaga, iyong Little Nanay and Impostora, iyon lang makakapagbigay sa akin ng award. Kung hindi ako magkaka-award, hindi ko na alam paano pa, ano pang gusto, kasi iyon na talaga yung pinakamahirap.
"I guess iyong basis din, based sa ginawa ko na rin dati na ngayon lang napansin. Kasi mas mahihirap talaga iyong dati."
KRIS BERNAL AS A BUSINESSWOMAN
In 2016, Kris started venturing into business.
Her first business was called MeatKRIS, a food stall that sells burgers.
She recalls, "Noong time na iyon, I wanted to venture into a business and then parang nauso iyong mga food park.
"E, sa food park na location ko, wala pa silang stall na burger, e, di ba, bawal pare-pareho?
"So iyon, burgers na lang wala sila, so nag-explore ako sa burgers kahit wala akong alam."
It was during the course of putting up MeatKRIS that she met Perry Choi, her fiance.
She recalls, "Siya ang supplier ko ng beef patty tapos ginawan niya ako ng recipe ng burgers, tapos nagwork kami as business partners.
"Hanggang sa tinuruan niya ako maghandle ng food business. Ang family business nila supplies dairy, meat, seafood, all over the Philippines."
The two eventually fell in love and became a couple.
After MeatKRIS, and with the help of Perry, Kris decided to venture into a bigger market when she put up her own Korean barbeque restaurant called House of Gogi.
Just recently, House of Gogi held the opening of its new branch in Banawe, and is set to open another branch in Taft Avenue.
Aside from her food business, Kris has also ventured into putting up her own cosmetic line, SHE Cosmetics, which was launched in late 2018.
Kris tells the story behind her cosmetic line.
"Love ko talaga iyong lipstick. I have a huge collection of lipsticks, minsan paulit-ulit na lang, pare-pareho na lang, so sabi ko, bakit hindi ako gumawa."
When she launched SHE Cosmetics, the brand had four shades of lipsticks, and also earned its own patrons.
This paved the way for Kris to launch her second product, which was a 4-in-1 dual cover crystal skin cushion, a first in the Philippines.
"I enjoyed na the whole cosmetic business. Ganito pala gumawa ng isang product, ganito pala maghandle ng beauty products, cosmetics. Na-enjoy ko siya, so gumawa ulit ako ng product."
Even then, Kris declares that her business are only "on-the-side" activities because her showbiz career is still her main priority.
"On the side ko lang talaga itong mga business, but ang focus ko pa rin talaga is my showbiz career, until today.
"Kahit 12 years na ako in the industry, ang priority ko pa rin talaga is my showbiz career."
On February 7, Kris got engaged to Perry.
When asked about her plans once she gets married to her long-time boyfriend, she says, "Gusto ko pa rin magtrabaho kasi love ko talaga acting, e. Gusto ko pa rin mag-explore ng iba-ibang roles.
"At the same time, gusto kong may ginagawang negosyo on the side.
"And since I'm turning 31 na rin, maybe mga 33, 34, okay na ako magka-family, but then I still want to work, gustung-gusto ko talagang umarte.
"Siguro dahil first love ko talaga iyong acting."