Jerry Donato – The Philippine Star

September 27, 2021 | 12:00am

Jumping from one project to another, actors vow to get a hold of their characters and do justice to their stories. They bank on their maturity and personal (and people’s) experiences in understanding the roles. This must have been the approach of Carla Abellana, Rocco Nacino and Max Collins in playing Erica Gatchalian, Gavin Ramirez and Dominique Ramirez, respectively, who get entangled in the infidelity theme of GMA 7’s To Have and To Hold.

Premiering tonight after Legal Wives, the GMA Telebabad drama series presents characters who are “familiar” and not crafted to appear as bida or kontrabida. They are simply human beings with both endearing qualities and character flaws.

“Definitely, these give you that experience and lessons in life for you to be able to identify (with) and relate perhaps to the various characters, to my character,” answered Carla when she, Rocco and Max were inquired on how past and present relationships have helped them better navigate and understand their characters in To Have and To Hold in a recent media conference, “at importante yun (and they are important).”

“She’s married,” said Max. “So, I understand certain aspects of what she goes through and the dynamics (of her relationship). It (my character) made me grow so much from the roles that I have done before.” The actress added that she looked for different things in portraying her character and became more attentive to Dominique’s characteristics and emotions. “I feel like I have a lot more things in my jar to use,” said Max.

If the Gavin role was offered to him maybe five or 10 years ago, Rocco said he would have a different approach to playing him. “We were young then, hindi pa natin napagdadaanan ito (We never had relationships like that of our characters). We would come up with something to breathe life into the character. Now, kung nasaan kami sa buhay, we have better understanding about the character with what we’ve been through with our past relationships and life itself. Mas madali itahi-tahi yan (it’s easier to build the character).”

Rocco is married to volleyball player Melissa Gohing, while Max is the wife of Pancho Magno, and they have a son named Skye. Carla is bride-to-be to Tom Rodriguez.

Carla described her Erica as a devoted and selfless wife, whose life revolves around her husband Tony and mother Vicky. “Erica is from a broken family,” said she. “To her, family is everything. She’ll do everything to make her family whole (and remain intact).”

Max’s Dominique, on the other hand, is the wife of Rocco’s Gavin. “She’s an interior designer, spontaneous and confident but her parents died when she was young,” said Max. “Her dream in life is to have a happy family, to have a child. She and Gavin go through so much throughout the show. You’ll see how vulnerable she is, how fragile she really is.”

“He shows a lot of vulnerability when it comes to his ego and self-esteem,” shared Rocco of his character, “which affects his decisions as a husband. He’s a workaholic for a reason and it has something to do with his family, sa estado ng kanyang tatay (and the stature of his father).” The character somehow shows how a guy thinks, added he.

Given their characters’ personalities and hugot in life, plus how fate will bring them together and the repercussions that lie ahead of it, To Have and To Hold promises viewers an intriguing and engaging narrative.

It also challenges them to see the “many reasons and circumstances that make a partner unfaithful and this is something we will tackle,” said director Don Michael Perez. “I guess what sets us (our show) apart from the others is it would feel like you’re not watching a teledrama, it would feel like you’re not watching something on the screen. It feels like real life is unfolding right in front of you. It feels like these (characters) are your neighbors, these are your relatives and it feels like you are part of this relationship of this married couple. Ganun siya ka-immersive, ganun siya ka-real (This is how immersive and real the series will be).”

With that, the drama can be taken as another study at how intimate relationships could reach the breaking point.

“Why people fall out of love, people who are so much in love fall out of it and what breaks a marriage apart, what are the reasons why a couple or two people who are in a relationship destroy the bond that they’ve forged or the vows they’ve taken,” shared the director.

Since the series “imitates life,” the actors had to give their characters a semblance of what’s out there. Embarking on it was a fulfilling and challenging task for Carla, Rocco and Max.

“The more realistic the better,” said Carla, because they were able to veer away “from the usual melodramatic attack or treatment to any story or any soap.”

As for interpreting a character properly, Rocco made a lot of phone calls and had one-on-one with direk Don and headwriter Denoy Navarro Punio about the script “because we all have a different take on what we see or when we read the script and our characters.”

Accomplishing the task was made easier because Don, the series director, was amazing and supportive as Max put it. “(He was) really encouraging us to find truth in all the scenes and really make it as real as possible,” said she.

Joining the lead stars in To Have and To Hold are Roi Vinzon, Bing Pimentel, Ina Feleo, Valeen Montenegro, Rafael Rosell, Dion Ignacio, Gileth Sandico, Luis Hontiveros and Athenah Madrid.

With their commitment to unpack their characters’ truth, Carla, Rocco and Max also make the narrative of To Have and To Hold immersive. It’s something viewers can look forward to on weeknights.

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