There are a lot of highlights to appreciate and savor from Dennis Trillo’s 20-year journey as a Kapuso artist. The projects that immediately come to mind are his first film, “Aishite Imasu 1941: Mahal Kita,” the first gay-themed TV series on primetime TV “My Husband’s Lover,” his offbeat “vanishing act” in “On the Job: The Missing 8,” the trendingly popular historical series “Maria Clara at Ibarra,” and “Love Before Sunrise,” his first telenovela with Bea Alonzo.
But when we recently spoke to GMA Network’s top dramatic actor about the aforesaid milestone, he said that there are also teachable moments to take away from his bittersweet recollections as a struggling newcomer in ABS-CBN’s “Tabing Ilog” or “Pangako Sa ‘Yo,” when he began pursuing an acting career fresh out of college in the early 2000s.
“In those days, when Jericho [Rosales] and John Lloyd [Cruz] were already primed for bigger and better things, I’d appear in only one scene not knowing if I’ve had enough proper training to pull it off,” Dennis recalled. “I didn’t like the feeling of uncertainty. It was like a sink-or-swim moment after you’re thrown into the ocean. And you ask yourself if you have what it takes to be in their shoes. So, my instinct was to learn to survive.”
Indeed, the award-winning actor doesn’t take anything for granted, recounting both triumphs and trials with similar fondness and insight. In fact, Dennis took us further down memory lane as he recalled the first time he saw acting as a profession worth pursuing.
“Actually, I got my very first role—for a commercial—when I was in Grade 5,” he said, laughing. “I was paid P2,500 to fly a kite in the background. You could hardly see me, but I was over the moon because I thought that was the start of my new career—meron na akong sideline, because I was still in school at the time. Then, the small roles kept coming until I was noticed by somebody from ABS. That’s how it all started.”
Following his pivotal transfer to GMA Network in 2003, Dennis’ career got a big boost soon after he was cast in his first film, Joel Lamangan’s 2004 period drama “Aishite Imasu 1941: Mahal Kita,” and won a string of acting accolades for portraying a trans woman in love with her best friend’s (Judy Ann Santos) childhood sweetheart (Raymart Santiago).
Asked how his acting approach has evolved since “Aishite Imasu” and 2005’s “Blue Moon,” Dennis said, “The lessons I pick up from one acting assignment to the next, I apply to my succeeding roles. Then, I was able to refine what I knew. Every character I play helps boost my confidence, but I still get the jitters every time I act—which is a good thing … because it keeps me from slacking off or dropping my guard.
“Kailangan huwag kang maging kampante. You always have to do your best because the role wasn’t given to other actors—it was entrusted to you. You don’t want it to be a missed opportunity.”
At which point in his career did Dennis realize he could be good at acting? He answered, “I think some level of comfort comes with being recognized, and I felt that when I won awards for my first film. That’s when I felt, ‘Hmm. We could be on to something here…’”
But while he works hard to breathe life into his characters, the actor also attributes his longevity and drive to his home network.
“GMA has always taken good care of me. They’ve always made me feel important,” he pointed out when asked why his loyalty with GMA never seemed to falter through the decades. “Also, I don’t recall having had problems with our bosses. Besides, I wouldn’t last this long if I didn’t feel I was being treated well.”
When we spoke to Dennis, he was the epitome of a contented man who’s grateful for the blessings that continue to come his way and optimistic about his aspirations for the people dear to him.
It takes a village
As the images captured for this piece deftly convey, Dennis acknowledges that it also takes a village to pull off the kind of success he’s enjoying. For instance, the guys responsible for the photo session include Cenon and Mav (@cenonatmav) for the pictures, Eugene David (creative direction), Aj Alberto with Ian Vinarao (stylist), Rick Calderon (makeup), Darla (hair), and the Aguila Artist Management team composed of Becky Aguila, Katrina Aguila, Jan Enriquez and Hey Pretty Studios CEO Anne Barretto.
Another milestone, albeit of the personal sort, that’s worth mentioning took place in November 2021—when Dennis married actress Jennylyn Mercado, with whom he has a 1-year-old daughter named Dylan.
“No marriage is perfect all the time,” said Dennis when asked what his takeaway is from being a married man. “You’ll have to sort through misunderstandings and conflict from time to time. But your love for each other should always win out in the end.
“Marriage has taught me to be more patient. Mas lumawak ang pang-unawa ko sa mga bagay at sa ibang tao. You learn to adjust and adapt. But what’s more important is you never give up on each other. You need to always communicate. Teamwork is important in marriage and raising a family. Kailangang magtulungan kayo palagi (you need to always help out each other).”
The rest of our Q&A with Dennis:
To pay tribute to your significant triumphs as an actor, do you mind “revisiting” some of your most celebrated roles and movie/TV projects? What do you fondly remember about them?
With Crisostomo Ibarra (for “Maria Clara at Ibarra”), I remember many nights of studying and doing research. It’s one of the most difficult roles I’ve had to essay. So I did a lot of reading and kept memorizing my lines. It’s a role that I had to know by heart because you can’t make a mistake. Ibarra has been portrayed so many times in the past so you’ll end up getting compared to those, or bashed if you don’t put in the effort to do it right.
In “Aishite Imasu,” it was like I was walking on eggshells because Direk Joel (Lamangan) has a reputation for being a terror director on set (laughs). One time, I got to our Laguna set late because I came from a taping for “Mulawin,” and I remember being so scared to get screamed at.
But when I got there, Direk Joel just hugged me—and I was so happy and relieved! That fear taught me a lesson … to never be tardy again, mainly because I didn’t want to stress him out or cause problems for him. That’s what is important about making mistakes, you have to learn from them.
“Blue Moon” was significant because it was my first time to work with two of my idols: Christopher de Leon and Eddie Garcia. It felt like I was in a masterclass—I learned so much [about the discipline of acting] just by watching them work.
As far as my characters in Erik Matti’s “On the Job: The Missing 8” and Michael Tuviera’s “The Janitor” are concerned, they’re offbeat roles that I really enjoyed doing. I love playing these types of characters because they’re also the type of movies I enjoy watching, helmed by very cool directors. They’re breathers from the usual roles I get asked to play.
There may be something dark about these two characters, but I started “creating” them as soon as I read the script. As you go through the scenes, you add more and more details into your understanding of him, and you react to the dynamics that play out between him and his scene partners. The more you understand him, the tighter your grasp is of your characterization.
As for playing Eric in “My Husband’s Lover” (MHL), I remember initially getting offered Tom Rodriguez’s role—a “closeted” guy who’s in a relationship with a woman. But I was just coming from a show, “Temptation of Wife,” where I portrayed a similar character—and I didn’t want to repeat myself. So, I asked for the role of “the other man,” which provided a new challenge for me.
In 2013, MHL was groundbreaking for primetime—for the Philippine TV industry and for me. At the time, I was feeling that my career trajectory was on a plateau, so I didn’t know kung may i-aangat pa pala s’ya! I think I was able to tap into a different kind of audience because of that role.
And then, there’s “Love Before Sunrise,” which is significant because it’s my first project with Bea Alonzo after 20 years. She was the biggest draw for me. This show is a testament to the power of camaraderie and chemistry. But I would have done any show as long as it was with Bea.
We’ve been seeing a lighter, more fun and more self-deprecating side of you through TikTok. How did those laugh-out-loud videos come about?
Matagal ko na s’yang na-discover, but I didn’t really act on it because, as you can see, I’m not the conventional TikTok user—I don’t dance, I don’t take selfies, at hindi ako mahilig magpa-cute for the cameras.
I was asked to consider getting on the bandwagon when my former manager said that social media was becoming more and more a part of a celebrity’s tools, especially where endorsements are concerned. But I resisted.
In 2022, however, I realized that I needed to have an open mind about it. And when I finally succumbed to TikTok, I realized how happy those videos made people—nagugulat sila, natatawa at natutuwa. And it’s a great way to share some positivity to others. At the same time, it allows me to laugh at myself—and that makes me happy, too.
Which of your challenging roles was hardest for you?
“Felix Manalo.” My lines from the script were so long, so I couldn’t just go to the shoot without having worked on my scenes the previous night. Naaalala ko that there was so much footage kaya umabot hanggang seven hours ang original running time! So, they had to trim it down to about three hours!
As an actor, what else is on your bucket list?
I’d like to do more villain roles—they’re always fun and challenging.
Knowing what you know now, if you could talk to your younger self in 2000, what advice would you give him?
Be patient—huwag kang mainip. There’s a right time for everything. There are great plans for you. Just always do your best so that when the time comes, you’ll be ready to accept the things that are meant just for you.
You and Jen are both very successful as actors. But what happens when you argue? Who gets the last word?
She always wins (laughs)! S’ya ang panalo. As they say, “Happy wife, happy life.” INQ
SOURCE : https://entertainment.inquirer.net/525651/a-milestone-of-triumphs-and-trials-dennis-trillo-20-years-later/