Every teleserye has its special place in the hearts of many Filipinos. Aside from their plots that are chock-full of values and lessons, these soap operas have actors that portray their characters to the brim — showing us how dynamic and effective their acting is.
In Philippine show business, good looks aren’t enough anymore. Having the ideal figure is a bonus, but down to its core, an actor should become the character they’re portraying. Actors not only have to step into another person’s shoes, but they have to make us believe it.
With GMA’s local adaptation of South Korea’s hit series Descendants of The Sun, you wouldn’t realize it wasn’t an original Pinoy story. It’s production, the editing, and the cast make the series something to look forward to every night. It isn’t your typical teleserye whose actors are Filipinos just to call it a ‘Filipino adaptation’. The actors prove that becoming their characters is more than just a job, but a deeper responsibility of letting us know what a ‘hero’ is.
Adapting a widely popular Korean drama to a more streamlined local setting is no joke, and it entails a lot of financial and social risks. However, GMA Network continuously braved yet another sure hit without any doubt.
Meanwhile, the localized Alpha Team, composed of Dingdong Dantes, Rocco Nacino, Jon Lucas, Lucho Ayala, Paul Salas, Prince Clemente, along with Andre Paras from Medical team, brought back our feels the moment they popped up in our small screens. It’s like seeing the original Korean stars for the first time as they captured our unprepared hearts. But of course, the men from our home court have their unique ways with their roles. We knew we’d feel all the kilig when the show started, but who would’ve thought the DOTS PH cast would be cranking up the temperature?
Behind the Lines
Becoming part of the series has tested the actors’ craft. They went above and beyond like going through rigorous military training and studying the ins and outs of medicine and support in the field. Apart from their character projection, blocking, lines, and acting in general, the entire cast and production team have poured sweat and tears in making the show what it is.
However, in Rocco Nacino’s case, his resemblance to Korean actor Jin Goo (who originally played the role in the original series) and his experience as a Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadet for the GMA primetime series Hiram na Ala-ala in 2014, paved his way to act as Tech. Sgt. Diego Ramos. In fact, he shares that he’d rewatch the original version whenever he can so he’d find something that he could make as his own.
While Lucho Ayala shares that he almost got into the PMA. “When I was 16, coming into college, dapat sa PMA ako. I actually trained for them,” he says. For once in his life, he went through not just written exams, but also psychological, medical, and physical exams that were required for the school.
Aside from their mandatory whole-day immersion with the Philippine Army Reserve Command in Cavite and their 2-day training with the AFP in Fort Magsaysay, the boys were also required to watch the original 16-episode series so they could understand the story better.
Lucho confessed that Descendants of the Sun was the first Korean drama that he has ever watched.“Since it’s an adaptation, syempre maiiba s’ya. ‘Yung main storyline lang ang ‘yong nandoon pero yong mismong characterization per character maiiba siya kasi i-si-situate namin siya sa Philippines. So ‘yon ‘yung trabaho na ginawa namin,” he adds.
Meanwhile, for Andre Paras, playing Ralph (who’s part of the medic team), was a different story of learning. Admitting that this was his first role as a doctor, he went through so much of exploring. “We went to V. Luna Hospital. They gave us a workshop on pretty much everything about first aid — from CPR to medical terms. They taught us how to use proper techniques or how to use substitutes when there’s an accident,” he shares. Together with his co-medics, they also had a glimpse of how to react when there’s an emergency.
For Paul Salas, on the other hand, the most challenging part of portraying Marty is the fact that he had to change his personality. Being the youngest both in the story and the cast, he tries to lighten the mood for the people around him. “Fun guy naman din ako, comedian din, palatawa rin, parang ‘yong character ko ngayon, then loving din sa friends, kumbaga tini-treat ko rin sila as family ko.”
Besides portraying the character, shooting DOTS-PH also marks a memorable experience for Jon Lucas. “So far sa mga ginagawa naming, siguro ‘yung sumakay kami ng chopper. Kase first time kong sumakay ng chopper tapos nilipad pa talaga kami nang medyo mataas-taas tapos pagbaba sa may dagat, tapos sabay-sabay pag-angat. Ayon sobrang angas lang,” he excitedly shares.
He even admits that he’s in love with his character — a light-hearted soldier with a tendency to be overly organized with his things. He believes that in times of battles, it’s empowering to find a beacon of hope and happiness that would wake you up to help yourself. It’s something he can relate to.
Made for the Philippines
Just like the original one, the Filipino adaptation anchors on the kindling romance of a special forces officer and a surgeon in the midst of an impending chaos. Apart from that, what makes this series unique to the original one? For Andre, DOTS PH offers a story that’s geared to include family connections – a family that isn’t just bound by blood.
“We added some characters or moments where it tackles the family. That’s something I believe, that it should always be included in any show, especially this one. Because even though people have high expectations, it’s good to put some Filipino flavors which is the family,” he says.
Rocco admits he thought they’d do it exactly as the original. But he then realized there were added Filipino aspects to it — like the current state our soldiers and medical practitioners have. In fact, this makes them a superhero, according to Andre, considering how perilous and tough their jobs are.
A month after their physically and mentally tiring training, for the show started. Since then, everything has been smooth sailing. They’ve been having high ratings and the show’s been getting praises online.
Band of Brothers
The guys reveal that they were so happy to be casted for the show because all of them are fans of action dramas. Prince Clemente says that he’s already had knowledge about guns before the training. He explains that going to firing ranges is one of his hobbies. Although it was the first time for most of them to work with each other, the Alpha Team have formed a brotherhood during the training.
“Meron kaming isang training na kailangang buhatin na parang kasing bigat ng kotse. Mabubuhat lang iyon if we all work as a team. Tulong-tulong. We were pushing each other. We’re telling each other not to give up. Doon nabuo ‘yung brotherhood,” Rocco recalls.
Some of them already had connections with each other like Jon and Paul. But for some, it was a first-time encounter. Lucho who admits that it was his first time to work with most of the cast.
“Naging close kami as a team dahil iba talaga ‘yung pangunguna ng aming Big Boss. Kumbaga kakaiba si Kuya Dong na leader kasi trinatrato niya kaming kapatid niya. Siya ‘yung kuya namin tapos pagka may event siya minsan in-invite niya kami. Tapos pagka may parang kailangang i-celebrate, bonding-bonding – ganoon,” Lucho says, as told the story of how the Alpha Team’s bond becomes even stronger.
“So, ‘yun gusto niya palagi kaming nag-bo-bond para pagdating sa set ‘di magaspang lahat. Pagka may biruan natural na biruan, hindi nagkakailangan,” Jon adds. He also mentions that the team has its own group chat where they talk and goof around. The Philippine Alpha Team is indeed a team on and off-screen.
It Is What It Is
The Philippine recreation of Descendants of The Sun can be described as a lot of things. But for the cast, it’s been life-changing. For Lucho, DOTS-Ph is an entertaining, extra-romantic, and beautifully-made series. Jon says it’s explosive, malupit, and astig. While Andre marks the series as exciting, memorable and nostalgic.
The guys and their untold stories behind the [teleserye] define the astounding recreation of the drama. Their perseverance, effort, and love for their work have become also become their bonds to make the show remarkable and one-of-a-kind.
Much more to tell, GMA’s local adaptation of the Descendants of the Sun is not your typical rendition, but a craft beyond remake. True enough, their characters aren’t just simply portrayal but also an experience that is really something else in their life.
Producers | Nicko Talavera, Fern Estrebello, and Sheila Ordinario
Head Writer | Lord Harvey Monteroso
Photography | Dom Cruz
Assisted by Micoy Carillo
Videography | Gabe Gavina
Assisted by Gillian Go, Karmina Mendiola, and Tiara Imperial
Styling | Janno Novenario
Assisted by Dan Fernando and Julian Hernandez
Makeup and Hairstyling | Arthur Tolentino, Danielle Leonardo, Justine Ocampo, and Iris Felix of Marqed Salon
Production Assistant | Darah Faye Valledor
Wardrobe by Einar Nicdao
Special Thanks Chester Singian, GMA Artists Center, and RED Mansion