Why latest ‘Darna’ the ‘woke version,’according to Jane de Leon and series nemesis Janella Salvador

Scene from “Mars Ravelo’s Darna”

Three years since she first began working on the latest version of the action-adventure series “Mars Ravelo’s Darna,” and with it premiering on the small screen next week, lead actress Jane de Leon confessed that she has yet to personally discover the answer to why she deserves to portray the iconic Filipino superheroine.

“I share the same sentiments with my bashers, who kept asking the question, ‘Why her?’ That’s what I have been asking myself, too. With all the more popular and extremely talented women in the industry, why did God pick me to play her for this generation? I recently decided to just surrender everything to Him. I know that everything happens for a reason, so maybe I will discover that before we finish working on the show,” Jane told reporters during the recent grand launch of the series directed by Chito Roño.

Jane said she was also aware that her portrayal of Darna, and the alterego Narda, will be compared to the performances of the women who have donned the red-and-gold costume in the past. From comics, Darna first made a crossover to cinema in 1951, with Rosa del Rosario playing the superheroine.

“I’d rather not compare myself to them. They’re all great. The latest version begins with Narda slowly embracing her being a superhero because the transfer of the symbolic stone to her and all its powers happened rather quickly. This is also why, even the Narda character is trying to figure out why she was given the task, why she is worthy to have superhuman abilities. Narda and I are similar in that sense. We’re both going through a period of self-discovery,” she pointed out.

Jane de Leon

Jane de Leon

Physical transformation

A complete physical transformation was also necessary before assuming the role of Darna, added Jane. “I was really skinny back in 2019 so I needed to gain weight, and later on, to bulk up. When production was forced to stop because of the pandemic, I also discontinued working out and kept eating. I then needed to lose all the extra weight I’ve gained before resuming work,” she recalled.

“These days, I can only work out when we’re in training because our taping schedule is really full. I’m aware that I really need to focus on my health if I want to keep returning to work in the coming days.” In March 2022, Jane was taken to the hospital due to fatigue.

Speaking of physical transformation, Janella Salvador said she had just given birth to her son Jude when she got the offer to play Valentina, the main villain in the series.

“I really did gain a lot of weight when I gave birth. It was interesting that when this role arrived in my life, I was already starting to lose the extra weight,” said Janella, who added that she underwent liposuction to help speed up the process a bit. “After lipo, I still had to work out as soon as I was strong enough. Luckily, when I got the call saying it was time to shoot ‘Darna,’ I was already in my top shape.”

These days, Janella said she has learned to embrace being the snake-haired super villain, and her alterego Regina. In fact, she recently started taking care of snakes as pets at home. “I’m now enjoying my character 100 percent. It’s not easy to be the character but it’s fun to play around with it. I find it interesting that I could shift from being Regina to Valentina. Since I love animals, I also have snakes now,” she said.

At the launch, Janella even walked on the red carpet with a snake wrapped around her neck and arms. “In the latest trailer, you will see me talking with actual snakes on my head. People were asking if that was really me they saw. They also had a sneak peek of Valentina’s costume, but the focus now is on Darna. They will see more of me in the coming weeks,” she explained.

Janella Salvador

Janella Salvador as Valentina/Regina

Paying tribute

Janella said that, with her performance, she is paying tribute to actress Cherie Gil, who passed away only last week. Cherie played the villainess Valentine in the 1994 version, titled “Darna: Ang Pagbabalik.”

“Whenever I was asked who from among our industry’s talents I want to work with, I would always mention her. I was really sad when I learned about her passing. I will never have that chance anymore. I’m just hoping that wherever she may be, she will be proud of my portrayal,” said Janella. “[As Valentine], her screen presence was very powerful, add to that the way she acted. She was really amazing.”

Janella said she was proud of the fact that the latest “Darna” is actually the “woke version.” She explained: “Not only that it’s a modern take on the decades-old story, but also that it tackles social issues. For example, my character is a lawyer/vlogger. In my vlog, I talk about politics and the cases I handle. I will not be fighting with just Darna, but also with politicians because I’m against corruption.”

Jane agreed with Janella, adding: “The audience will definitely have a lot to talk about after watching. As for my character, she will not just fight super villains, but also humans who are criminals. The series will also attempt to answer whether or not a person will opt to change for the better if given a second chance.”

“Darna” will air on weekdays at 8 p.m. starting Aug. 15 on the Kapamilya Channel, A2Z, Jeepney TV and TV5 and will also be available on Kapamilya Online Live, iWantTFC and The Filipino Channel.

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