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Preview Exclusive: Jane de Leon Is Darna and She’s Ready to Do Her Own Saving

More than just a pretty face, the Laguna-native is ready to take on the world as this generation's headstrong heroine.

by Jamina F. Nitura | Jul 17, 2019

Pure and true to herself, Jane de Leon proves she's more than capable of carrying the iconic Darna name as she fights everyone's demons—including her own.

Sometimes it only takes a few seconds to change our lives. Jane de Leon's turning point was the utterance of four words: "Si Darna na lang."

We're tucked in the corner of a dimly lit cafe in Tomas Morato as she tells me the story, kind eyes half-alight with mirth and half still in disbelief. I can only imagine the well-mannered 20-year-old, nervous yet hopeful all the same, as she stands in front of Star Cinema's big-wigs, gearing to prove, for the fifth time, that she's fit for the role of a villain. They ask her of her audition process and the role she's gunning for, when director Jerrold Tarog casually throws out that aforementioned one sentence game-changer. I imagine her bewildered reaction the same way she reenacts the moment in front of me, jaw slightly agape, eyes wide with something she can't quite grasp just yet. "I thought to myself, 'what?' All of a sudden yun na pala yung inaaudition ko," Jane says with a hearty chuckle.

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The fated call came on the 15th of June. Jane recalls remaining totally clueless up until the actual moment. When asked why she had zero inkling of what might clearly happen, she sits a bit straighter and squares her shoulders as if asking you to listen, suddenly carrying the kind of aura that makes you want to lean in closer and do just that. “Yung sa'kin kasi, ayokong mag-expect. Ibibigay ko lang yung best ko. Kung para sa'kin, para sa'kin. I'm happy, I'm blessed. Pero if it's not for me, then it's not for me. Marami pa namang ibang mga opportunities." She then finishes this humble statement with an idiom: "Just let go and let God," and boy, did her God deliver. "[Una kong naisip,] is this real? Totoo ba ’to? Sobrang speechless ako, parang nag-buffer yung utak ko. Hindi pa nagsi-sink-in sa’kin pero I’m so happy and excited." 

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While already with a few acting credits to her name (Maalaala Mo Kaya, Ipaglaban Mo, The Debutantes, La Luna Sangre, Halik), Jane might not be the image of the heroine most people have in mind—the more mature features of actresses who have played the iconic role in the past come to mind: Nanette Medved, Angel Locsin, or Marian Rivera. Instead, Jane is a young, fresh-faced Gen-Z kid who loves to play games, jam with her guitar, marathon Marvel movies, and gush over Jericho Rosales (who played her older brother in Halik), much like everyone else. But maybe it’s exactly this kind of relatability that makes her perfect for the new Darna role in the promised 2019 coming-of-age film; a youthful spirit with the sensibilities of this generation, who’s more than ready to do her own saving. 

"Nag-audition lang talaga ako para sa villain and not for the role of Darna itself. I had no idea at all... All of a sudden, [Darna] na pala yung in-audition ko."


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After all, her main advocacy is to become a voice for today’s youth, especially those suffering through anxiety and depression, as someone who’s gone through the same herself. It’s the platform she hopes to push for as she steps into the iconic role set to reach millions of Filipinos. “We don’t talk about it enough. It’s not that easy, kasi kinakain ka talaga ng anxiety but kailangan mo talaga siyang labanan. You need someone to talk to, ’yan yung pinaka-kailangan kasi syempre yung iba, takot silang i-share, pero you need someone to lean on lang talaga and to understand,” she says with squared shoulders yet again. Perhaps it’s exactly this kind of passion and determination that won her the role, or maybe it’s the sheer fight burning within a 20-year-old who used to dream of becoming a soldier as a little girl. Either way, Jane de Leon is ready to prove that she’s undeniably our generation’s Darna—and she’s here to break down barriers.

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Get to know our new Darna further in an exclusive Preview interview below!

How did you get the role? Could you take us through your audition process?

“Nag-start ’to nung nag-text sa’kin yung handler ko na may pa-audition for Darna. Wala talaga akong idea. Yung pagkaka-audition ko talaga was for the villain. After that yung process noon was... first, public audition; second, meron silang special audition para sa mga artists. Third, nakasama na ko dun sa final call. Fourth was a panel, and the fifth was a meeting with the bosses.

Nung una hindi ko pa nakikita, and I was kinda shy pa pero naisip ko wala namang masama if I try. Pero yung time na nalaman ko na mag-audition for Darna, nag-audition lang talaga ako para sa villain and not for the role of Darna itself. I had no idea at all. Dumating lang sa point na the bosses asked me, ‘Paano ka nag-audition?’ Sinabi ko na nag-audition ako para sa kalaban niya, and then sabi ni direk, ‘Darna na lang.’ I was like ‘What?’ Like, all of a sudden yun na pala yung in-audition ko.

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“Yung sa’kin kasi ayokong mag-expect. Ibibigay ko lang yung best ko. Kung para sa’kin, para sa’kin, I’m happy, I’m blessed. Pero if it’s not for me, then it’s not for me. Marami pa namang ibang mga opportunities, kaya just let go, and let God.”

What was your reaction upon getting the call that you would be playing Darna? 

“[Nalaman ko nung] June 15, so fresh pa rin siya ngayon. Nung pinatawag nila ako, wala pa akong idea at all. Una, confused ako at kinakabahan kung bakit nila ako pinatawag. [Una kong naisip,] ‘Is this real? Totoo ba ’to?’ Sobrang speechless ako, parang nag-buffer yung utak ko. Hindi pa nag-si-sink in sa’kin pero I’m so happy and excited.”

"Bata pa ko noon...I remember sa palengke meron silang binebenta na parang headband ng Darna. Bibili pa talaga ako tapos isusuot ko pa sa classroom habang sinasabi, ‘Darna!’"

Darna's had several different iterations in both TV and film. Were you able to watch any of the past versions or read the comics?

“Hindi ko nabasa yung comics pero napanood ko na yung 2008 version ni ate Angel Locsin and elementary pa ’ko noon. I also already watched the version ni ate Marian Rivera.”

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Who's your favorite Darna and why? Will you be taking inspiration from them for your own portrayal?

“Tumatak talaga yung kay ate Angel. Sa tingin ko dun mas lalong nakilala si Darna kasi super perfect sa kanya. Nabigay niya yung kailangan dun sa character na yun. Grade 1 ako noon. I thought, ‘I wanna be like her. I wanna be like Darna,’ pero syempre, bata pa ko noon. I had no idea. I remember sa palengke meron silang binebenta na parang headband ng Darna. Bibili pa talaga ako tapos isusuot ko pa sa classroom habang sinasabi, ‘Darna!’

“As for taking inspiration, I’ll just observe the past performances. Hindi lang naman kay ate Angel, pero sa iba ring mga gumanap na ng Darna. Ibibigay ko kung ano yung hinihingi ng direktor especially para sa bagong Darna ngayon.”

How do you plan on approaching the role? 

“For now, meron na ’kong ideas. Pero syempre kailangan ko muna basahin yung buong script to see yung buong story ni Darna and Narda, with the help of direk. Doon ko malalaman kung paano ko ibibigay yung character.”

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"I’ll be honest, na-pre-pressure talaga ako. Kahit sino naman siguro. Pero ibibigay ko naman yung best ko for this, kasi importante din sa’kin yung tiwala din na binigay ng mga tao.”

Why is it fitting to tell Darna’s story again, for this generation? 

“Sobrang importante na ipalabas ’to sa generation ngayon kasi may mga kabataan sa generation na ’to na hindi naabutan si Darna o hindi nila kilala kung sino si Darna. Ngayon magandang opportunity ito para ipakilala ulit siya and yung buong story niya at kung saan siya nagsimula.”

Do you feel like it's important for young Filipinas to have a strong role model in the media? Do you feel pressured at all to be that for the younger generation?

Para sa’kin, sobrang importante ’yun. Hindi lang naman si Darna yung nag-iisang role model. Marami naman din diyan. Kunwari si Miss Universe Catriona Gray, and especially sa media ngayon, kailangan talaga. I’ll be honest, na-pre-pressure talaga ako. Kahit sino naman siguro. Pero ibibigay ko naman yung best ko for this, kasi importante din sa’kin yung tiwala din na binigay ng mga tao.”

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What are you most excited about when it comes to the storyline and characters?

“Siguro excited ako sa lahat, especially na makatrabaho yung mga veteran actors and si direk.” 

"Marami akong challenges na haharapin, lalo na sa sasabihin ng ibang mga tao. Yun lang talaga yung nasa mind ko: Be positive."

What preparations are you currently doing for the role both physically and mentally?

“Actually pagkasabi na pagkasabi sa’kin, nag-train kaagad ako. Meron akong fitness training. After that isasabay na lang yung mga stunts at iba pang mga activities tulad ng muay thai, in preparation for Darna. Right now I need to gain weight, so more on toning talaga siya, doon kami nagfo-focus talaga. Sa diet, okay naman ako. I need to eat lang talaga.

“Mentally, I just think happy thoughts lang. Especially sa situation ko na ‘to, marami akong challenges na haharapin, lalo na sa sasabihin ng ibang mga tao. Yun lang talaga yung nasa mind ko: Be positive.”

Who do you resonate more with, Darna or Narda?

“Magkaiba sila ng personality, ’yun yung mahirap. Siguro unang pumasok sa utak ko si Narda because that’s me. Parehas kaming simple, and fragile din kami. Si Darna kasi syempre strong siya. She’ll do anything to save the people. Pero si Narda kaya rin niyang magsakripisyo, especially para sa mga mahal niya sa buhay, and meron siyang heart.”  

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Considering the larger platform you'll soon have with this role, do you currently have any advocacies that you're strongly pushing for?

“Gusto kong matulungan yung mga kabataan, at yung ibang tao rin na nakaka-experience ng depression and anxiety. Kahit papaano napapansin siya pero hindi pa talaga natin napapagusapan at marami pa rin akong gustong malaman kasi nanggaling na rin ako doon. Naka-experience na rin ako ng depression and anxiety, kaya gusto kong tulungan ang mga kabataan na ma-save doon.

“We don’t talk about it enough. It’s not that easy, kasi kinakain ka talaga ng anxiety but kailangan mo talaga siyang labanan. You need someone to talk to. Yan yung pinaka-kailangan kasi syempre yung iba, takot silang i-share, pero you need someone to lean on lang talaga and to understand. Yan yung pinaka-importante, yung hindi ka iju-judge.

How would you describe your personal style? 

Yung style ko super simple lang. More on jeans talaga. Pero minsan meron din akong mga ina-idolize when it comes to fashion, pero gusto kong magkaroon ng personal style, so I’m still starting to get into it. Nakikita ko yung style ko na disente. Hindi siya gaano ka-sexy, pero yung masusundan ng mga teenagers and young girls, especially.”

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What's your message to the fans of Darna who've long been waiting for this movie to come out?

“Nandito na po si Darna at malapit na po siyang lumipad. Alam ko po na malaki rin po yung expectations niyo, pero gagawin ko talaga yung makakaya ko, lalo na dahil sa tiwalang binigay niyo sa’kin. Lilipad na po tayo!.

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*This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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