TAGS: maja salvador, starstudio, zanjoe marudo

Photography: Raymond Cauilan

 

It’s a Thursday afternoon. The atmosphere of the place where StarStudio.ph is setting up its photo shoot is relaxed, jovial, and undistracted by the jostle of the teams preparing for hours of work. The vibe is owed to the subjects of today’s interview: Maja Salvador and Zanjoe Marudo, who sit down with us separately.

Both stars are at the peak of their careers—yet both are taking all the consequences of success with grace and chill.


The attitude is evidently a result of being submerged in the showbiz world for longer than what a lot of striving actors and actresses could only dream of.

Maja—who turned 30 last October 5—had just celebrated her 15th anniversary in show business, while Zanjoe, 36, came to people’s consciousness way back in 2006, via the reality show, Pinoy Big Brother: Celebrity Edition.


Photo from ABS-CBN Entertainment

With all the hard work they’ve put into their careers, the two stars don’t seem to show signs of slowing down. Now with their first movie together, To Love Some Buddy, directed by Jason Paul Laxamana, Maja and Zanjoe are again on a new adventure, keeping their audiences enthusiastically guessing their next move.

We’ve identified a couple of quotable quotes in their interviews that are points to ponder for us to learn from.  The highlighted ones below are among the StarStudio.ph team’s favorites. Let us know if you agree!

 

‘Her Madgesty’ rides the wave

Photo from Instagram (@iammajasalvador)

In a world that changes as often as the tides, staying relevant in show business already deserves a nod. Staying relevant and getting good roles while the years in your age add up—that is an achievement that is harder to come by.

But Maja is not daunted by the big 3-0.  She says “scared” is too big a word for what she feels about her recent birthday.

“Nando’n lang ako sa ‘Go with the flow,’” she tells StarStudio.ph. “But dapat, alam mo kung ano ’yung pinipili at gagawin mong decision. And ’yung napagdesisyunan mong ’yun, maging positive man, o anong kalabasan, okay ka lang, kasi part nga ng life ’yun. And parang doon mo mache-check ’yung sarili mo kung paano ka, ‘pag ganito ang nangyayari. Kung positive, ang gaan di ba? Pero kung may negative, okay, indahin mo.  Pero diretso ka angat. Angatin mo ’yung sarili mo.”

 


Photo from Instagram (@iammajasalvador)

The go-with-the-flow mindset might have come from life’s uncertainties that she has learned to embrace. Take for instance what she told herself before she turned 25: “Wala pala talaga sa edad pala. Sabi ko nga dati, pag 25 years old na ako, parang settled na ako, may family. Pero habang nagtatagal, eh, hindi eh. Hindi mo pala mamamadali. Kahit gusto mo, hindi mo mamamadali.”

The actress, who recently took the TV scene by storm with her nuanced and saucy performance of lead character Lily Cruz in the hit teleserye Wildflower, takes the same mindset when it comes to her career. She knows that what lies ahead is impossible to predict, so she gives more than what is asked of her every time she works.


Photo from ABS-CBN Entertainment

“Hindi mo alam kung hanggang kailan ka okay, or kung hanggang kailan ka tatanggapin ng tao,” she says. “So ang nangyayari sa akin is kada project, feeling ko, audition ’yun. So talagang 100, 1000 percent, bigay talaga. At laging may changes, e. So dapat mabilis kang mag-adapt ng kung ano man ’yun.”

“Like ngayon,” she continues, “grabe ’yung millennials, di ba? Hindi mo alam, nando’n ka sa, ‘Hay, makiki-uso ba ako o gagawin ko ba ’yung mga ginagawa ng millennials, o mag-stick ka sa kung ano ka, kung ano ’yung ino-offer mo talaga?’ Di ba may gano’n? So nando’n ako sa, even if I’m turning 30, I know mas maraming mas fresh, maraming bata, maraming millennials diyan, but nandoon ako sa, there’s no need to pressure myself. Huwag mong ipe-pressure sarili mo, kasi nga the more na i-pressure mo sarili mo, doon parang magugulo ang direction mo, kung ano ’yung gusto mo pang ma achieve sa career mo.”

 

Zanjoe: An authentic persona

Photo from Instagram (@onlyzanjoemarudo)

 On the other hand, Zanjoe, while his career is thriving more than ever, admits to thinking about the future in a more practical way—with an even wider understanding and deeper wisdom about the industry that he had developed in time.

So that when we ask the soft-spoken actor about his biggest fear—as he is growing older in showbiz—his thoughts perhaps echoed what other actors are actually feeling, as he half-jests: “Bumaba ’yung talent fee (TF) ko. Hindi, joke lang!” he laughs, and then shifts to being serious.

“Minsan naisip ko ’yun. Pagtanda ko kaya, ano bang mangyayari: bababa TF ko o tataas? Depende, e.  ‘Di ba? Minsan siyempre, kailangan mong isipin ’yun, kasi sa present, may mga ginawa ka, may mga investment ka, [ang] lifestyle mo nagbago. ‘Di ba? So ’yun na ’yung nakasanayan mo. Pero kailangan mo ding isipin, in the future, hindi naman ‘to parang negosyo na lumalago na sigurado ka, lalo na kung may produkto ka. Eto kasi, kami ’yung produkto mismo, e. Kami. So kailangan namin alagaan, para tumagal.”

He also reveals his thoughts on the fast-shifting industry he and Maja work in: “Napupunta na lahat sa digital. Sana mas gumanda pa ’yung trabaho ng lahat, at huwag mamatay ’yung entertainment world.”

Zanjoe stands out from the rest of his colleagues because he does not try to be different—which, naturally, makes him different.

 


Photo from Instagram (@onlyzanjoemarudo)

He takes this appeal lightly, though: “Magkakaiba naman talaga kaming lahat, e. Siguro pare-parehas lang kami ng ginagawa, pero once na pinanood mo naman, o tinignan mo sa screen, kahit pa same ’yung characters na ginagawa namin, alam mo namang magiging iba siya ‘pag iba ang gumawa. Siguro ang sikreto lang, maging totoo ka lang sa sarili mo, be yourself. ’Yun lang ’yun. Pag nagpakatotoo ka sa sarili mo, maiiba ka sa lahat, kasi ikaw ’yun, e. Wala namang pare-parehas na tao. Pag may ginaya ka, pag may pineg ka, hindi ka na iba.”

As someone who has seen the triumphs and struggles of life in showbiz, Zanjoe’s fervent hope is that someday the global community will recognize the efforts of the Filipinos—yes, he has that much faith in our nation’s talent and capability. 

“Sana, itong mga darating na taon, sana ang Pilipinas, globally, ma-appreciate na ’yung projects natin. Dahil ang dami na’ng Asian countries na na-appreciate na ’yung mga gawa nila ng buong mundo.  Kung kaya nila, ‘di ba dapat, kaya ng Pilipinas? Mas mahusay nga ’yung mga Pilipino eh, pagdating sa mga bagay-bagay. Pero ‘di ko alam, bakit lagi tayong nahuhuli. And sana magkaroon lang ng unity ang actors, producers, directors, lahat. Kasi nakakalungkot—lalo na ’yung working hours—na may mga nagkakasakit dahil lang sa passion sa trabaho, nakakalimutan ’yung health. Sana magawan ng paraan, na ma-unite lahat para sa ikakabuti ng bawat tao.”

 

To Love Some Buddy

Both Maja and Zanjoe have never been hungrier as actors and artists—than now.

Maja describes the projects that she chooses nowadays as “something na macha-challenge talaga ako, or something new sa akin.” She explains further: “Kasi kahit na paulit-ulit ako na kunwari, doctor na naman. Hindi. May bago doon, may bago akong i-o-offer, kahit na doctor ako ulit sa character. Bawat role na gagampanan namin, hindi pare-parehas, kasi iba’t-iba ng personalidad, iba’t-iba ng pinagdadaanan, iba’t-iba ng kuwento. Pero dapat laging something new na mararamdaman ko doon sa character, or bagong situation na magda-dive ako doon sa character na ’yun. At least na-experience ko, o na-feel ko ang feeling na ’yun, through that character.”

 

It is a fitting statement for her new movie project, To Love Some Buddy. Here, she plays Faith, a girl, “na may topak.” She goes on further: “Wala namang problema sa pamilya, pero feeling niya may problema. ’Yung porke’t hindi siya favorite, may problema na. Pero masuwerte siya, kasi meron siyang best friend na umiintindi sa topak n’ya, at sumasabay sa kung anong gusto niyang gawin.”

The best friend, Julius, is played by Zanjoe.

Maja had played the role of the best friend before in the cult hit, I’m Drunk, I Love You (2017). In the movie, where she starred alongside Paulo Avelino as overstaying college students, her character fell in love with her best friend.

 


Photo from I’m Drunk, I Love You’s Facebook Page

“Sa I’m Drunk, I Love You, ako ’yung hindi love ng best friend ko,” she says. “Pero bumawi ako ngayon. Love ako ng best friend ko. Pero, may twist. Kasi dati, lasenggera ’yung character ko. Eto, hindi naman. May plano siya. May pangarap siya. Ayaw niyang maging isang nobody. Because dumating sa buhay niya itong si Julius, nagkaroon siya ng pangarap. ‘Di ba minsan gano’n, ma-i-inspire ka?”

A striving musician and songwriter, Zanjoe’s character, Julius, also feels like a “nobody.” Since his career seems like it’s going nowhere, Julius decides to write jingles for TV commercials. When he meets Faith, he finds himself wanting to work harder to prove his worth to Faith’s family.

 

Working together, and learning together

There is, of course, a counterbalance. While the role has a lot of layers and posts a challenge, working with Zanjoe was a breeze. Maja describes him as “magaan” a couple of times during the interview, and says, “Parang siya ako.”

She adds: “Alam mo ’yung tatlong shows, ginagawa niya [sabay-sabay]: Playhouse [light romance-drama series with Angelica Panganiba], Kusina Kings [comedy film with Empoy], ’tapos eto [To Love Some Buddy]. Pero never ko nakitaan nagmaldito, or magsungit. Wala, ang chill lang niya. Marunong siyang makibagay, makisama. Ang relax-relax niya. Nakangiti lagi. Eto, hangga’t kayang tiisin, tahimik siya. Parehas walang nagsasalita. Kunwari cut-off na [sa shooting], walang ni isa sa amin ang, ‘Cut off na.’ Walang gano’n. ’Tapos ’yun, mas nagchichikahan siguro kami, nalilimutan naming cut off na.”

Zanjoe also has good words for his co-star, too. He seems to validate Maja’s statement that they seem alike.

“Working with Maja, nabitin ako actually dito sa project na ‘to,” he reveals. “Gusto ko pang mas mahaba kasi totoo, nabitin ako. Kasi kinunan namin siya, 12 days lang, o 11. Gano’n ka-igsi, para sa isang full-length na pelikula. Excited ako na makasama siya para sa isang movie. Magaling siya…magaling siyang artista talaga.  Kumbaga ’yung passion niya, makikita mo. Hindi siya ’yung tipo ng artista na pupunta sa set, makikinig ng instructions, susundin ’yung instuctions ng director. Meron siyang input lagi, kung kinakailangan.”

He adds that he feels extremely lucky to learn from talented, passionate actors, admitting that he only recently saw the craft in this light.

“Malaking tulong para sa akin ’yun, dahil ngayon ko pa lang naiintindihan lahat,” he says. “Actually, parang ‘slow burn’ ’yung knowledge ko sa acting. Nakakatuwa na mahusay silang lahat. Ang pinagkakaiba ni Maja, compared sa ibang leading ladies, never ko siyang nakitang malungkot, o may problema—sa set, ha. Hindi niya dinadala kung ano man ’yung pinagdadaanan niya sa personal, doon sa work. Pag work, work. Maganda ’yun para sa mga co-actor niya. Hindi na ako mangangapa na, ‘Okay ba siya? Okay ba siya ngayon?’ ‘Puwede ko ba siyang biruin, puwede ko ba siyang asarin?’ Hindi gano’n. Parang puwede lagi, kahit na may pinagdadaanan siya. Hindi yung, ‘Huwag mo muna akong kakausapin.’”

 

 

If given a chance, though, Zanjoe would like to work with Maja on another romance-drama, but with a heavier dramatic tone. “Gusto ko medyo mature na,” he points out. “Mas mature ’yung atake, mas mabigat ’yung pinagdadaanang problema no’ng couple. Kasi alam kong mahusay siya sa drama, e, and ’ayun, magaling din siya sa romance. And para din ma-challenge ko sarili ko, ma-test ko sarili ko, kung hanggang saan kaya kong ibigay, pagdating sa mabibigat na project.”

“Gusto ko na project with him, ’yung matinding drama,” Maja shares, agreeing with Zanjoe. “Nagagalingan ako sa kanya bilang drama actor. Iba din siya magpakilig, pero parang alam mo ’yung pag tinitingnan ko si Z, parang ang daming puwedeng lumabas sa kanya na luha, parang may lalim. So sa pamamagitan ng pelikula, teleserye, gusto ko ilabas niya doon. May gano’n, eh. Ang mga malalalim na tao, grabe minsan humugot. Hindi ko sinasabing malalim ’yung problema.  Malalim na tao. Iba ’yung perspective niya sa life.”

 

Their (Still) Beating Hearts

Their first movie together, To Love Some Buddy, is a playful, light romance with a moving, inspiring storyline: but they are both single, so we ask them how their hearts are doing.

“Beating?” Maja answers with a laugh. “’Tsaka chineck ko talaga: beating. Okay siya. Nando’n ako sa, siguro tumatanda na rin, so parang ang dami ko nang napagdaanan sa love life. Parang mag-e-eight months na akong single, pero hindi ko minamadaling makipag-date.”

After a short pause, she giggles: “May itsura naman tayo, so may mga nag-a-ask naman, pero nando’n ako sa, kung feeling ko flirtation, o text lang, o gusto lang maki-dinner, gano’n, parang magtatrabaho na lang ako, kuya. Parang nasa gano’n na ako ngayon.”

 She clarifies one thing, though: “Ready naman. Ready anytime. Pero ’yun, siguro ngayon, mas gusto ko lang makasigurado. Kasi gano’n naman ang love, eh. Kunwari, ‘Sigurado na ako dito. Kahit ano ’yan, date ko ’to!’ Pero biglang, ‘Hmmm.’ So ’yun. Hindi lang ako ’yung like dati na kung date, ‘Okay date, date.’”

Her ideal guy, however, has not changed all these years. 

“Gusto ko lang naman is ma-respeto sa magulang, lalo na sa mommy,” she says. “Kasi naniniwala ako din, e, na kung gaano niya ka-love ’yung mommy or kung gaano ’yung respeto niya sa magulang niya, gano’n ’yung mabibigay niya sa pamilya niya, sa ka-partner niya. Wais. Smart, maraming smart.  Pero, iba ang wais. Kasi feeling ko mas wais ako, e, kaysa smart. Sa looks, ewan ko, kahit ano. Someone na masasabayan ’yung personality ko. And ’yun, someone na who will not give up on me sa kahit anong anggulo: career, sa personalidad ko, ’yun.”

Zanjoe acknowledges the pressure from the public for people in his age to settle down, but he finds the brighter side of singlehood. He is, in fact, excited about the possibilities: “May kaunting excitement ako, siguro sa edad ko, dito sa panahon ngayon. Mas tinatanggap ko na siya na ‘Uy, ano kayang mangyayari? Malapit na? Sana malapit na, eto na.’ Kumbaga hindi na pressure ’yung nararamdaman ko, e.  Kumbaga na-e-excite na ako. At ’yun, nagiging positive ako, ‘Sana, sana talaga kung ano ’yung gusto ko, gusto ng puso ko, ’yun ’yung mangyayari. ’Tsaka hindi rin naman ako nagsisisi na hanggang ngayon, single ako. Right time, right timing, in God’s time, feeling ko naman, ibibigay. Sa ngayon, wala pa. Hindi ko pa masasabi na may time ako diyan. Hopefully soon. After ng mga kabusy-han ko.”

They have gone through the ups and downs of falling in love, so much so that if they were to talk to their younger selves, they would share a few valuable lessons on matters of the heart.  Maja imagines telling her 20-year-old self: “Dapat naniwala ka sa nanay mong hindi yan, e,” she reveals, laughing. “Dapat naniwala ka sa nanay mong hindi ’yan. ’Tsaka gamitin natin ’yong kanta kong ‘Dahan-Dahan’ lang kasi.”

Zanjoe’s version is different. “Bigay mo na lahat,” he begins, advising his younger self.  “Kumbaga, huwag kang matakot. Kung talagang gusto mo, o gusto mo ’yung isang tao, o kahit ano pa man ’yan, huwag kang matakot sumubok, huwag kang matakot mag-risk. Kasi hindi mo malalaman kung ano ’yung totoo, hindi mo makikita ’yung final product kung hindi ka 100 percent sumugal sa isang bagay na gusto mo. Pag hati ’yan, pag kalahati ’yan, hindi mo makukuha ’yung pinakabuong premyo.”

Whatever their future holds—in love and life—what matters most is that they are happy now, and in full control of their lives.

Maja concludes by saying that she wouldn’t go back to any age, even if that were possible. She would stay her age today, where she is happiest.

“Eto yong pinakamasaya!” she declares. “Eto ’yung parang, tama lang. Hindi ka na bata, hindi ka rin matanda. Pero nandoon ’yung thrill ng, ‘Ano pa? Ano pang kaya kong ibigay, kasi tapos na ako dito? ’Yung gano’n. Ang dami ko na rin na-experience, sa love, sa buhay. I turned 30, pero may excitement na, ‘Ang dami pa.’”

 

 


Art Direction: Alfred Amado
Shoot Associates: Raymund Seranillo, Axel Granada