Alessandra, JM navigate marital what-ifs in new Netflix movie

When Alessandra de Rossi and JM de Guzman co-starred in a movie for the first time (the Cinema One 2019 entry Lucid), they spent barely four days together on the set. But the experience made lasting impressions on both of them.

Nagustuhan ko ang presence n’ya (I liked his presence) De Rossi, 39, said of De Guzman, 35 (last 9 September). She recalled telling herself, “Uy, okay pala katrabaho ’to! Walang arte, masarap kachika (Hey, he’s a great person to work with. Not nitpicky and fun to converse with).”

Pero na-feel ko na lang s’ya sa premiere night. Ang ganda ng presence n’ya sa screen (But I felt that on the premiere night. His presence onscreen is good),” she added. That night, they had a common realization: “Parang nakakabitin ang team-up (Our team-up seems to be cut short).”

Two years later, De Rossi made her directorial debut in My Amanda as the initial offering of her own production outfit, A World of Our Own, in collaboration with the more established Spring Films. The romantic drama, with she also wrote and had Piolo Pascual as leading man, went straight to Netflix’s Top 10 when it was released in July 2021 on the online streaming platform.

She was then encouraged by media mogul Vic del Rosario to do a quick follow
-up that would be co-produced by his own Viva Films. She thought of the story concept she developed at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, about a pair of newlyweds who got stranded in their honeymoon site because of the pandemic with nowhere to go and forced to confront their issues.

Next, De Rossi got screenplay writer Mike Rivera to pen the script, with De Guzman in mind to be her leading man. But the actor was then committed to ABS-CBN’s drama series Init sa Magdamag and other projects. The production had to be pushed back until the pandemic eventually ended, and its creative team had to revise the script to what became known as the What If? movie that started streaming on Netflix last Thursday, 7 September.

“Trapped ang isang couple na binagyo sa honeymoon, then lumabas lahat ng [issues] na akala nila wala during the four days of their honeymoon (A couple is caught in a storm on their honeymoon. All the [issues] they thought didn’t exist came to light during their honeymoon)” was how the star-producer described the movie’s premise.

How was it working with De Guzman the second time around?

“So dito, mas matagal na kaming magkasama, two weeks… Ang maganda kay JM, kahit anong ibato mo, kaya n’yang saluhin. Hindi s’ya katulad ng ibang actor na kapag may binato ka [sa eksena], hindi nila alam ang gagawin. Siya, nakikinig. Nagre-react in short (Here, we were together longer, two weeks. What’s good with JM is, whatever you throw at him in the scene, he can respond to it, unlike other actors. He listens, he reacts),” said De Rossi, who turned to her co-star and teasingly asked, “Would you be my love team?”

De Guzman, playing along, coolly replied, “Sure.”

He then shared what he discovered about his leading lady. “Si Alex pala ay isang mabuting kaibigan,” he said, calling the actress by her nickname. “Kahit anong problema mo, nakikinig. Kahit hindi sa work, kahit anong problema mo sa buhay. Ang ishe-share mo na secrets, aalagaan n’ya ’yun Alex turned out to be a good friend. Whatever your problem is, she listens, even if it’s not work-related. She would guard all your secrets).”

They bring that off-screen ease and comfort in playing their characters Billie and Jecs, who share a common love for music and develop romantic feelings for each other. They also display the thespic skills and sensibilities that have made them two of the most highly regarded and award-winning actors of their generation.

De Rossi and De Guzman likewise got to show off their singing and songwriting skills in What if? The actors spent time together in a farm to produce two songs each that are now part of the movie’s original soundtrack.