In the middle of a Friday afternoon in an elegant events place at the heart of New Manila, Quezon City stands a handsome, well-built man leaning comfortably on stone walls, posing boldly for the cameras in his sharp and well-fitted suit.
Dennis Trillo then asks for a minute to change into his second attire, this time in an olive tank top, denim jeans, and brown loafers. He continues on with his poses, his expression changing with every flash, his eyes as if making dialogue with the camera. After another set of attire change and photoshoot, Dennis sits down with pikapika.ph to talk about his life in show business before bidding everyone goodbye to attend a rehearsal in the studios of the GMA-7 television station.
If you ask him during his younger years, Dennis would not even dream of having this kind of life, that of a celebrity who does photoshoots and appears in shows for television. It was only when the entertainment industry welcomed him with open arms when he realized that showbiz is the right path for him.
“’Yong naramdaman ko na okay ’to na career at feeling ko mag-e-excel ako dito, pinagpatuloy ko na siya,” he says.
Indeed, the 38-year-old actor excelled in this field known as show business. With the many accolades and opportunities he has received in movie and film, it is no wonder why Dennis Trillo remains a household name in the realm of acting.
THE BEGINNING OF A KING
Yet, before becoming Dennis Trillo, the “Drama King” of the GMA Network, among other recognitions, he was a simple, silent kid who had a knack for the arts, spending his free time with pencil strokes and comic book flips, and someone who loved the company of his friends, biking around their subdivision in Quezon City.
However, despite his interests, Dennis did not have an exact life goal in mind back then up until he was already in the workforce. Despite graduating with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies at the Miriam College and working at a telecom company for six months, he still did not feel that he had long-term plans for his life.
“Feeling ko hindi lang ako naging masaya,” he says of his first job. “Ginawa ko lang siya para ma-experience ko ’yong buhay ng isang empleyado.”
It was not until Dennis’ stint in different television commercials where he realized his full potential. While working for the telecom company, he was a regular in different go-sees, where various agencies planted him into different commercials that launched him into where he is today.
It was in one brand commercial where his career began to skyrocket because, through that, he was discovered by the ABS-CBN network and was asked to audition for the tenth batch of Star Circle (now known as Star Magic), the Kapamilya network’s training and management subsidiary for young artists, along with now-huge stars Bea Alonzo, TJ Trinidad, and Alfred Vargas.
After his successful audition, he underwent workshops and was placed in minor roles in hit shows Pangako Sa’yo starring Kristine Hermosa and Jericho Rosales, and Sa Dulo Ng Walang Hanggan starring Claudine Barretto and Carlos Agassi. Although opportunities came knocking for Dennis, it was no easy feat.
“Para kang ligaw. Natural [ito] na nararamdaman, lalo na kung baguhan ka sa isang field, lalo na sa entertainment business,” he recalls of his time as a novice in showbiz. “Syempre, nakaka-intimidate noong una dahil ako’y isang nobody lang so kailangan pagbutihin ko lahat ng ginagawa ko para mapansin at, awa ng Diyos, nangyari naman ‘yon kaya nandito pa rin ako hanggang ngayon.”
He recalled of his time doing workshops in ABS-CBN because it boosted his confidence. He says that without these workshops, he could not have achieved the recognition bestowed upon him. It was lessons from them that truly embodied who he is as an actor.
“Kailangan mo lang maging totoo sa sarili mo, maging totoo sa ginagawa mo,” he says of the most important lesson that struck him during workshops. “Para maging genuine ’yong emotions mo and, at the same time, makaka-relate lahat ng manonood sa’yo. Mararamdaman din nila kong ano ‘yong pinaniniwalaan mong emosyon na gusto mong ipakita sa kanila.”
A TRIUMPHANT REIGN
Undeniably, Dennis has kept this lesson in mind throughout his whole career as evident from his performances in various television shows and films. After his short stint with the Kapamilya network, his career boomed when he transferred to its rival network GMA-7 where he, after a few supporting roles, received his first lead role in the fantaserye Mulawin in 2004.
That same year, he had his breakthrough performance when he played a transgender woman named Igna in the 2004 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry Aishite Imasu 1941: Mahal Kita which secured him his first of many acting awards, this time for Best Supporting Actor. His performance in the film also attained him numerous Best Actor awards from various award-giving bodies such as the FAMAS, Young Critics Circle, and PMPC Star Awards for Movies.
“Naramdaman ko na simula na ’to ng maganda at fruitful na career,” he says, after winning his first-ever acting award and starring in Mulawin which was a hit among viewers.
“Nakikilala ka ng mga tao. ’Pag meron kang magandang ginawa, na-appreciate nila. Natutuwa sila, naririnig mo ’yong mga comments at feedback nila after every project na ginagawa mo so very rewarding naman kapag may ginawa kang maganda.” --- on what makes him feel like he made it in showbiz
Opportunities continued to knock for the Kapuso actor after his performance, earning him lead roles in more hit GMA-7 shows like Encantadia, My Husband’s Lover, and Cain at Abel. He also landed leading roles in many successful films, notably in My Neighbor’s Wife, You’re Still the One, and Felix Manalo, with the latter earning him a PMPC Star Award for Movie Actor of the Year. His recent film, One Great Love, earned him the award for Best Actor in the 2018 MMFF, beating out Jericho Rosales and Eddie Garcia.
However, amidst all opportunities and accolades, the best part about being in the business is having the support and appreciation from his fans.
“Nakikilala ka ng mga tao. ’Pag meron kang magandang ginawa, na-appreciate nila,” Dennis says, his eyes shining. “Natutuwa sila, naririnig mo ’yong mga comments at feedback nila after every project na ginagawa mo so very rewarding naman kapag may ginawa kang maganda.”
HIS ONE GREAT LOVE
Apart from the love and support from fans, nothing warms the Drama King’s heart than the adoration he receives from his beloved significant other, actress-host Jennylyn Mercado.
It was in Jennylyn’s debut (which happens to coincide with the premiere of her first movie as a leading lady Say That You Love Me) where they first clapped eyes on each other. The then-young actor was chosen to be one of her 18 roses, among with other fellow actors like Jake Cuenca and John Prats.
Dennis took Jennylyn’s hand, slowly swaying her through the slow music as they clapped eyes with one another, smiling and laughing. It was not their first romantic encounter, but you cannot help but be all giddy at the scene if you were there.
Although at first, he thought the actress was a bit “masungit” during their first encounter, his impression changed when they worked together in the afternoon miniseries Now and Forever: Dangal and the fantasy series Super Twins. Dennis admits that their relationship grew closer when they worked together in the aforementioned shows.
“[Doon ko] naramdaman na isa siyang strong-willed person,” Dennis describes of his co-worker-turned-girlfriend. “Na-discover ko unti-unti na mabait pala siya.”
The two then began to form a bond, and in April of 2010, they became a couple but had to part ways in March 2011. However, they began to rekindle their romance in 2016. They began to show evidence of such when Jennylyn posted sweet pictures of themselves during their trip to Batanes. They admitted that they were exclusively dating last March 2016.
Apart from taking trips together, Dennis informs us that music is one thing that ties them together. The couple does a segment called CoLove on YouTube where they perform covers of well-known songs, something they have been bonding over since June 2019. It became so popular that Dennis and Jennylyn plan to hold a concert on February 15 the next year.
“Kaya kami nagtayo ng isang YouTube channel para meron kaming outlet sa love namin for music,” he explains. “Kasi, parehas kaming old soul, eh. Mahilig kami sa mga lumang bagay, especially sa music. Mahilig kami sa classics, mga standard.”
Hit songs from classic bands like Bread, Beatles, and America are what usually keeps them close. Their bond between these classics is one of the reasons why Dennis’ love for Jennylyn strengthens. However, when asked when was the first time his love for her intensified, he has a heartwarming answer.
“Every day,” he says. “Siyempre, [’pag] mas nakikilala mo ’yong tao, mas nadadagdagan, mas naiintindihan mo siya, ’yong mga gusto niya tsaka ’yong mga goals niya sa buhay, kung papaano rin siya sa mga tao.”
And the best part about being together? Dennis believes he has an ally in everything that happens in his life.
“May kadamay ka sa lahat ng mga struggles mo at experiences sa buhay,” he says. “Masaya man siya o malungkot ka, masarap ’yong meron kang kadamay, katuwang, katulong mo sa lahat, tiga-suporta at tiga-alaga, lahat na!”
With everything Jennylyn gives, Dennis gives back with his unconditional love and care, which he thinks is the biggest thing he does out of love for her, which is one of the secrets of their strong connection.
“Hindi ‘yun isang bagay na madaling gawin,” he explains. “Na-achieve namin ’yon pareho kaya sa tingin ko ’yon ang pinakamagandang bagay na nabigay namin sa isa’t isa.”
“Kailangan mas sigurado kayo na mahal niyo ang isa’t isa,” Dennis adds as another secret. “Kailangan mas maging honest kayo at transparent. Siyempre, ’yong communication [din]. ’Pag merong maliit na problema, kailangan pag-usapan na ’yan. Huwag natin antayin na lumaki pa. Habang maliit pa lang ’yong butas sa bubong, tapalan mo na para ’di na lumaki.”
With his love for Jennylyn changing his life by helping him achieve maturity, wisdom, patience, and productivity, does Dennis have any plans of settling down with the actress-host?
“Napag-usapan na namin ’yong future pero hindi pa specifically for settling down,” he admits. “Pero, sine-secure lang namin unti-unti para pagdating diyan, wala nang problema.”
FACING THE TIDES
With plans of securing his future with Jennylyn, Dennis then told us how he relates to his character in his upcoming film Mina-Anud, showing nationwide in local theaters on August 21.
The Regal Entertainment flick directed by Kerwin Go follows Ding (Trillo), a driver-surfer who lives a simple life with his family in the sandy beaches of Samar and will do anything to live his dream of sustaining for his wife and kid.
“[M]ay nakita silang pagkakataon para kumita ng malaking pera. Akala nya ito na ang magbibigay ng swerte at ginhawa sa buhay niya pero malalaman ninyo sa pelikula kung ano nga ba talaga ang maidudulot nito.” Dennis narrates to pikapika.ph.
The acclaimed actor pursued the role because, for him, it was something real and it was different from any role he has done in the past.
“Madami dami na din akong nagampanan.” he recalls. “Matapang itong role. Controversial din, pero game! Maganda ’yong message nitong movie, at ’yong role ko dito ay inspired din sa totoong nangyari sa mga tao doon sa Samar. Totoo, nagportray ako ng isang totoong tao.”
Dennis dedicates this true-to-life flick to audience members who are clamoring for something different, having high hopes that it could live up to the standards of people who enjoy films shown on the streaming platform Netflix.
“’Yong mga hinahanap nila sa online [platform], kaya natin ibigay. Sana panoorin nila sa big screen,” he says of his upcoming film. “Madaming nag-audition dito, thankful ako [na] isa ako sa mga napili talaga. Gusto ko talaga ’yong story kaya ang saya [na] nakagawa na ako ng isa sa mga dream roles [ko].”
Indeed, the Kapuso actor is living the dream in this role, especially when he is with a cast and crew he enjoys working with. He then began to praise co-stars Matteo Guidicelli and Jerald Napoles not only for their performances in the film but with how they formed a bond on set.
“Si Matteo kakaiba ’yong role niya dito,” Dennis says. “Ngayon mo lang siya makikita na ganito. Kailangan ninyo mapanood.”
On the other hand, Dennis commends the comedic style of Jerald, who he considers the Yin to his Yang in the film.
“Si Jerald, magaling talagang komedyante,” he remarks. “Looking forward ako palagi sa shooting ng Mina-Anud kasi ang saya, magaan lang.”
Apart from enjoying the day-to-day shoots and interactions with the cast and crew, Dennis also considers this crime comedy flick as an eye-opener for a social issue happening in Samar and why it is still happening up to this day.
“Nadiscover ko ’yong totoong buhay ng mga tao sa Samar, ’yong mga taong nakawitness ng Mina-Anud - may mga naanod na cocaine sa dalampasigan.” he explains.
He then teases us with lots of questions about the true-to-life issue that the movie will seek to answer.
“Paano nila ito tatanggapin? Bakit nila nagagawa ang mga bagay na 'to? Eye-opener ito sa lahat. Bakit hanggang ngayon mula noong nangyari ito noong 2009, bakit hanggang ngayon meron pa din?”
As Mina-Anud nears local theaters, Dennis remains thankful for opportunities coming his way. The actor proudly announces that he has two upcoming films and an unnamed GMA teleserye coming to pass after the premiere of the crime comedy. The sequel to the Erik Matti film On the Job and the October horror flick Family Ghost Story will continue to keep the hustle and bustle of his already-booming acting career.
With such a booming career in tow and tons of love and support being thrown at him, Dennis Trillo is truly living the blessed life, both in and out of the showbiz world.
TEXT & INTERVIEW: Adam Laurena
PHOTOGRAPHY: Stephen Capuchino (@stephencapuchino)
SHOOT PRODUCER: Stephen Capuchino (@stephencapuchino)
ART DIRECTION: Jobo Nacpil (@jobonacpil)
GROOMING: Rick Calderon (@rickmcalderon)
HAIR: Mycke Arcano (@hairbymycke)
STYLING: Gabby Wu (@iseegab)
SUIT: Suit It Up Manila (@suititupmanila)
BTS VIDEO: Josh Ke (@joshke_)