Cover Story

The Hallyu wave has long since breached our shores and its tides aren’t subsiding anytime soon. At the height of new, highly-acclaimed K-dramas that stirred global consciousness with its new concepts and outstanding performances, local media giant GMA Network premiered its biggest local adaptation yet of one of the most phenomenal shows ever to come from South Korea last February—to a mixture of excitement from fans of the original and the actors who took on the and doubts and jeers from loyalists of the original.

Descendants of the Sun‘s local adaptation enlists a powerhouse cast of generations of leading men and group of top and upcoming artists—that bridged the gap of cultures with their impeccable acting and sincerity to the story. Following its momentary halt due to a pandemic, it’s back on its wheels to continue the show that left us and its legions of local and regional fans hanging for more.

Bold, game-changing—two words that perfectly capture the very core by which the hit drama Descendants of the Sun operated as it grew into a modern classic. A story set at a time of war in a fictional country called Uruk where the love story of Captain Yoo Shi Jin of Korean Special Forces (played by Song Joong-ki) and Doctor Kang Mo Yeon (played by Song Hye Kyo) blossoms.

On what seems to be another war love story comes a spectacular descent to uncharted territories on global television industry with its widespread reception from its homebase towards the world. Leaving us gasping from the awe of its masterful narrative, GMA network claims the rights to its adaptation with a challenge that’s part and parcel of its bold feat to translate a phenomenon—to justify the title’s major hype by infusing local flavor into a K-drama remake; and through its stellar cast that are breaking new grounds in the local entertainment industry.

Taking the mantle of its lead are two of the network’s highest-billed artists, Dingdong Dantes and Jennylyn Mercado. Along with them are a round of diverse group of talents composed of veterans and newcomers such as Andre Paras and Jasmine Curtis-Smith, on the heels of their steady rise in the acting scene. 

In this year’s Hot Damn! Issue, we zoom in on its promising cast of leading men that are celebrating their careers with much verve and new found glory. Days before the whole of Metro Manila and parts of the country were placed under strict quarantine restrictions, we met with Rocco Nacino, Paul Salas, Neil Ryan Sese, Lucho Ayala, Jon Lucas, and Prince Clemente, in a special cover shoot that temporarily gave their combat uniforms a rest, replaced by menswear fashion from Edwin Tan.

Seeing through the facade of their optimistic stature in the wildly-competitive entertainment industry, their casting for the show raises up the ante of expectations towards their individual crafts in hopes of a positive response from mainstream audiences and the noise that will follow them throughout their paths.

Starstruck season 5 graduate, Rocco Nacino has been around for a decade in showbiz and holds a remarkable portfolio of roles and titles that kept him on the radar as a sought-after leading man.

Similarly, Paul Salas, a Starstruck Kids graduate and Rank Magazine coverboy, keeps a steady journey from his time as a child actor and now, at the prime of his youth, as a more composed actor.

Theater and indie circuit regular, Neil Ryan Sese takes it up a notch from being a staple cast to taking on a more challenging role that will reflect his seasoned years in acting from different playing fields.

Promising Kapuso actor, Lucho Ayala, already had his experience in a K-drama remake with Endless Love so it came with great expectations to see him again give justice on yet another local adaptation.

Elevating his craft as an actor from his popular days on a noontime show, Jon Lucas is geared on the fast lane as he scores a role that challenged and revealed his talents now more than ever.

Prince Clemente, former talent search hopeful then casts his charm to captivate a wider audience with his budding acting prowess that we’ve witnessed in the highly-anticipated show. These generations of leading men are boldly soldiering on as they take on the role of an artist navigating the entertainment scene in the time of the new normal.

Stepping into a remake role, expectations after expectations can lead to immense pressures. It’s a Midas touch—either one takes the golden opportunity to prove themselves beyond or get struck with intimidation and nerves. Historically, GMA found its fair share of successes from past remakes, either Korean or Mexican, including titles like Marimar, Rosalinda, Temptation of Wife, My Name is Kim Sam-soon, Full House, and My Love From The Star.

Adding into its steady string of award-winning titles, just recently, GMA was proud to announce the news of their Descendants of the Sun local adaptation receiving a prestigious Most Popular Drama of the Year award at the Seoul International Drama Awards.

Therefore, it came with great effort and composure for these artists to break through the pressures of hitting big in the industry by nailing their roles with authenticity to their characters all while keeping a relatable presence towards the local audience. Because that’s the primary notion of a local adaptation—to translate the phenomenal experience closer to the culture of its local audience.

In pursuit of success in the industry, these bold men are hot on the wheels to a brighter limelight carrying with them the passion and perseverance reflected in their portrayal on a show that garnered world-wide success.

Breaking the mold and claiming a spot on a premier title, watch as these men rise and take over our screens once again as Descendants of the Sun resumes after its pause due to the pandemic. And as they navigate the world of the “new normal” in entertainment, for Nacino, Sese, Lucas, Salas, Clemente, and Ayala, there is no looking back.