Adrianna So in a teaser poster for “Pearl Next Door.” Image: The IdeaFirst Company

(First of two parts)

Finally landing a lead role after seven years in the biz — and in the midst of a pandemic — is a feat not lost on Adrianna So, the star of the upcoming girls’ love series “Pearl Next Door.”

“This is all too surreal. I never imagined this could happen,” So told INQUIRER.net. “I dreamed of it, yes, but I didn’t really think it was possible.”

“So I feel very honored but at the same time very pressured. I just hope I can live up to the expectations.”

It was through The IdeaFirst Company that she got her breakout role in the hit and widely praised boys’ love (BL) series “Gameboys,” where she portrayed charming BFF and fan-dubbed “bi queen” Pearl Gatdula who made sure that #LoveWins for #CaiReel (Elijah Canlas as Cairo and Kokoy De Santos as Gavreel).

IdeaFirst will soon deliver one of the first GL series in the country this October. As with “Gameboys,” it is secretive of the release date; fans’ only clue so far is that it could air on a Friday. The series is directed by Ivan Andrew Payawal of “Gameboys” and written by Keavy Vicente.

“Pearl deserves to have her own series. There’s more to her than being a shipper,” Vicente told INQUIRER.net of the decision to create “PND.”

Who is your girl, Pearl?

“PND” revealed its cast last August, comprised of Iana Bernardez, Phillip Hernandez, Rachel Coates and Cedrick Juan.

The whole team has been tight-lipped about details of the show. So could only say, “[You’re] going to see different layers of Pearl for sure.”

Vicente teased, “Just like ‘Gameboys,’ ‘PND’ is about every individual’s right to find love and happiness. Pearl is every one of us trying to find validation and comfort and sanctuary in the middle of a pandemic.”

In the build-up to “PND,” IdeaFirst has released two posters of So in between Bernardez and Coates. Though we have yet to learn who they are in Pearl’s life, So said of the actresses, “They’re both lovely to work with. I feel comfortable exchanging ideas with them and learning new things as we go along.”

Pearl Next Door

Adrianna So (center) with “PND” co-stars Iana Bernardez and Rachel Coates. Image: The IdeaFirst Company

And even if production has been hectic — the pilot got two reshoots since the first version was shot in August — she has been enjoying the process.

When asked about her favorite part of filming “PND,” she said, “Every part of it.”

“From meeting new people, figuring out new ways to deliver the scenes, to creating new looks for our characters is so exciting.”

Pearl seems to be well-versed in dating and relationships as she gives love advice to the young couple #CaiReel in “Gameboys.” And finally, “PND” will explore her own ventures into love.

When asked about her approach to love, So said, “Well I think Pearl and I are the same that we are [open-minded] when it comes to love and finding love.”

And with love, gender does not matter to So. “I know that there are healthy labels out there and I respect that, but I don’t really pick my partner based on their gender,” she said.

“I don’t feel the need to label my sexuality. I feel like labels are created because people want to get a grasp of something that they can’t understand.”

Queer queen

So entered showbiz when she was in college at the suggestion of her professor, stage and film director Lito Casaje. Back then, she went by her name Malak So Shidfat and was impressive even as a beginner, becoming a finalist in the talent reality show “Artista Academy” on TV5. After multiple roles in teleseryes and films, by 2017, she was Adrianna So.

“Acting gives me a unique kind of fulfilment that I don’t get [when] doing other things,” she said. She counts Alicia Vikander, Angelina Jolie, Yvonne Strahovski, Olivia Wilde, Rosamund Pike and Beyoncé among her favorite actors and actresses.

“They’re mostly women because they embody this strong independent vibe,” she explained.

After her stint at TV5, she came into the fold of The IdeaFirst Company. “They really care about us and our well being,” she said of the choice to stay with the outfit headed by filmmaking power couple Jun Robles Lana and Perci Intalan. “They’re also known for their [well-crafted] content and award-winning films.”

“Gameboys” was definitely a game-changer, and not just because it came out as the country’s first Boys’ Love series this year. It broke key BL genre stereotypes, which was evident in the characterization of Pearl. Although she is Gavreel’s ex, she is never demonized and becomes the couple’s biggest supporter.

And what’s not to love about Pearl? She is confident and knows how to work the camera, loves drama but knows how to keep it real, and is a fierce and loyal friend.

Gameboys

Pearl in “Gameboys.” Image: The IdeaFirst Company

Another break from cliches is that Pearl is candid about her attraction to men and women: she freely mentions her crushes, whether it is Alden Richards or Catriona Gray. While BL series have delved into the ins and outs of male same-sex attraction, queer women and bisexual characters are rarely represented.

So has previously portrayed queer women in Intalan’s “Distance” — based on Vicente’s first screenplay — and the iWant series “I Am U,” written by Vicente and Ash Malanum, the writer of “Gameboys.”

“I am honored that I get cast in these roles and be given the chance to show the nuances that make each of these characters and each of these stories unique,” she said.

“And I know that after all the projects they’ve created to further the LGBTQ+ cause in the mainstream media, my producers at The IdeaFirst Company have carefully studied each casting decision they made.”

She gave a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes before these queer characters go onscreen.

“I have to work closely with my director and our writer to ensure that LGBTQ+ characters are depicted as [three-dimensional individuals] whose experiences can be both unique and universal,” she shared.

For the character of Pearl specifically, So recalled attending a talk on SOGIE and being given movies by the director to study.

Vicente seconded the hard work that So put into portraying Pearl. “Adrianna is very collaborative and she’s a hard worker. Before we started shooting, she’d always ask me questions about her character. She does her homework.”

“She’s always a delight to work with because she’s so warm to everyone,” she added.

After “PND,” where will Adrianna So be? She hopes to one day be part of an action film and do comedic roles.

But for now, we wait for a Friday in October for the queen to shine. JB

RELATED STORIES:

Kyle Velino, Miggy Jimenez on how love transcends gender in ‘Gameboys’

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