At long last, the dynamic duo of sisters Toni Gonzaga and Alex Gonzaga is featured in a motion picture! Their joint foray into the big screen in the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry Mary, Marry Me is long overdue considering that they have been in show business for more than a decade. Toni and Alex may be known for their hosting skills, comedic chops, and singing abilities, but in their first movie together, they prove that they can hold their own as the lead actresses.
It may have been a long time coming, but both credit that the timing was just right. “God’s perfect time for me, I guess,” Toni tells Inside Showbiz Weekly. “Siguro this is a right time for us. Tama na ‘yung mindset namin, tama na ‘yung relationship namin. Alam na namin kung paano balansehin ‘yung sarili namin. Alam na namin kung paano i-handle ‘yun sa sarili namin.” Alex adds, “At mag-adjust at mag-compromise.” It is good to note that both actresses have shown their maturity in Mary, Marry Me as they were able to deliver not just during the funny moments but also in the dramatic scenes that are certified tearjerkers. “I think this is by far my biggest dream project na nagkatotoo because I did it with my
sister. This whole experience is something that I wouldn’t forget and I consider this as one of the milestones of my career,” says the 34-year-old Toni.
She goes on, “This is something that we never thought na magkakasama kami in a movie, lalo na mapasama kami sa mga choices this Christmas. It’s just something that I’m really grateful for this 2018.” A bonus is that they get to play sisters onscreen. “We did it. And finally, nangyari siya. Talagang natuloy and it’s MMFF pa. So sobrang daming icing sa cake, sobrang dami,patong-patong na nga, ang taas na ng sugar ko,” jokes 30-year-old Alex.
It is quite hard to picture the bubbly sisters engaging in fights with each other but they admit that fighting is normal between them. “Super dami naming pag-aaway sa journey ng movie,” confesses Toni. “Hanggang sa promo. Actually, ngayon, magkaaway kami,” states Alex to which Toni counters, “Hindi. Super lagi kaming nag-cla-clash.” They are relieved that the days when their parents, Bonoy and Pinty Gonzaga, had to meddle in their fighting are long gone. “Ngayon kasi alam na namin kung sino ‘yung unang bababa, mag-so-sorry tapos ‘yun. Very mature na ‘yung relationship,” says Toni. Such bickering is also evident in Mary, Marry Me which is directed by RC delos Reyes. Their characters, Mary Jane (Toni) and Mary Anne (Alex) are sisters whose bond will be tested by various trials including the fact that they are caught in an unintentional love triangle with Pete, the character of Sam Milby. “In terms of gaano siya kadikit in real life, medyo hindi. That’s why we enjoyed doing this film it’s because this is the kind of characters na hindi talaga kami in real life. Kasi medyo weak si Mary Jane dito. Na-o-overpower siya ng younger sister niya,” explains Toni. She continues, “Well, in real life, talaga naman ako ang mas protective sa kaniya. But in terms of how they love, care for each other, similar ‘yung relationship. But ‘yung conflict, the way they handled situation, very different kami.” Alex found it difficult to act alongside her sister even if they have hosted together in variety program ASAP and reality show Pinoy Big Brother. “Iba ‘yung movie ha kasi first time ‘yun na we’re acting,” reasons the younger Gonzaga.
What added more difficulty to their Mary, Marry Me experience was their added task as film producers. The movie is a co production of Toni’s TinCanProductions and Ten17P Films which is owned by Toni’s husband, director and producer Paul Soriano. “Hindi talaga siya nakialam. Nakikialam lang si Direk Paul ‘pag talagang medyo ano na ‘yung scheduling, logistics, at major decisions,” Alex says of her brother-in-law. Toni appreciates the freedom given by her hubby, “He just took on the role of putting together the team but during the whole creative process, and during the whole run of the film, he was never seen around. He would check but he would never insist on anything or he would never suggest anything that would change the flow of the whole rhythm of the film. Talagang he gave us the freedom to do our creative collaboration doon sa film.” It was a great learning experience for the neophyte film producers. “Ngayon namin na-realize na mahirap talaga. It really challenged our relationship, personally and work-wise,” reveals Toni. “Parang ang bigat ng nakapatong sa shoulders mo. Ang laki ng responsibility. Alex agrees, “Mas dala-dala mo ‘yung problema ng shooting hanggang ‘pag uwi.” She recalls, “Dati kasi kunwari na-delay ‘yung mga scenes, for me ‘pag artista ako, masaya ako kasi makakapagpahinga ako, makakapag-rest ako. Pero ‘pag producer ka, mahihiya ka sa co-stars mo. ‘Yung parang very mindful ka lang of everyone in the set. Before kasi parang iisipin mo lang ‘yung sarili mo. Ay, may problema dun [sa shooting]? Hindi ka ‘yung,‘Matutulog muna ako.’ Dapat involved ka.”
As co-producers of the film, the Gonzaga sisters aim to send positive messages via their movie. “My vision for this film is just to really show a family movie na after watching it, you feel so good, you feel so happy, you feel so light na you would value what you have, you will treasure the family or the friends that you have. It’s just valuing the people na God gave you and ‘yung impact na binibigay nila sa buhay mo, ‘yun dapat pinapahalagahan mo din. It’s just something that you really want to impart,” notes Toni. Alex brings this up, “Actually, after Frozen, parang mas na-establish pa ‘yung feeling namin na ano,” then Toni asks, “Talagang Frozen ang nag- establish? Hindi nalang talaga ‘yung mga pinagdaanan?” Alex replies, “Hindi, ‘yung sisterhood talaga. Marami talagang nakaka-relate. Gusto ko talagang ipakita ‘yung relationship na ‘yung sister mo is your kakampi. It might look like sometimes na parang kaaway mo pero at the end of the day, siya talaga ang binigay sa ‘yo ni Lord na inborn kakampi.” Although Mary, Marry Me is also a romantic-comedy given the unintentional love triangle of Toni, Sam, and Alex, the older Gonzaga declares, “It’s a real family movie in a real family essence of it. You can’t get any more of a family than having two sisters in one film. Parang it’s really the family movie na talagang kung gusto mo mapanood, mapatawa ka, sumaya ka.” Alex points out, “Parang ‘pag pinanood mo ‘yung movie namin, you’re very happy na you’re with your family. And if ever man na hindi mo kasama ‘yung iyong family, parang mapapatawag ka sa kanila. You’ll be grateful to have your family. Madami sila, konti sila, isa nalang ‘yung natira, parang you will value the family you have.”
Aside from being co-stars and co-producers, the Gonzaga sisters are also partners in the milk tea business, Happy Cup. “Honestly, this is the hardest thing that we have to deal with as sisters. Where do we separate the line ng personal and ‘yung business relationship? Because sa business, she is the aggressive one, the more na talagang hands-on,” admits Toni. Alex teases her sister again, “Wala siyang idea, tanggal na siya sa company.” Toni turns serious, “Hindi, sobra siyang hands-on. Happy Cup has 80 plus branches na, dahil sa kaniya ‘yun. I give her credit for that. Medyo kasi pagdating sa ganung side ako ‘yung mapanghinaan ‘yung loob. Siya ‘yung malakas ‘yung loob. Dito naman sa industry, ako ‘yung malakas ‘yung loob kasi pakiramdam ko ako na ‘yung may experience, ako na ‘yung nagpapalakas ng loob sa kaniya.” Toni adds, “We balance each other out. Kaya lang nga it’s hard to draw the line kung hanggang saan yung pagiging magkapatid namin. Kasi minsan ‘pag kinakausap niya ako parang minsan wala na siyang respeto. Oo, ganiyan ‘yan.” Alex retorts, “Tapos minsan naman ‘pag kinakausap niya ako, ang tingin nalang niya, ako tuta, utus-utusan nalang,” to which Toni responds, “So minsan nawawala nalang ‘yung respect.”
With their multiple joint projects, Toni cites how she and Alex work things out. “Maganda ‘yung relationship namin kasi alam na namin kung paano bumaba. Kasi ‘pag mataas na ‘yung emotions naming dalawa, may isa sa aming talagang mag hu-humble, magbaba ng pride, talagang take over, and pacify the situation.”
They admit that their relationship is still a work in progress, but Toni thinks that she already knows how to deal with her sister. “Gets ko na siya, alam ko na kung paano siya, ‘Okay, kakalma na ako’ ‘pag alam mo na-hu-hurt na ’to. Sensitive kasi siya eh,” she says then Alex remarks, “Sa‘yo lang ako sensitive.” It has been a fruitful 2018 for their sisterhood and they hope for nothing but the best for each other. “My wish for Alex is may she receive the success that she deserves, all that and more. Not just in her career but in her personal life, in business, and health-wise kasi ngayon parang nagiging sakitin siya,” states Toni. Alex, meanwhile, says: “Basta ang wish ko sa ate ko she’ll always find her peace and her joy,” and the mother of Seve Gonzaga Soriano quickly reacts, “I have peace, sa‘yo lang ako walang peace.” Alex clarifies, “Minsan kasi may anxiety ka talaga. Anxious ka. Marami kang ano, mapaisip siya ng mga bagay. So gusto kong makita niya ang peace tsaka ang joy always.” Toni responds, “Hoy, may peace ako at joy” and Alex clears it up, “Always nga, nako kumukontra ka, this is my wish.” An additional wish from both sisters is to be given more chances to work together. “We wish to do more collaborations and we will explore together more because we feel like we bring out the best in each other,” says Toni. “When I watched the whole film, I realized na parang she’s really my, ‘yung chemistry ko,” says Alex. Toni comments, “Ayan na naman siya.” Alex refers to Toni as her security blanket, “Na-realize ko na I would love to do more movies and do more projects with her.”
It is really a blessing for them to have a sister to rely on in the rigorous world of showbiz. “When I’m with Alex, I feel that there’s a part of home in the set. There’s a sense of ‘Ah, salamat, I’m home because my family is here.’ Kahit gaano kagulo sa set, kahit gaano kadami ‘yung nangyari, ‘pag nakita ko na si Catherine [real name of Alex], ‘Ah, may family ako dito.’ So you’re always secured na there’s someone to back you up, there’s someone na pwede mong kausapin, there’s someone na you can just go to the dressing room and be real with,” shares Toni. “That’s a sense of home for me, every time I work with her and I feel like this project really brought out the best in us, in each other. She was able to bring out the best in me. Mahirap talaga akong mag-drama. Hindi talaga kasi ako dramatic in real life eh. Ito kasi dramatic eh. Iyakin, sensitive, and ‘yun ang weak spot ko when she cries. Parang may ano na sa heart ko na ‘Ay, shocks umiyak siya.’ So mas madali akong maiyak,” says Toni. Alex, for her part, echoes Toni’s statements. “Pag naiinis ako sa mukha ko na parang ano yan, ayokong nakikita sarili ko. Tapos kapag nakikita ko ang ate ko parang kumakalma ako. Every time when I feel like I am not doing anything good or it’s not enough, what I am doing, parang when I see my sister, everything will be complete. So, I’m very happy na siya yung kasama ko talaga,” Alex says with a smile.