How ABS-CBN pulled off surprise 'Dyesebel' announcement

By Miguel Dumaual,

Posted at Jan 10 2014 08:33 PM | Updated as of Jan 11 2014 05:35 AM

News of casting trends worldwide on Twitter

MANILA -- They didn't see it coming.

This was the predominant reaction among netizens on Thursday, when ABS-CBN finally introduced Anne Curtis as "Dyesebel" in its upcoming TV adaptation of the classic "Komiks" tale by late novelist Mars Ravelo.

Dyesebel, in the original comics released in 1952, is a mermaid born on land to human parents, her mother a former mermaid herself. As a child, Dyesebel is sent away to live at sea with other merfolk after being blamed by superstitious townspeople for a series of disasters.

Different takes on the classic tale made it to the big screen as early as 1953. Popular portrayals of the title character include Vilma Santos (1973), Alma Moreno (1978), Alice Dixson (1990), and Charlene Gonzales (1996).

Mars Ravelo's 'Dyesebel' debuted in a 1952 issue of 'Komiks'. Image courtesy of film archive website Video48

New film incarnations of Dyesebel almost every decade made the character an enduring pop culture figure among the Filipino audience. Today, Dyesebel is a Philippine comicbook icon, alongside other Ravelo creations.

Unsurprisingly, news of a 2014 revival with ABS-CBN at the helm was met with excitement.

Dyesebel in 2014

But the actress who would play Dyesebel in this latest adaptation had been kept tightly under wraps, even as a teaser for the new series was released in December. Interestingly, the 16-second video might have already hinted at Curtis' part in the project, as it used scenes from the 2008 series "Dyosa" where she also portrayed a mermaid among other mythical transformations.

Speculation on the actress to play "Dyesebel" took off on social media as early as April last year, when ABS-CBN won the rights to 13 Ravelo creations and characters, including the equally popular Darna and Captain Barbell.

Rumors of the casting swirled on social media for months, even up to the last minute before Curtis was literally unveiled -- she was ushered into the press conference venue under a cloth to avoid preempting the announcement -- as the second actress to portray Dyesebel in a TV series after Marian Rivera in 2008.

The night before Thursday's meticulously set-up event, actress Kim Chiu had to deny being cast as the love-lorn mermaid, contrary to a number of reports confirming this to be the case. In December, actress KC Concepcion courted speculation that she had been tapped for the role when she posted a picture of the Disney mermaid Ariel, days after the first "Dyesebel" teaser was released. She apologized on Friday to her fans for "disappointing" them.

Other celebrity favorites to take on the role, notably with fan campaigns fueling buzz online, were Julia Montes, Erich Gonzales, Kristine Hermosa, and Bea Alonzo.

Anne unveiled

In an apparent hint of things to come, Curtis on Thursday morning tweeted, "Woke up with a big smile on my face! Hope you all find a reason to smile today too!"

During the press conference, the 28-year-old actress admitted her being cast as Dyesebel also came as a surprise. ABS-CBN production unit Dreamscape Entertainment Television, which is behind the primetime juggernauts "Walang Hanggan" and "Juan dela Cruz," risked offering Curtis the coveted role only a day before she was introduced as Dyesebel.

Curtis had just arrived home from a holiday vacation in Canada when Dreamscape told her of the project on Wednesday. This ensured little time -- between the actress signing up and being introduced as Dyesebel -- for news of the casting to come out before ABS-CBN's official announcement. Fortunately, the plan unfolded without a hitch, as Curtis readily took up the offer.

Speaking with ABS-CBN News' Mario Dumaual on Thursday, the actress recalled feeling overwhelmed by the offer, calling it a dream role. "[I was] shocked! As in, gulat po kasi, 'Totoo ba 'to?' It was instantly talaga, 'Yes! Opo! Of course!' 'Diba, sino ba namang hihindi na maging Dyesebel?"

Dreamscape AdProm head Biboy Arboleda explained during the press conference that the decision to cast Curtis as Dyesebel was backed by research. He said ABS-CBN ran a marketing survey across platforms, with results showing Curtis as the top choice to play the mermaid.

Trending worldwide

When broke the news at 4:24 p.m. on Thursday, it only took minutes for the headline "Anne Curtis is Dyesebel" and the hashtag "#Dyesebel" to top the Philippine trends on micro-blogging site Twitter.

The quick spread of the announcement was due in part to Curtis' army of fans on the social networking site, who actively linked to and re-tweeted the news item as posted by @ABSCBN_Showbiz. These fans, of course, are only a fraction of Curtis' massive number of followers on Twitter, which was at 5.8 million as of writing.

At around 5:00 p.m., "Anne Curtis is Dyesebel" entered the worldwide trending topics on the site, ranking 7th, as fans and showbiz spectators alike aired their reactions to the casting. Notably, Curtis' supporters celebrated the news. Some noted how the announcement "came out of the blue," while others alluded to a recent controversy the actress was involved in in sharing their reactions. (See collection of tweets, comments below.)

Directed by Don Cuaresma at Francis Pasion, ABS-CBN's "Dyesebel" also stars Gerald Anderson and Sam Milby as Curtis' leading men, Ai Ai delas Alas, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Eula Valdez, Gabby Concepcion, Neil Coleta, Young JV, David Chua, Bangs Garcia, and Ogie Diaz.