MANILA -- When Jane De Leon was a grade schooler, she would run around their house pretending to fly wearing a plastic winged headpiece she bought at a wet market. Like Darna, she said, inspired by Angel Locsin's iteration of the komiks icon for TV.
She wanted to be just like her: beating up bad guys and serving as a role model, though admittedly she shared with Preview that those aspirations were just a pipe dream of a kid.
But auditions opened, in search of a replacement for the injured Liza Soberano, and she tried --first for the role of the villain.
She was told that perhaps she would fit the Darna mould better and she followed suit. She got through the first audition, then the second and, finally, she met with ABS-CBN's big bosses.
Now everyone's curious about who she is after she was revealed to be the next rightful heir to the mythical "bato."
"Una, confused ako at kinakabahan kung bakit nila ako pinatawag. Una kong naisip, 'Is this real? Totoo ba 'to?' Sobrang speechless ako na parang nag-buffer 'yung utak ko. Hindi pa nag-si-sink in sa'kin pero I'm so happy and excited," she said.
First on her agenda is training: Muay Thai is her fitness regime of choice, and she said that she needs to gain weight and tone up.
But ultimately, and beyond this being a win for her career, De Leon shared that she wants to use this huge platform she earned to forward an advocacy close to her: mental health awareness.
“Gusto kong matulungan yung mga kabataan at 'yung ibang tao rin na nakaka-experience ng depression and anxiety," she said.
She revealed that she suffered from both, and she knows that overcoming them is probably more difficult than stopping a villain.
"It's not that easy kasi kinakain ka talaga ng depression and anxiety," she said. "But kailangan mo talaga siyang labanan.
"You need someone to talk to. Iyan yung pinaka-kailangan kasi syempre 'yung iba, takot silang i-share. Pero you need someone to lean on lang talaga and to understand. Iyan yung pinaka-importante, yung hindi ka iju-judge."
This empathetic stance of hers could also be seen in her response to a question about who she relates to more --Narda or Darna?
Her answer is the former, describing Narda and herself as both "fragile" beings.
"Si Darna kasi syempre strong siya. She’ll do anything to save the people. Pero si Narda kaya rin niyang magsakripisyo, especially para sa mga mahal niya sa buhay," she said.
According to the director of the planned "Darna" movie, Jerrold Tarog, De Leon was a "unanimous" choice for the role, as she fits the idea they have of the superhero that they wanted to show.
Revealing that there were a shortlist of seven actress, down from more than 200 women who auditioned, Tarog furthered: “It was about who could carry the role."