MANILA — After shooting in Cebu, Iloilo, Rome and Tivoli in Italy, the finale of the top-rating primetime action-drama series, “The Iron Heart,” which stars Richard Gutierrez with Jake Cuenca, and Albert Martinez, will be shot in Tokyo, Japan in the first week of October.
“They already announced the finale of ‘The Iron Heart’ and we’re down to our last three weeks,” Cuenca told ABS-CBN News. “Kasabay ng announcement namin ng finale, we’re reaching our highest ratings and highest Internet views.”
On September 11, “The Iron Heart” drew an all-time high of 451,538 live concurrent views on YouTube.
“We’re gearing now to shoot the finale in Japan, with just me and Richard,” announced Cuenca. “Na-pressure ang production after we shot in Italy. We have to do a better finale. It’s going to be crazy. This is the biggest fight that we’re going to shoot, so far.”
Cuenca and Gutierrez will be leaving for Japan on October 1, the day after the ABS-CBN Ball. “We attend the ball September 30 and the following day, we fly to Tokyo at night,” Cuenca shared.
“I’ve already been rehearsing our fights for a week now, even here in Manila. There’s this tendency na ‘pag patapos na, you kind of want to take your foot off the gas. Kami ni Richard, we said, ‘No way.’ We are going to slam dunk this home.
“We’re going to deliver the best ending we’re ever going to make. So that’s what Richard and I kept on doing lately. We keep on motivating and hyping each other. We’re really preparing each other to come up with an ending that people will not forget.”
Cuenca is aware that Japan, as the location of the “The Iron Heart” finale, comes with its own challenges. The country has many restrictions.
“We cannot use guns there,” Cuenca said. “Without guns, we really have to be technical with the fight. Really mano-a-mano. But we said, it wouldn’t be ‘The Iron Heart’ without the challenges. It wouldn’t be ‘The Iron Heart’ if it’s too easy.”
Cuenca’s recent Instagram post showed him practicing with the katana sword. “We are now in that stage,” he beamed. “We want to show something for the first time on Philippine television.”
After a year on primetime TV, the entire cast is proud about “The Iron Heart,” megged by three directors – Lester Pimentel Ong, Richard Arellano and Ian Loreños.
“We’re particularly very proud of this project because it’s all hard work and sacrifice,” Cuenca granted. “There were certain days that we were injured and we went to the set bleeding. But because you love what you do, you will really man up. You’re not at your best on certain days, but you have to do your work.”
Cuenca disclosed that before “The Iron Heart” was shown in November last year, ABS-CBN had to rush the airing even without a promo plan.
“When Richard and I look back, there were a lot of things not yet in place when we started airing,” Cuenca recalled. “But we already had a slot. So, it was either we took it at that time or wait five years before they gave a slot to us.”
With everything that he has done this year – “The Iron Heart,” the thriller series “Cattleya Killer” and the police sitcom, “Jack and Jill sa Diamond Hills,” with Sue Ramirez on TV5 – Cuenca cannot be any prouder for the projects.
"To be honest, sa ‘The Iron Heart’ sepanx [separation anxiety] na kami,” he said. “We are really a family. It makes me teary-eyed whenever I think about it. Of course, the show is so special because we felt like we’ve been through so many things.”
Cuenca is excited to attend again the ABS-CBN Ball with a new date this time. He is expected to escort his rumored girlfriend, Chie Filomeno, on September 30.
“I’m only attending this thing for one person,” Cuenca said. “If not for that person, I don’t think I’ll even go.”
They even collaborated “a little bit” on their looks together for the occasion. “We kind of want to make it a surprise because this is the first time we’re going together. For me, it kind of feels like a prom or a date.
“I’m happy for ABS-CBN that we’re having the ball again. We can socialize again. I really have only one reason to go to the Ball.”
Cuenca appreciates Filomeno as the apple of his eye at the moment. “What I appreciate more and what I really find beautiful about her is her journey,” he said. “I’ve been in the industry for 22 years, I know how difficult or discouraging the industry can be.
“You have to have unwavering belief in yourself. She has that. To see her get what she’s getting now and achieve what she’s achieving, it makes me so proud. I met her when she was just starting.
“I saw how patient she was and that is not common in this industry where a lot of people quit. A little bit of soft heartedness, a little bit of heart break, they quit. Siya, she stayed.
“For me, a small of a woman she is, she’s really larger than life. Her personality is really something else. I can’t wait for people to see that.”
Cuenca and Filomeno earlier dated, but no romance brewed then. “In so many ways, she was the one who got away for me,” he disclosed. “A long time ago, but she was already dancing in ‘It’s Showtime’ already.
“But nahinto lang the first time. Given the second time around, I don’t want to let her go this time,” he said.
They reconnected last December during the Christmas Ball of Star Magic. “I was doing a lot of things at that time,” Cuenca recalled. “I was just going to go to the ball to pay my respect to the bosses. Then I saw her, so I stayed.”
Even with their busy schedules, they managed to help each other in their careers. “We are both workaholics and ambitious. With her, I know what she’s been through and I know her journey.
“It’s just important for me to make her dreams come true. Even if I’m attracted to her and I have strong feelings for her, I really want to see her make her dreams come true. She works so hard already. Now, it’s time for her to reap.
“With work, I’m working with her even when we’re not onscreen. For me, what’s more meaningful or what’s more sincere when it comes to me and her, are things we do behind the scenes.
“When I help her with her lines or reading the script, like when I have to do the other guy’s lines for her. She’s so willing to her. She’s so eager and optimistic to learn. I don’t mind sharing to her my knowledge.”
So is he the marrying type? “I have a number in my head,” Cuenca smiled. “I can certainly see it. I have an age when I would want to. I am not like a 20-year-old, curious guy anymore. I’m in a point in my life where I enjoy monogamy even if I’m in my prime now.
When he started at showbiz at 14, Cuenca was merely thinking about girls with a goal of getting famous. Certainly, he wasn’t thinking like a true artist then. He wasn’t even thinking with his brain either. Today, however, that certainly changed.
“I want to look back at my mid-30’s and say I did the best projects out there so one day, I can show my kids and say, ‘This was Jake Cuenca at his best’.”
The past two years, Cuenca has been really busy. “If you see my schedule, coming out of the pandemic, I feel so reinvigorated. Even in my spare time, I want a continuation of the things I do professionally. I’ve come to embrace being an actor.
The graduate of the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute in New York has come to a point in his life where he knows his career and talent a lot better now.
“I can spread it around. I can do ‘The Iron Heart’ and create Eros, but I can do ‘Jack and Jill’ and be a comedian,” Cuenca said.
“I can also be a theater actor or a singer in ‘ASAP Natin ‘To.’ Or I can also do a mall show. That’s why when I said I’ve come to embrace the industry now and the multi-facet things that come with it.”
That busy schedule that Cuenca recently went through indeed calls for a vacation. But he refuses to take a break. He told his manager, ‘You go on vacation. I’m not tired.’ That was a three-year vacation with the pandemic.
“Success is not linear here. Sometimes you find yourself down on the ground or you can even be on top of a mountain. Like in the pandemic, I was down on the ground, but I just believed in myself and knew things were going to change once things normalized.”
He is apparently humbler now. In his career, the best thing that he did is “to march on the beat of his own drums.”
Cuenca maintained, “I don’t want to see different things. I want to be in a set. The three years in the pandemic were enough of a break. Enough of resting. No more hiatus.
“I also tell other actors who are still afraid to go out, ‘This moment will never happen again. I will never be young again.’ I’ll be acting till the day I die, but I will not be always full of life. So I should not be getting burned out.
“This is a moment for me to show everything. It’s not enough for them to see what I do on TV. I want to also show them that I can do it live. Anywhere I go, I take it with me.
“That’s how I do my thing. It’s not enough for me what appears good for them. I want to show them that I can do my craft anywhere.”