If Eugene Domingo were to give a piece of advice to young actors currently working in show business, it would be this: establish good relationships with everyone you work with.
The actress is currently a hot topic among local moviegoers for her role in comedy murder mystery film Ten Little Mistresses, which is streaming on Prime Video.
Besides Eugene, the film features an impressive line-up of stars, including Carmi Martin, Pokwang, Agot Isidro, Iana Bernandez, Donna Cariaga, Sharlene San Pedro, Kris Bernal, Christian Bables, Adrianna So, and Kate Alejandrino. It’s a rare opportunity, especially in an industry still contending with the effects of the pandemic in local cinema, for an actress like Eugene to not only work with peers and friends, but also share the screen with younger actors.
Hence the question: as an established actress, what advice does Eugene wish she had received when she was just starting out?
“I cannot say that I am already wise in working in this industry. You will never know what challenges will be in front of you. And I’m still also learning kahit na established na ako. Marami pa rin akong hindi nae-establish,” Eugene tells PhilSTAR Life in a Zoom interview on February 16, a day after Ten Little Mistresses’ release on the streaming service.
But if she were to base it on her experience—the actress played bit roles for years and gained acclaim in comedic supporting roles in the soap opera Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan and the comedy film Ang Tanging Ina before headlining her own hit movies such as Kimmy Dora and Ang Babae sa Septic Tank—Eugene said she would tell younger actors to “try everything” in order to find their place in the industry.
“Try to find the right people,” Eugene adds. “Because working in this industry, you will also create your own family. Lahat kailangan makilala mo.”
She further explains: “In the end, I really hope for this younger generation, like what happened to me, when you are already established, I hope you establish good relationships with everybody. That is the most fun part because they will always look forward to working with you, di ba? That’s really nice.”
“It really makes my heart (happy), at this point in my career, that (people say) ‘Oh my God, I want to work with her.’ It’s really, really nice. Because I’m really excited to work with them.”
Eugene believes the younger actors she has seen and worked with do not lack the talent to make a lasting impact in show business. “There is no question with the talent,” she says. But she emphasized the need to “try to do everything” and to “make the most fun.”
“And (after that), one day, you will wake up and realize, ‘I did good. I made friends with everybody.’ And that’s nice,” she explains.
‘It felt right
Eugene has other reasons to be happy, of course. Ten Little Mistresses is the streaming service’s top movie in the Philippines since it premiered on February 15, an indication that the audience is responding to its combination of traditional murder mystery tropes and over-the-top campy theatrics of Filipino mistress dramas.
Ten Little Mistresses tells the story of Filipino billionaire Valentine Esposo (John Arcilla) and his ten mistresses. When his wife passes away, the mistresses think they have to fight it out to become the legal wife. But Valentin mysteriously dies, making his ten mistresses and his faithful butler Lilith, played by Eugene, suspects. All of them must then prove their innocence and figure out who the killer is before the police arrives at the crime scene.
Besides being the first Filipino Prime Video original movie, it can be said that Ten Little Mistresses has the distinction of seeing Eugene front and center as a movie’s lead star. The film can be classified as an ensemble film, but Eugene is clearly its heart, appearing in almost every scene.
While she did a number of projects the past years (including the 2019 series Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank: The Real Untold Story of Josephine Bracken for streaming service iWant and a supporting role at the 2021 Metro Manila Film Festival entry Big Night), it’s been a while since she headlined a movie (her last being 2016’s Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2: Forever Is Not Enough).
“I felt that it was time to make a movie. And if I’m going to make a movie, I want it to be with the right people that I trust. I think I was right. I felt right,” Eugene says, noting that she has worked with Ten Little Mistresses director and writer Jun Lana in the past. “Knowing the cast is just a bonus.”
Eugene says working on Ten Little Mistresses was hard work, the cast aware that the film is intended for Prime Video’s global audience (its press release says the movie will be streamed in over 250 territories).
“We are trying to level up kasi, syempre, worldwide na yung market. We cannot be insecure when it comes to the technical aspects. And when you do that, when you try to fine tune everything, it takes time. Time, patience, dedication—everything,” she says. This dedication is present the littlest details of Ten Little Mistresses—from its opening musical sequence that sees Eugene performing the movie’s theme song-slash-motif, to the extravagant, drag-inspired costumes.
Even the pop culture references—a constant presence in Pinoy comedies—are well-thought of, mostly from other Pinoy “kabit” movies and iconic moments from RuPaul’s Drag Race which Lana and the production seemed to have taken a bit of inspiration from as well.
“Direk Jun (thought of) how more viewers would be more attracted to see it by injecting some usual or sure-hit elements,” Eugene explains. “Kumpleto yung entertainment. It is something that you would really enjoy watching.”
‘I’m done being so conscious’
Of her role as Lilith, Eugene says: “Like Lilith, am I able to commit, am I able to do all my promises? And then, you know what, I think, yeah. Most of the promises, most of the things I say I will do, I really do. So I understand Lilith in a way that to a person that you really love, to the person that you are grateful for, you should be loyal, you should be grateful. Whatever it is that you can do to return that loyalty, that gratefulness, do it. That is beautiful.”
Is Eugene more selective in the roles she is taking now? With the success of Ten Little Mistresses, will the audience see her in more projects in the near future?
She says a few years ago, this kind of reception to her project would prompt her to already ask her team or the people around her for her next movie or television show. “But now, I’m so relaxed. I just want to enjoy this celebration of doing something nice. It's just up to God kung ano ang susunod na project.”
Eugene added: “Right now, I’m just very thankful that at this stage in my life, I’m still doing exciting and entertaining things. I think that is my purpose as an actor, to do entertainment. First and foremost, I want to entertain my audience.”
“It’s always the story,” she says when asked how she chooses the movie roles she does. “What is the story? What are you telling to tell? Is it worth saying, worth telling, worth doing the story? We need a good story. We need a story that is nice to see, nice to hear or what we are supposed to hear. It’s the story.”
She ends, “I think I am done being so conscious (as an actress). I am just so happy that every day is passing by and (I feel) simple joys in my everyday life.”