My Husband’s Lover: Behind the story

Giselle Töngi-Walters

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Giselle Tongi Walters traces the serye from concept to production

'LAGKIT' LOOK. Doctolero says 'MHL' will end on a liberated note. Photo from the show's Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – “My Husband’s Lover” (MHL) premiered on June 11, 2013, and it has pushed the “teleserye” envelope with homosexual themes that have never before taken center stage on Philippine primetime television.

For the first time, a “teleserye,” which we understand to be a primetime daily drama with a period of 8 to as long as 36 weeks, tackles a love triangle angle, but with the two men having the affair, as told through the point of view of the scorned wife. The show is created and developed by head writer Suzette Doctolero for the GMA network and stars Carla Abellana, Dennis Trillo, and Tom Rodriguez.

READ: A step out of the closet

Doctolero has been a writer with GMA for the past 18 years. She says she has to constantly challenge herself as a writer by coming up with “innovative” content to stay inspired. She is thankful to GMA for giving her the freedom to depart from the norm.

Her last projects have also tried to revamp the long running formulaic themes of the “teleserye.” The historical fiction serye “Amaya” was another first in the television landscape as it explored the themes of animism before the intrusion of organized religion. Dubbed as the first ever “epic serye,” the show challenged the norm of the male central figure and empowered the female as an elemental force in pagan society.

Doctolero has written unconventional stories for television before, but it is only MHL so far that has caused quite a sensation, she says. Doctolera wants to see how open and how far audiences will accept two men in love.

The “development process” for MHL was a fairly quick one. After Doctolero was finished with the 2012 soap, “One True Love,” she was looking to write a new serye that wouldn’t “bore” her.

She pitched what became her concept for MHL to middle management but it was shelved until early this year. Presented anew, the show was approved by all the GMA executives, and Mr. FLG, Felipe L. Gozon, gave his go-ahead. Doctolero was commissioned right away to draft a script.

READ: ‘My Husband’s Lover’ under CBCP scrutiny

It took Doctolero only a few days to write the concept for MHL. She said she never had any actors in mind while conceptualizing the show. The characters were initially composites of friends from the LGBT, or “third sex,” as she put it.

It was only after she finished the first-week draft that brainstorming began over the right actors for the lead roles. This is also a very different departure from the other “teleseryes” which, for the most part, are star-driven. MHL is clearly a concept-driven show.

Carla Abellana was the first to be cast. She had an ongoing contract and was due for a new project.

Doctolero was happy with the choice of Abellana as the wife, Lally – whose character conveyed an innocence bordering on naivete.

Dennis Trillo was given the liberty to choose between the male lead and the “lover” role, the more effeminate of the two men. He chose the greater acting challenge of the lover role.

Tom Rodriguez is the only one among the leads who was made to go through the auditions.

Nuanced acting

The departure from the melodrama tradition of sampalan, iyakan, and sigawan (slapping, crying, and yelling) is as much a reflection of Doctolera’s characterization as well as her preferred writing style. The three lead characters are educated professionals; the “traditional” means of confrontation are not even inherent to their behavior.

The stereotype of the “teleserye” as melodrama was something Doctolero purposely wanted to veer away from. She writes with as little dialogue as possible, and mostly only for the story’s exposition. The spare dialogue thereby challenged the actors to read the realism between the lines.

“My Husband’s Lover” is a love story, written by a woman through the eyes of Lally. Doctolero also wrote from this perspective, keeping in mind too the ratings and the usual demographics behind the seryes. Since the story revolves around the conflict of two men in love, to tell the story from a man’s perspective would limit the demographics.

And why portray two gay men instead of two lesbians?

With the exception of works by Lino Brocka and Joel Lamangan (who has another gay-themed, also politically charged upcoming film), media has historically portrayed gay men as comedians and “parloristas,” and society is not threatened or unsettled by this stereotype. Doctolero purposely made sure her characters moved away from that.

READ: GMA-7 defends ‘My Husband’s Lover’

Doctolero has been criticized for fostering a gay agenda but she brushes this aside. She is pleased with the growing audience as shown by the ratings, and she believes society is more open to watching a love story between two men than between two women on television.

Discrimination even in gay society is something she aims to tackle through the show. The “loud gay” is perceived to be a lesser gay and she expresses the hope that acceptance will prevail over prejudice.

How long will the show run, now that it’s rating steadily? Doctolero says the concept she wrote is good for 19 weeks maximum, and anything longer than that will undermine the narrative and dilute its integrity. In other words, there won’t be any stretching of this story.

But with economics or rather profits being a factor in this enterprise, who can be so sure? Doctolero assures the audience that, being the creator of the show, it will end on a liberated note and with good vibes. –


Giselle Töngi-Walters is a professional ‘slashie.’ Besides being mom to Sakura and Kenobi, she is also an all-around media personality. She is a model/product endorser/radio jock/writer/actor for film, TV, and theater, and producer for second generation Fil-Am content. Being part of the Rappler team is a way for her to utilize her academic and showbiz experience and hopefully make some sense beyond all the chismis.

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