Arts & Entertainment

Who is Jane De Leon, the New Darna?

Everything we know about the new Darna.
IMAGE INSTAGRAM/ @imjanedeleon
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After months of searching and endless online debates, the new Darna has finally arrived in the form of Jane Florence Benitez De Leon, a 20-year-old talent under Star Magic. De Leon now shoulders the responsibility of portraying the most iconic heroine in Filipino comic and film history.

Compared to the big contenders of the role, such as KC Concepcion and Nadine Lustre, De Leon is a relatively unknown name in the industry. Yet the young actress managed to bag the coveted role over almost 300 actresses who auditioned, according to ABS-CBN Films’ managing director Olivia Lamasan.

The recent announcement has the internet abuzz with “Jane De Leon” currently trending on Twitter, with most netizens believing that going with a fresh face instead of an already well-known actress was perhaps the best decision the producers could have made. 

Even the former Darna, Angel Locsin, added her voice to the mix, congratulating the young actress set to inherit the ruby encrusted helmet. 

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But who is the new girl on the block? 

What we know

Nicknamed “Chynese” by her family, De Leon hails from her hometown of San Pedro, Laguna. Prior to entering show business, De Leon competed in pageant competitions at an early age, winning the title of Ms. Photogenic in the Little Ms. San Roque competition. In 2013, she made it as a Semi-Finalist in Supermodel Philippines.

After a short stint in pageantry, De Leon formally began her career as an actress as a talent signed under GMA Artists Agency from 2013 to 2015. But it was when she moved to Star Magic in 2015 that her career began to grow when she landed supporting roles in La Luna Sangre as a moonchaser, Wansapanataym as Sassy, and The Debutantes as Jenny.

She’s best known for her role as Jericho Rosales’ sister Maggie Bartolome in the teleserye Halik and as a member of the girl group Girltrends on It’s Showtime. She also starred in numerous episodes on the hit drama anthologies Maalaala Mo Kaya and Ipaglaban Mo. 

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De Leon was recently awarded the Netizens Best Choice Awards Council’s Modern Day Renaissance Woman Award for her “effortless mastery and noteworthy achievements in arts and entertainment.”

De Leon’s connection to Darna

According to Lamasan, it was a “unanimous decision” to give the iconic role to De Leon.

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As this version of Darna will be taking a coming-of-age approach on the origin story of the heroine, the producers were on the lookout for someone who possessed the right balance of youth, innocence, and strength to pull off the role. They found that in De Leon.

When she heard she got the role, Lamasan shared that De Leon said, “I will do everything and anything for the role because I believe in her, I believe in what Darna stands for." 

This may not be so hard for her to achieve as she revealed in a vlog that she used to dream of being a doctor or a soldier. As an extraterrestrial warrior woman, Darna not a bad tradeoff.

But De Leon’s greatest connection to Darna comes in an unlikely form. In an interview with Village Pipol, De Leon shared that it’s her mother who’s her hero.

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“My mom’s a very strong woman, who was able to beat hardships both in life and in health. She underwent four major surgeries and went through tough times when my dad was hospitalized up until he passed away. I know being a single parent is hard for her, but she manages to do it for me and my kuya,” De Leon shared.

Contrary to popular belief, it was never Wonder Woman who inspired comic book artist Mars Ravelo to create Darna. In reality, it was his own mother, also a single parent who raised him on her own, that influenced him to conceive Darna.

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Casting changes

Liza Soberano was previously cast in the role, but was forced to back out after suffering from a serious finger injury on her show Bagani. Before Soberano, the previous Darna, Angel Locsin, was also slated to reprise her role as Darna before a back injury caused her to also bow out.

Aside from the task of landing their Darna, the film has also undergone director changes. In 2015, Erik Matti was signed to direct the film, and a teaser trailer was even released during the 2015 Metro Manila Film Festival. But Matti pulled out last year due to “creative differences.”

He was eventually replaced with director Jerrold Tarog of Heneral Luna, Bliss, and Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral fame.

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Anri Ichimura
Staff Writer, Esquire Philippines
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