For the most part of her career, Ryza Cenon has played one antagonist role after another. With her classic mestiza features that often remind many audiences of Cherie Gil, the 29-year old actress from Gapan, Nueva Ecija has been typecast in mostly kontrabida roles for GMA Network soaps dating back to the 2005 television adaptation of “Darna.”
Her latest teleserye, “Ika-6 na Utos” has been dubbed by most viewers as a “sampalan festival” where she plays the mistress of Gabby Concepcion who finds herself both on the giving and receiving end of the show’s signature slapping scenes.
But Ryza’s kontrabida days may be coming to an end. Last year, she was cast in what she considers her first bonafide lead role, as the title character in Prime Cruz’s “Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B.”
The film follows the story of Jewel, a mysterious, independent woman by day and a manananggal at night who leads a lonely life until she meets Nico (played by Martin del Rosario), a broken-hearted, down-and-out guy. As Jewel and Nico becomes attracted to each other, she becomes torn between loving him and wanting to save him from herself.
When it was entered last year in the QCinema International Film Festival where it won Best Director and Best Supporting Actress for Vangie Labalan. Outside of the accolades, the film generated some controversy for Ryza’s daring scenes.
One of the scenes has her character Jewel satisfies her sexual charges by pleasuring herself, while the other involves a love scene with supporting cast member Cholo Barretto, her real life boyfriend.
“I was really all out here. You have to see it to believe it,” she told InterAksyon during a pocket press conference to promote the film.
“This is the first time I did those sensual scenes so this is an experience I will never forget. I did it after asking my director if it’s needed in the story. Will I do it again? Again, it depends on the story and if it’s really needed.”
Although “Manananggal” is considered a horror film, the only one in the ongoing Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino film festival, Cruz and writer Jen Chuaunsu have taken the myth of the manananggal and turned it into something they call, “rom-gore.”
“Yes, it’s not a conventional horror film. It’s really more of a dark romance,” Ryza concurred.
Beyond Ryza’s steamy scenes, both the film and her performance as well as that of lead actor Martin del Rosario were well-received. Ryza credits her chemistry with Martin as a big reason why “Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B” works.
“Martin is so easy to work with and fun to be with,” Ryza said in mostly Filipino.
And thanks in large part to “Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B,” Ryza is set to do her second lead role and this time in an upcoming romantic-comedy directed by no less than the blockbuster director of “Kita Kita,” Sigrid Andrea Bernardo.
“I haven’t seen ‘Manananggal’ yet except for the trailer. But I’ve seen some of her shows recently. She’s really good. I also saw her act during her younger years when she just won StarStruck in GMA but I have yet to discover more of her skills as an actress,” Direk Sigrid told InterAksyon.
“I always see Ryza na puro kontrabida and supporting roles. For our next film, she’s partnered with JC Santos, another good actor. I want to see how we’ll work out their chemistry.”
As for Ryza, she is more than ready to take on the challenges of playing lead roles more often from hereon.
“I’ve already reached this point. Why go down if you’re already on your way up, so to speak,” she concluded.
“Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B” is one of the 12 entries in the ongoing Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino, now showing in cinemas nationwide.