Rewind: Maja Salvador
Award-winning Filipina actor Maja Salvador looks back on making four seasons of revenge drama Wildflower, which aired for more than 250 episodes on ABS-CBN in the Philippines between 2017 and 2018.
In a celebration of the finest drama series produced across Asia over the last five years, Maja Salvador was named best actress at the first Asia Content Awards in October 2019.
The ceremony, held in South Korea’s Busan, showcased series from across Korea, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia, among many others.
Salvador won her first best actress award at the event for playing the lead character in Wildflower, a Philippine TV series that ran for four seasons on ABS-CBN from 2017 to 2018.
Set in a small town ruled by a political family, the series follows Lily Cruz (Salvador) as she takes on a new identity to seek vengeance for her parents’ deaths. Now known as Ivy Aguas, she orchestrates a plan that is made complicated by romance and a family that will do whatever it takes to stay in power.
The series has also aired overseas, including in Madagascar and French-speaking New Caledonia, Polynesia and Réunion. Here, Salvador looks back on making the show, carrying a character over 250 episodes and dangling from a helicopter.
Introduce us to the story of Wildflower.
Wildflower revolves around Lily Cruz/Ivy Aguas, a feisty and smart woman thirsty for justice because of the murder of her father and assault on her mother. Lily/Ivy wants to exact revenge against the Ardiente clan, the powerful political dynasty behind her family’s fate.
How would you describe your character?
She’s wild – everything that Lily Cruz and her alter ego do is extreme. Her ideas about exacting revenge are out of this world.
How does she evolve over the four seasons?
In season one, viewers saw her journey and struggles since she was young, including the death of a family member and how she was almost raped. Viewers also witnessed how she got out of that misery when someone took her in and cared for her. A lot of things happened in her life and so, because of pain, anger and love, my character wanted revenge.
How did you land the part?
It wasn’t originally meant for me, but ABS-CBN’s RSB Unit [a unit in the entertainment production division] called and said they wanted to pitch a story to me. So I met with them and, after they pitched, I said yes to the project because I found the story very interesting. It was my first time doing a TV series that was intensely wild because of the character I played. Wildflower just had everything, from fiery confrontations to explosive action.
Why were you attracted to the role?
The story was a huge factor because it was just riveting. Also, I felt that it was something fresh that hadn’t been done in the Philippines before.
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
The action scenes were really challenging. As much as possible, I try to do my own stunts when I’m confident that I can execute them. I did a scene in Wildflower where I had to dangle from a helicopter and it went viral online because it hooked audiences.
Another challenge was how my character ‘attacked’ scenes, and how to ensure she gripped viewers until the season finale.
Wildflower filmed more than 250 episodes – how did you find the schedule?
My handler and the management made sure my schedule was achievable. Whenever I do a TV series, the bulk of my time is dedicated to it because we shoot almost every day, so during that time, my priority was Wildflower. I didn’t do any other projects.
Why do you think Wildflower also appealed to foreign audiences?
It all boils down to the story and how my character embodied the empowered woman. I’ve encountered feedback from foreign viewers who said they felt like Ivy Aguas/Lily Cruz was their alter ego. They looked up to her because she was fearless and strong.
How do you look back on your time making the series?
The big scenes that had explosive revelations were really memorable. I always felt excited when my character had scenes that were pivotal in her development, because that required me to display emotions that I had never felt in real life, since I haven’t experienced most of the struggles that Ivy Aguas/Lily Cruz had.
What kind of roles appeal to you?
I’m open to playing any role, but what I look for is the character’s depth and personality. I’m captivated when a character’s personal struggles make the role complex and fuel and engrossing story.
What are you working on now?
I get movie offers but I’m working on an ABS-CBN TV mystery drama series called The Killer Bride and that’s my priority right now.
How do you think Philippine drama is evolving? Are there more opportunities for you as an actor?
We’re adapting quickly to the international landscape. In fact, ABS-CBN has pursued collaborations with international producers, so that’s very exciting.
In terms of opportunities, it’s a big ‘yes’ because of social media. Also, a lot of ABS-CBN TV series are available in foreign territories, so there’s a huge possibility for me to be recognised and to be given a chance to work with foreign actors or collaborate with foreign producers. Our writers, directors and producers in the Philippines are incredibly talented – I think the work that they make will shine and hopefully draw the attention it deserves.