She first turned heads as a commercial model in her late teens. Now 41 and just as stunning, Dawn Zulueta makes it clear what she has proven a long time ago: this award-winning actress is way more than just a pretty face (though we love stealing her beauty secrets).
Remember when she won best supporting actress for Una Kang Naging Akin and best actress for Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit? Zulueta made history in the 90s when she became the first Filipino actor to win back-to-back awards at the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts & Sciences (FAMAS). Since then she has become the wife of Davao congressman Anton Lagdameo, a loving mom to two adorable kids, and now, a big draw to the local musical stage.
Currently she stars in Steven Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, where she has received rave reviews for her performance as Desiree Armsfeldt. Her return to the musical stage comes 12 years after she appeared as "conga queen" Esla Montes in Larawan, the musical adaptation of Nick Joaquin’s Portrait of the Artist as Filipino.
Says director Bobby Garcia, "Dawn was the first person who came to mind when I was thinking of doing A Little Night Music. I’m so glad she said yes. She’s a very earthy actress. Not only does she bring movie-star glamour to the piece but also has an innate sense of truth. She is an honest and truthful actress. It is magical to watch her rehearse and become Desiree Armsfeldt."
Spot.ph talks to Dawn Zulueta about singing again, why Angelica Panganiban is her best bet for the next big thing, and why she refuses to ride the Facebook and Twitter bandwagon.
How did you prepare for your role in A Little Night Music?
I listened to the music for a whole month, singing along with it every day until I became accustomed to the melodies. I also read the script and began memorization of my lines weeks prior to the start of our music rehearsals. Apart from that, I took care of my health by not exposing myself unnecessarily to the elements, as I wanted to guard against catching a cold or a cough.
What is the most fun part about playing Desiree?
Desiree is such an interesting character to portray. She has so many nuanced and comical lines throughout her story. She is a woman who has seen it all, being an actress traveling often to different parts of Europe for performances. She hopes to redeem some of the wrong decisions she made in the past, and she finds herself at once having the opportunity to change things but realizes it isn't all that easy. Like many of the roles I've portrayed, I do find some similarities [between myself] and Desiree's character.
You were doing theater 10 years ago, how difficult or easy was it to get back on stage?
Most difficult was convincing me that there was a role suited enough for me with my limited voice range. It was easy enough because I have always enjoyed performing on the theater stage, I just needed to get over the initial fear of the live performance.
Do you see yourself doing more theater than TV and movies?
More or less of any of the three is just a question of material and time. I love doing all: theater, TV, and film projects. What always becomes the clincher is whether or not the material is worthy of my time. I am blessed that I am able to choose freely what projects I want to do, so it will always boil down to this. I do limit my time for TV work; I cannot take the long hours of a teleserye. This lifestyle just doesn't mix well anymore with my real life as a mother and wife. But I would like to do TV work as a host of a talk show, perhaps, and also embark on nice film and theater projects.
Which plays and which roles do you want to do next?
I am interested in doing more musical plays such as "Camelot," "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," and the like. However I would like to study these options well, as I am aware that my voice range is quite limited.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Prayer and meditation. I can never do without them. I become very quiet 30 minutes prior to going on stage because I want to focus... I avoid chatting with anyone, I put my phone on silent mode, and then I sit quietly alone to slow my heart rate (because it would be pounding) - as if waiting to be taken to the guillotine. I know that's funny to hear, but live performances have that terrible effect on me. I literally feel like I am about to be executed.