In an ideal entertainment industry, Iza Calzado would be as big a star as Greta Garbo in 1930s and 1940s Hollywood, or like France’s Catherine Deneuve or Italy’s Sophia Loren. She would command first dibs on great roles as would be reserved for Cate Blanchett.
But we are in the Philippine film scene and it’s 2017 and nothing much has changed. Some of the biggest names in the industry are not necessarily the finest actors.
Thankfully, there are film studios like TBA that gambled on Iza Calzado as female lead in Jerrold Tarrog’s complex genre movie Bliss that is really more than what it seems on the surface. On television which accounts for maximum exposure, Calzado has made much of her participation in the recently concluded ABS-CBN series A Love to Last where she played Grace, the ex-wife, and was a potentially cardboard character, as is wont to happen in local soaps.
“A Love to Last” started out as an intelligent series on annulment and the concept of “modern family” until it lapsed into a romantic story about Grace’s ex-husband Anton (Ian Veneracion) falling for the charms of a Batanguena who lost her accent when she conversed with city people and regained it instantly when she was talking to next of kin. Veneracion also gave a consistently good performance which could also be said of the other cast members like Julia Barretto as Ian and Iza’s eldest daughter, JK Labajo as the ex-couple’s unico hijo, Irma Adlawan as the new girl in Ian’s life’s mother, Lui Manansala, and Perla Bautista. In the masterful hands of an extraordinary actress like Iza Calzado, a character as tired and ordinary like an erring wife becomes fresh and solid and powerful. It defies explanation at times and words sometimes hardly suffice. But you felt it and it affected you, so you started hunting for the right adjectives to describe it. Yes, it was a supporting role, but it was the one you remembered. They say that an actress is at her best when she is able to lose herself into the character. Iza Calzado went an extra few steps. She doesn’t only become Grace but she made Grace a woman we wanted to dislike and yet, we fully understood at the same time. Seasoned writer-editor Francine Marquez-Medina offered her thoughts after she saw an episode that featured Calzado’s character’s big meltdown: “I actually felt her character’s brokenness as a mother trying to win back her children’s love and sympathy. And Iza was able to show how she has lost that heart-wrenching fight. But the scriptwriters are choosing to ignore her pain by writing the scene with a seemingly surface level treatment – they’re merely portraying the situation as a case of “good woman” (Andeng) versus “bad woman” (Iza’s character).”
Continued Marquez-Medina: “Ian Veneracion’s character Anton Noble should go beyond the “kilig” older boyfriend factor and show that he is also a compassionate man. Instead of just driving away and shaming the ‘kontrabida’ (Grace), I would have preferred him to be kinder and more forgiving towards his ex-wife. Then that would add even more finesse and depth to Anton’s character because, so far, the one that’s turning out to be engaging, the one that has interesting complexity and layers is Iza Calzado’s role. All the rest are linear.” Calzado, however, remained humble despite the deluge of praise for her magnificent performance as the ex-wife in “A Love to Last.” “We all try to do our job well in this soap. Lahat kami were the reason why they watched the show.” Calzado is off next to doing an important character in a much-anticipated reboot. “Subukan naman nating mag-fly,” Calzado hinted at her next project. Now, have you guessed which movie Iza is slated to make?