The BL series phenomenon has been around for many years, but only recently has it become this massive: All episodes of Thai BL series “2gether: The Series” trended on Twitter during its run, with fans falling head over heels in love as Tine and Sarawat’s friendship grew deeper and deeper.
”, the new Pinoy BL series from Black Sheep, touts many of the same familiar elements in “2gether”. Why? Well, because it works. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as the saying goes.
Surprisingly, however, the series looks like it wants to venture beyond just providing the kilig factor many of us want from BL series. It wants to grow by committing to a message of love and hope.
We recently sat down with the show’s lead stars, Tony Labrusca
and JC Alcantara
, to talk about how they approached their roles, what “love is love” means in this day and age, and the most important lessons they learned from being part of a project that amplifies queer romances.
“At first I was really unsure,” Tony admitted. “‘Yung gut feeling ko was maybe telling me maybe I shouldn’t do it.” With a little nudge from Black Sheep and other powers that be, Tony eventually reconsidered.
“It’s really perfect timing,” he said, adding that he would’ve said no if asked to take on the role last year. “There’s no better time to do a BL than right now.”
“Ito ‘yung magiging libangan ng mga tao sa lungkot,” said JC. “Mapapasaya namin sila sa BL series na ‘to.”
“Hello Stranger”, shot during quarantine, premiered its first episode
on Wednesday, June 24—only the one out as of this writing—and we got to see a glimpse of Tony and JC’s twee and totally adorable banter, serving as the perfect dose of kilig in times like these. It was the number one trending topic on Twitter and was viewed more than 500,000 times in less than 24 hours.
Suffice it to say that BL series are intensely popular pop culture phenomena, so the boys must have felt pressure to make “Hello Stranger” really good.
JC, surprisingly, didn’t. He actually felt “blessed” rather than pressured, and said he hopes for more Pinoy BL series to come out moving forward, especially after watching Thailand’s “2gether: The Series” and enjoyed it.
Tony, on the other hand, is hopeful that the series can represent the queer community in more diverse ways, as opposed to the litany of queer content demoting queer characters as the “funny one, the silly one.”
“There’s been a lot of LGBTQIA+ movies but it’s usually indie, [and the characters are often] the comic relief.” Nuanced, beautifully rendered queer characters in mainstream media are far and few in between. “It’s really nice that [BL is] being accepted into the mainstream,” said Tony. “It makes me excited to share [our craft] with people.
For far too long, queer stories have been told through the lens of shame, pain, and suffering. “Hello Stranger” offers a refreshing new way of telling these stories, in the hopes of, perhaps, offering the new LGBTQIA+ generation narrative uplift.
In fact, JC likens the series to a romantic comedy, which is apparent in the way he described the show’s central love team (Xavier and Mico, or #XavMi)—as people brought together by kismet.
“Hindi mo talaga inaasahan ‘yung tadhana o ‘yung universe na mai-in love ka sa isang kagaya mo,” he said. “Love is love talaga.”
“It’s the love between—before I even say two guys—two human beings,” chimed Tony. In preparation for the role, he also watched several BL series, and what was most striking to him is how those shows painted queer romance as something that’s “pure and genuine.” It’s something he’s looking forward to telling with “Hello Stranger.”
In an ideal world, “Hello Stranger” will be loved by everyone. But this is not an ideal world. There will inevitably be a barrage of hate and homophobia. But Tony wants to stay positive.
“Of course there’s always going to be bashers,” he said. “And that’s fine. Kasama na ‘yun in anything you do in life.”
Hate can be loud. But love can be much louder. And these days, there’s been a lot of love flying around, not just for traditional romances, but for BL, queer, and other kinds of relationships once thought as illegitimate or wrong.
“Hello Stranger” invites us to a world where all love is valid, and love, in the end, wins, no matter who you are, and who you choose to love.
Catch the pilot episode of “Hello Stranger” here:
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