Judy Ann to conquer ‘biggest fear’ in Canada-set horror film


Santos (center) with Sam Milby (right) and director Rahyan Carlos

Judy Ann Santos is set to fly this month to Toronto, Canada, to shoot a horror movie and “conquer my fear of the cold and snow,” the award-winning actress said on Tuesday.

What people don’t know is that Judy Ann had a frightening experience related to heavy snowfall when she was in Toronto as a teenager.

“My mom, who worked in Canada for several years, filed immigrant petitions for her three kids, but only her request for me was granted because I was still underage at the time. This was back when I was still doing the series ‘Mara Clara.’ I lived with her there for a while. I was only 13 or 14 when it happened. We still didn’t have the heat tech that’s already available today when I experienced heavy snow for the first time. I was really scared because I felt like I didn’t have ears anymore,” Judy Ann told Inquirer Entertainment during a recent media gathering.

“My mom and I went out to buy groceries. We were waiting at the bus station when the snow fell. Back then, there weren’t heaters in waiting sheds and I was still trying to get used to the cold,” she recalled.

“One of my mom’s reminders to me was, ‘Don’t go outside with your hair wet because it will freeze in the cold.’ I didn’t listen to her. True enough, my hair froze, so I had to find a comfort room and put my hair next to a heater to thaw it. I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore and my socks were all wet. I was unprepared to go out. From that time on, I began to fear the cold and snow—although I was never afraid to go to ski resorts because I knew that what they have isn’t actual snow,” she said.

Facing your fears

Judy Ann added that returning to Toronto years later to work on Rahyan Carlos’ horror film, “The Diary of Mrs. Winters,” was her way of conquering this particular fear.

“It is set in Canada where my trauma happened. More than anything, I prayed for a project that would enable me to face my biggest fears. I want to be able to surpass this in order to enjoy snow with my family when we finally go on vacation abroad. My husband (Ryan Agoncillo), whenever he fears something, he jumps into it head first. He used to fear the deep waters, so he took up diving. He was also afraid of trail biking, so he became a mountain biker,” Judy Ann said.

“I was inspired by what he did. I realized that it’s possible to fight your fears and turn them into a hobby. I told myself that I want to do this before I turn 45 this year. This project will make my plan possible.”

Judy Ann said she first asked God for signs before saying “yes” to do the movie, which is her first since the pandemic struck. She was last seen in Brillante Ma Mendoza’s award-winning 2019 war drama “Mindanao.”

“God gave me all the signs that I asked for, be it a double rainbow or three fluttering butterflies. I was that specific, and He gave them to me exactly the day after I prayed for them. I guess He is now telling me, ‘You’ve been praying for a film that will challenge your ability as an actress and enable you to face your fears. I’m giving this to you. What other signs are you still waiting for? Do you want me to personally appear in front of you?’ Lord, huwag naman po,” Santos said, laughing. “Another thing is the fact that I will be away from my family for a long time. That’s one other thing that I fear. All of these elements are in this project. This is really it!”

Judy Ann Santos

Judy Ann Santos

Full support

Judy Ann said that more than his blessing, Ryan has given her his full support. “That’s more important to me because I draw strength from him. He once asked me, ‘Why are you so scared of the cold? Can’t you just wear a thicker jacket?’ That’s a funny comment, pero may punto siya. I will be able to do that now with the new technology that we have. It’s just ironic that of all the places that have heavy snowfall, which we also have in Asia, I will be shooting in Toronto,” she pointed out.

In “The Diary of Mrs. Winters,” Judy Ann plays Charity, who works as a bioforensic trauma cleaner in Toronto. While doing her job, she encounters the remains of Mrs. Winters, who died of suicide. Charity also discovers the dead woman’s diary and keeps it. A series of unfortunate events unfolds, including the death of Charity’s loved one. She must now try to break the curse of Mrs. Winters and fight for the people she loves.

“In simple terms, Charity is a cleaning lady for dead people,” Judy Ann explained. “Before this, I never knew that a job like this existed. Since she’s an OFW (overseas Filipino worker), a lot of us will be able to relate to her story. Charity works for her son and the rest of her family. She tries to earn a living to give them a good future.”

Judy Ann will be working closely with Sam Milby, whom she last worked with in the drama series “Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala” in 2013.

Director Rahyan said he was unaware of Judy Ann’s fear of snow when he offered the project to the actress. “I only found out when we had our five-hour acting workshop recently. I really insisted on her and Sam doing the workshop. I said, ‘We will not shoot the movie until I’m sure that you understand, from cover to cover, your respective characters’ back stories,” he pointed out.

“The Diary of Mrs. Winters,” produced by Rahyan’s Happy Karga Films and Canadian-based production company AMP Studios, is scheduled for release by the third quarter of 2023, both locally and internationally.

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