For JoshLia, perfect timing made their love team possible

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Joshua Garcia and Julia Barretto, the stars of the film “Love You to the Stars and Back,” tell us what makes their love team work. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Julia Barretto and Joshua Garcia, stars of the Star Cinema romance “Love You to the Stars and Back,” enter the room holding hands. While Barretto is all made up — she just came from a taping — Garcia looks laidback, maybe a little bit tired, his hair mostly hidden under a black cap.

In “Love You to the Stars and Back,” Barretto stars as alien believer Mika and Garcia as cancer-stricken Caloy, who meet in a road trip to a mountain where aliens supposedly wait to bring its willing volunteers to another world. The film, directed by Antoinette Jadaone (of “That Thing Called Tadhana” fame) cut across a movie-going audience that had previously made “Vince and Kath and James” (also starring Barretto and Garcia, in a love triangle with Ronnie Alonte) a hit in the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival.

The film, by putting Barretto and Garcia together, also added another couple to the long roster of love teams in Philippine cinema: “JoshLia,” for their fans. Theirs was another kind of appeal, which found its own place in a landscape already filled with so much onscreen (and sometimes off screen) couples: “JaDine,” “KathNiel,” “LizQuen,” to name a few. Barretto, with her doll-like face and melodic voice, capitalizes on an effortless charm, distinct from that of her aunt Claudine; Garcia, tagged as the “next John Lloyd Cruz,” has an earnest demeanor and carefree quality that carries the pressure lightly — with the disclaimer, of course, that he seeks to make a name for himself.

While much has been written about Barretto’s rise as a young actress and Garcia’s superb acting, what is most interesting is how the love team was built on one thing: timing. “Timing is a great factor [as to] why this is happening,” says Barretto, adding that the movie pair-up happened just when both of them were ready, after their T.V. roles (including one memorable “Maalaala Mo Kaya” episode) molded them to the actors they are now. “Ang ganda ng binibigay sa amin na timing,” Garcia agrees.

It may seem a bit of a stretch, but how Caloy and Mika met, in “Love You to the Stars and Back,” is comparable to how the love team formed, and what it may look like, a few films and shows from now. Timing also played a role: “Kasi ‘yung character namin, parehas parang character ko, may hahanapin ako,” says Garcia. “‘Yung character niya [Barretto], may tinatakbuhan siya. Na-meet namin ‘yung isa’t isa, para may ma-realize kami sa isa’t isa. May matutunan kami sa isa’t isa.”

CNN Philippines Life talked to Garcia and Barretto about the love team, believing in the impossible, and how an improbable romance plays out in “Love You to the Stars and Back.” Below are edited excerpts from the interview.

The film is about believing in an impossible thing. What’s one impossible thing you have done so far?

Barretto: I don’t think we can say that something impossible happened because the fact that it happened means it’s possible. I think it’s more like things you didn’t expect to happen.

JoshLia.jpg "Love You to the Stars and Back," by putting Barretto and Garcia together, added another couple to the long roster of love teams in Philippine cinema: “JoshLia,” for their fans. Photo by JL JAVIER

It’s so normal in life when you get to rock bottom, you can’t get back up and be whole again as a person. At that moment, wala na, you think that’s done. It’s over, it’s never going to happen. But then again, if you choose not to give up, that’s when beautiful things start to happen. Because you give yourself a chance to try. And that’s when it becomes possible. Because you give it a chance.

Mika believes in aliens. For your part, what’s one similar, unbelievable thing you believe in?

Barretto: I believe in mermaids. I feel like they’re just there. I want to be a mermaid. They’re so beautiful. When you truly believe in something, you actually end up believing it. It’s just a mindset, I guess.

Garcia: Ako kasi, hangga’t di ko nakikita, ‘di totoo sa akin. ‘Di ako mabilis maniwala sa bagay-bagay. Halimbawa, kung alien man. Hindi pa naman ako nakakita ng alien eh.

Barretto: He wants confirmation.

What was the most challenging part of creating the movie?

Barretto: I feel the whole movie was very challenging for me, because Mika was very far from Julia, who I am in real life … ‘Yung pain niya is different, and she meets somebody like Caloy whose pain is so deep. And it was so challenging in so many levels. In fairness kay direk Tonet [Jadaone], she really wanted to bring something out of us that we didn’t know we had. Challenge din ‘yung mga eksenang ‘di naka-block, ‘di naka-rehearse, ‘di nakapag-throw lines, because we didn’t know what to expect from the scene. But I guess that helped make the movie very natural, very real, very realistic.

Garcia: Mahirap ‘yung character ni Caloy para sa akin. First time ko, sobra kong na-challenge. Maganda rin naman kasi ‘pag na-challenge ka, nago-grow ka pa rin as an actor, as a person.

Lalong-lalo na ‘yung mga breakdown scene. Actually buong pelikula, lahat ng scene ko, challenge pa rin para sa akin. Natatakot ako na hindi maganda ‘yung lumabas.

Barretto: Oh but he killed it. You can see how afraid he was but I think …

Garcia: Alam niya ‘yun kung gaano ako nag-ve-vent sa kanya…

Barretto: He smashed it!

How is it like working with the director, Antoinette Jadaone?

Barretto: We love her!

Garcia: ‘Yun ‘yung experience na kailangang ma-experience ng iba’t ibang artista. Ibang-iba.

Barretto: Very real. No acting allowed.

Is there any character in mind you would like to portray in the future?

Barretto: I want to play a role na may disorder. It can be an eating disorder, bipolar, or something very challenging and realistic that cinema is afraid to tackle; that they shouldn’t be. Like in our film, it’s a risk to tackle cancer, suicide, and ending your life — sa pagpapakuha ng aliens na way — but it’s almost the same thing. It was a risk, but in the end, the film was able to save a lot of people’s lives. It was able to inspire to keep going, not give up.

Garcia: Ako gusto kong gawing character, si Sam ng "I Am Sam." Young father din, kasi ang sakit nun eh. Ang sarap kasi ng nakapagbigay sa mga tao ng matutunan nila, ‘yung ma-aapektuhan sila.

JoshLia3.jpg The main message of the film, which tackled issues like cancer and suicide, is not giving up when difficulties happen, says Barretto. It's knowing how to ask for help from others, adds Garcia. Photo by JL JAVIER

What romance films did you watch, growing up?

Barretto: Oh, a lot. “A Walk to Remember.” “The Notebook.” “Serendipity.”

Garcia: “The Notebook.” “A Lot Like Love.” Ang dami.

Barretto: “Pretty Woman.” Oh my gosh. “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset.”

What is it about those films you can relate to?

Barretto: Actually, I’m so happy because “Love You to the Stars and Back” is almost like “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset.” They’re just literally two people and they’re talking the whole time. And then you get to know them, because they’re just talking to each other. You really just have to listen to the film to appreciate it. So I love the film so much, when I was doing “Love You to the Stars,” I was like, yes! Oh yeah, we’re going to Hollywood ... Just kidding!

Garcia: “Sunrise” pa lang napanood ko.

Barretto: Oh, you finished it na?

Garcia: Pinanood mo sa akin.

Barretto: I made him watch it but then I ended it because I saw he was getting sleepy. [Everyone laughs] I made him watch it super late eh. Next time I’ll make him drink coffee before.

Do you think it’s possible, in real life, for two people to meet in a day and fall in love immediately?

Garcia: If gusto nila. If gusto ng tao, gagawin nila. Posible.

Barretto: Lalo na ‘yung nagta-travel alone.

JoshLia2.jpg While Garcia has been compared to John Lloyd Cruz, and Barretto to her family's line of actors, both seek to make a name for themselves. Photo by JL JAVIER

Where would you want to travel alone?

Barretto: Italy. [To Joshua] I would want to go there with you, but …

Garcia: Ako, Iraq.

Iraq?

Garcia: Hindi, joke lang. [Everyone laughs] Gusto ko sa Barcelona. Sobrang ganda ng lugar, tapos walang pakealamanan.

How do you feel about comparisons to popular actors and actresses? For Joshua, how do you feel about being compared to John Lloyd?

Garcia: John Lloyd is John Lloyd. Hopefully sana makagawa rin ako ng sarili kong pangalan. Magkaiba. Magkaiba kami ng pinaghuhugutan. Unang-una, magkaiba ang character namin: magkaiba si Popoy, magkaiba si Caloy, si Vince. Magkaiba sila ng pinanggalingan ng pain and struggle sa buhay. Ang daming magkaiba. ‘Di ko naman inaalis sa tao, na siguro sila na rin nakakakita. Happy naman ako naco-compare ako sa kanya. Pero si John Lloyd, ‘di ko mapapantayan ‘yung mga nagagawa niya.

How about you, Julia? You came from a family of respected actors …

Barretto: Actually at first, when I was starting out, the pressure was real. The comparisons were all over the place. But then when you start to get pressured, you have to turn it into a positive thing, you have to turn it into your greatest motivator. I used the pressure to motivate me to do my best, and as far as making my own, there’s only one me, one Claudine, one Gretchen, one Marjorie, one Dennis Padilla. And there will be no other them or me. I’m just being myself. It’s so nakakahiya to be compared to them, they’re such good actors. I’m a work in progress.

With contributions from Tristan Nodalo