Bea Alonzo: ‘It’s so easy to fall in love but it’s so hard to keep a relationship’

In this revealing interview, Bea Alonzo bares how her cinematic journey mirrors certain events in her life — from relationship highs and lows to her realizations on love and romance.

 

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Bea Alonzo told me I should have watched her recent movies before I interviewed her.

She had a point. I should have. And in the local film business, it’s easy to make assumptions; assumptions that made it into the questions I asked her. Cracks showed — both mine and hers, in terms of how we both saw Bea Alonzo. Judging by her movies and — most especially — her “branding,” I assumed that Bea Alonzo is very much like the women she portrays; the women that her movies would want to make us believe: strong-willed yet romantic, assertive yet vulnerable, sweet yet…

“Am I sweet??” she protests. “Hindi ako sweet ha! Nakakainis ha! Am I sweet?”

She asks the people in her dressing room, people who work with her. “Am I sweet?” They say yes, rather hesitantly. I breathe a sigh of relief.

“Shit!” she says. “Talaga?"

An accumulation of romantic roles over the years yields a degree of sweetness. The awestruck titular character in “Betty La Fea,” the perfect daughter in “Maging Sino Ka Man,” a widow trying to find love in “And I Love You So,” the sweetheart Basha in “One More Chance,” the waysided best friend in “She’s The One,” the other woman in “The Mistress.”

But maybe sweet isn’t the right word. The formula of romantic movies gives off a sheen of sameness, of sweetness, of romance; that love is simply treading the water from Point A to Point B. And Alonzo, in whatever role she portrays, has been so commanding to watch as she goes through these journeys, and back again. In her recent slew of movies, it’s apparent how she’s evolving as an actress. She fights to sculpt her characters with complexity, to weave a narrative that isn’t removed from what she believes someone like her would do.

In “The Love Affair,” she plays the other woman, Adie, bruised by a cheating fiancé. She meets Vince (Richard Gomez), who found out his wife (Dawn Zulueta) of 24 years has an affair with his best friend. Adie and Vince find comfort in each other, in each other's hurt, and in the surrogacy of sailing as a way to wash off the red from their romantic selves. Adie could otherwise be another mistress, someone who lets herself give in to the “so wrong yet so right” idea of the affair. But Adie asserts her rights in the subtlest way possible, in the way only someone like Bea Alonzo could.

Photo-5.jpg “I noticed kasi the first 10 minutes ng pelikula, nakikita pa nila ‘yung persona mo as a celebrity, you’re still Bea,” says Alonzo. “‘Pag after 10 minutes nakikita pa din nila si Bea, I feel like I’ve failed. Dapat nakikita nila ‘yung character. That’s always a challenge for me.” Photo by KOJI ARBOLEDA. Dress by MARTIN BAUTISTA

Is Adie sweet? To an extent, yes. But Adie is leagues away from the roles we’ve known Bea Alonzo for. Maybe a little bit of Sarie from “The Mistress” and a little of Bobbie from “Four Sisters and a Wedding.”

Basha and Anj, from “A Second Chance” and “How To Be Yours,” respectively, is Alonzo at her realest. Both films depict the repercussions of a happily ever after: Basha and Popoy’s (John Lloyd Cruz) marriage collapsing under the weight of their own business, and Anj and Niño’s (Gerald Anderson) difficulties in balancing their relationship with their own respective careers. In both films, Alonzo’s command of her roles is strikingly apparent. It manifests in the way she throws lines, the way she gazes at her partner, the way she refuses to fall into easy categories: as a career woman, as a feisty girlfriend, as a self-assured wife. Because her characters, like Bea Alonzo herself, is more than any of those things.

We’ll see her next in two films, “Kasal,” where she finds herself between Paulo Avelino and Derek Ramsay, and, her first horror film “Eerie,” where she stars opposite Charo Santos-Concio.

In this intimate interview, Alonzo talks about portraying varying degrees of a woman on the verge, why she’s now thinking about her legacy as an actress, and why the actress Bea Alonzo isn’t far from who the real Bea Alonzo is. Below are edited excerpts from the interview.

There’s an image of Bea Alonzo that people see on T.V., the one on the big screen, and the one on your social media. Do you feel forced to align all of those things kasi they’re what people see?

I really don’t think about it. I wish I did but I don’t. Most of the time, kapag may bago akong kaibigan, nasu-surprise sila na ganon pala ako. And I don’t know what it is that they see.

Recently, nag-inuman kasi kami dahil na-packup na ‘yung shoot namin [ng “Kasal,”] so I went out with the staff. Eh ‘yung mga ‘to mga bata pa lang eh, [around]  21, 22, mga bago sa Star Cinema but ilang beses ko na nakatrabaho ‘yung [ilan sa kanila] like si Mycko David and Cesca Lee. Sabi ko sa PA namin, ‘yung pinaka bata, “Uy Red, uminom ka naman!” Kasi pina-pa-shot kami [and] hindi ko na kaya mag-shot talaga kasi feeling ko masasayang ‘yung buong araw ko the next day … although napa-shot nila ako konti lang. So kinukullit ko 'yung isang PA namin, [I said] “My god, nung ganyang edad ko wala akong takot, inom lang ako lang nang inom.” So sabi niya, “Huh, Ate Bea umiinom ka dati?” [Laughs] Mukha ba akong boring? Anong parte ‘yung hindi ako mukhang nagpapakalasing? [Laughs].

Sa tingin mo bakit?

I don’t know! Maybe as the characters that I do. Masyado na nilang mahal ‘yung mga characters na nagagawa namin. Si Basha, si Sari or si Bobbie. Naiisip nila na ‘yun talaga ako.

Sa totoo lang when I was doing “ASAP,” minsan may makukuha akong text from my managers masyado daw akong rowdy. Okay lang daw, bagay ‘yun kila Anne [Curtis], parang they can get away with it but not me. And I used to resent it. Naiisip ko why? I’m also young!

Parang you’re the prim and proper type.

Oo! Feeling ko I was being put in a box. Parang naisip ko, ba’t ganon? So people don’t like me if I’m Bea? They only like me when I’m the character. So may ganun ako … maybe I’m not that interesting as Bea. Maybe I’m not that interesting.

Photo-3.jpg When asked what she still has a hard time giving to a movie, she says, “‘Pag sensual ‘yung scenes kinakabahan ako. Mga love scenes, I still cannot, hindi ako comfortable. Or ‘yung scenes na kailangan magmukha akong sexy. I don’t consider myself as one.” Photo by KOJI ARBOLEDA. Top (used as dress) by VANIA ROMOFF

I was actually going to ask nga that people will always identify you with your iconic roles, as Basha, as Bobbie … Paano ka naging okay with that through the years?

That was the plan actually. [Laughs]. Hindi, because I don’t consider myself as a celebrity, I consider myself as an actress. So parang feeling ko, kung may certain kind of mystery sa’yo, mas makukuha mo ‘yung audience mo as the character, mas magiging effective ka as an actress kasi hindi nila masyadong alam, hindi ka magiging larger than life ...

I noticed kasi the first 10 minutes ng pelikula, nakikita pa nila ‘yung persona mo as a celebrity, you’re still Bea. ‘Pag after 10 minutes nakikita pa din nila si Bea, I feel like I’ve failed. Dapat nakikita nila ‘yung character. That’s always a challenge for me.

How much has changed in the roles that you portrayed since your first film?

Mas naging empowered na ‘yung characters ko. Hindi na ‘yung inaapi.

At an earlier interview, you were talking about a character that you portrayed and in one scene, you didn’t want her to beg for the guy to go.

Ganon ako eh. I always discuss and debate. Kasi kailangan kong hugutin ‘yun from the authentic part of me. Paano ko gagawin ‘yun kung hindi siya authentic sa akin? Hindi ako naniniwala na humuhugot ka ng emotions based [on the] character, no. Merong part of you for it to be organic. And it becomes real, ha.

In “Kasal,” in one of the last scenes that I did for the movie, nasa simbahan kami. May kinakasal, tapos naiisip ko ‘yung proposal and all and, oh my god, nag-pe-play siya, that scene, was playing in my head, and para akong may Storck dito [sa throat ko]. Pinipigilan ko, bigla lang syang nag-play sa utak ko, ‘yung specific scene na ‘yun. And I was about to cry. So may ganon, na somehow, araw-araw mo siyang ginagawa, it becomes real to you.

Would you say you’re a romantic?

I am, unfortunately.

Kasi most of your films are romance and drama.

Yeah and I look for that in a relationship. I had a relationship before na as in naging reklamo ko, [that] I became empty. Na parang naubos ‘yung romance sa tank ko and I feel like kailangan ‘yun sa relasyon. Kailangan ko ng romance.

What kind of a romantic are you?

Are there types?

May romantic na big gestures, meron na intimate lang who likes spending time at home …

Yeah, I’m like that probably. Hindi naman ako ma-big gestures, parang too good to be true! I’m the intimate type of romantic. Nakakatawa hindi ko alam na may types! [Laughs]

‘Diba may five love languages?

I read that! Gary Chapman. Words of affirmation, touch, gifts, quality time, and service.

Anong love language mo?

[Draws a big breath]. All of the above. [Laughs]

Pwede ba ‘yon?

[Laughs]. Honestly! All of the above. But mas napapakita ko through touch, words of affirmation, and service.

So quality time talaga…

That’s what I want to receive, quality time.

Photo-9.jpg Basha and Anj, from “A Second Chance” and “How To Be Yours,” respectively, is Bea Alonzo at her realest. Both films depict the repercussions of a happily ever after. Photo by KOJI ARBOLEDA. Suit and pants by JOEY SAMSON

How do you make sure that there’s a range in terms of the characters that you portray, na hindi lang siya one-note?

Journey siya for me. ‘Yung binibigay nilang roles for me before na puppy love, it was because I was young and that’s how I viewed love. Now it’s different. Na-apply ko siguro ‘yung learnings ko about love sa characters na ginagawa ko. Sa totoo lang, parang sabay sa personal journey ko ‘yung journey [ko as an actress] and picking characters.

Is there a high point in your career na high point din sa life mo?

Oo. Meron [Laughs]. ‘Yung ang saya-saya ko lang.

Anong movie ‘yun?

“How To Be Yours.” [Laughs]

I haven’t seen it!

You should!

I’m planning to do a movie marathon of your recent movies. I wanted to get to know you first and see how your being a romantic translates to your characters.

You make it sound like being romantic is a weakness! [Laughs] Is it like a sign of being naive? […] Would you want to see me in a cynical movie?

Yes. Parang someone who’s bitter about love …

See may ganyan ako eh. I was offered “That Thing Called Tadhana” actually. And I couldn’t see myself doing [Mace, Angelica Panganiban’s character]. I mean, I like the movie, I like the concept but iba ‘yung interpretation ko sa head ko. Definitely not that cynical. Kasi maybe I was born an optimist, especially sa love. Hindi ko kaya na i-view ‘yung sarili ko as the victim. I always take responsibility for my own choices.

Out of all your roles, what do you think is the most realistic in terms of what it’s like to be in a relationship?

“A Second Chance.” Kasi nung time na ‘yun, ‘yun talaga ‘yung totoong pinagdadaanan ko sa relationship ko. ‘Yung i-try mo i-save … totoong nangyari ‘yun. Naramdaman ko talaga ‘yun. Mas gusto ko nga ‘yung “A Second Chance” to “One More Chance,” contrary to everyone …

Have you seen “Before Midnight”?

Oh yeah! The three movies! Ang favorite ko “Before Midnight” because it’s the most realistic.

Because it’s also about dealing with the repercussions of ending up with the one you love.

Yes! Kasi it’s so easy to fall in love but it’s so hard to keep a relationship. [Fake sobs] Umiyak? [Laughs]. ‘Yun talaga ‘yung favorite ko especially sa mga scenes na sobra siyang insecure about her body.

Sino ‘yung character na pinaglaban mo na ito ‘yung gusto mo na direction for her?

“The Love Affair,” si Adie.

Photo-10.jpg “‘Yung binibigay nilang roles for me before na puppy love, it was because I was young and that’s how I viewed love,” says Bea Alonzo. “Now it’s different. Na-apply ko siguro ‘yung learnings ko about love sa characters na ginagawa ko. Sa totoo lang, parang sabay sa personal journey ko ‘yung journey [ko as an actress] and picking characters.” Photo by KOJI ARBOLEDA. Suilt and pants by JOEY SAMSON

In terms of when you take on a role, ano ‘yung nagbago through the years?

Quality. Honestly, ang daming interesting stories na na-o-offer sa akin. I was offered “I, America,” “Tadhana,” “Honor Thy Father.” Ang importante sa akin, nakikita ko ‘yung sarili ko. Well, most of the time hindi rin ako napapayagan — “I’m Drunk, I Love You” I was gonna do it for Paulo [Avelino] — May mga characters kasi na “Gusto ko ‘to, gagawin ko ’to” then hindi ako papayagan ng Star Cinema kasi I’m under contract. Pero eventually ‘pag napapanood ko na … Ang importante sa akin, ‘pag binabasa ko ‘yung character nakaka-relate ako, kumbaga meron akong film showing sa utak ko kung paano siya.

What do you think is the disadvantage of that?

Mas limited ‘yung options. But para kasi sa akin, paano siya magiging genuine, pano ko siya gagawin ng tama kung hindi ko nakikita ‘yung sarili ko doing it? Or if it’s a movie that I wouldn’t watch. Like this one, ‘yung “Eerie,” oh my god, the first time I read the script sobra akong impressed, sobrang excited akong gawin. Siguro meron din akong reservations sa who’s going to direct it, karamihan hindi ko kilala … mahirap din … hindi ko alam kung paano sila magtrabaho…

So you like being comfortable on set…

Ayan ka naman! Grabe ka! [Laughs] Of course I like going out of my comfort zone too!

No! [Laughs] I mean in terms of the people that you collaborate with. Na mas gusto mong gamay mo the way they would react to you, the way they work …

Yes! You can say that. Of course I like going out of my comfort zone but you can say na hindi rin ako ganon ka-daring when it comes to picking roles.

Ano ‘yung bagong ginawa mo for “Kasal”?

May scene akong ginawa towards the end of the movie, hiningian ako ni direk Ruel [S. Bayani] na, madalas kasi sa character na ginagawa ko subtle, so hiningan ako ng big movements, malaking reactions, ang tagline pa gusto ko ng TV Patrol acting, tinext nya ako ng ganun. I think it’s the only film na ginawan ko ng ganun. Natakot ako actually because hindi ko alam how it’s gonna come out kasi hindi ko pa siya nagawa. And sa totoong buhay, ‘pag nagagalit ako hindi ako ganun.

Photo-1.jpg “Feeling ko I was being put in a box,” says Alonzo. “Parang naisip ko, ba’t ganon? So people don’t like me if I’m Bea? They only like me when I’m the character. So may ganun ako … maybe I’m not that interesting as Bea. Maybe I’m not that interesting.” Photo by KOJI ARBOLEDA. Top (used as dress) by VANIA ROMOFF

Ano ‘yung nahihirapan kang ibigay sa isang movie? Something that’s always been a struggle for you in any project…

I have to be honest, ‘pag sensual ‘yung scenes kinakabahan ako. Mga love scenes, I still cannot, hindi ako comfortable. Or ‘yung scenes na kailangan magmukha akong sexy. I don’t consider myself as one. So hindi siya authentic sa akin.

I read the Rogue cover story that you did last year and it said na sex icon ka daw...

Saan banda? Nag-cringe ako kapag ganun. It’s something that I have to work on. Kailangan hindi siya nagiging acting block para sa akin. Kasi kapag actress ka ito ‘yung tool mo eh, dapat willing ka. Kailangan mas comfortable ka kahit nakahubad ka. [Like] ‘yung sa “The Reader” [with Kate Winslet] my god! Si Jennifer Lawrence … sana kaya kong ganun. Maybe it’s our culture. Maybe it’s how I was raised...

Do you think you’re constantly being judged?

Hindi lang naman ‘yung aesthetics. Hindi lang ako sanay na naghuhubad sa harapan ng maraming tao. It’s just how I was raised. Maybe because ‘yung lola ko conservative, ‘yung nanay ko … baka hindi sila ganun … kapag tatawa nga dati nakatakip ‘yung mouth. I think ito na ‘yung pinaka-open ko ever sa buong buhay ko and I’m not even considered as a carefree character ‘pag dating sa showbiz.

From your reactions kanina when we’re saying you’re sweet, when you thought I said you were being boxed, how does that figure in the work that you do? Or at least when you’re portraying a role … ano ‘yung effect of those reactions for you?

[Laughs]. You know why … I can’t say I’m offended ... it’s just I don’t like hearing it. Kasi sa totoo madaling gumawa ng character that’s not boxed, madaling gumawa ng independent movie, gumawa ng isang lesbian character, or sex addict, or serial killer … tapos sasabihin mo, ‘She’s different!’ ‘Iba ‘yung binigay niya!’ Hindi ba parang mas mahirap nga kapag gumagawa ka ng almost same characters and making it look different? It’s harder. It’s a more challenging task. Kapag naiinis ako na sinasabing boxed ako … going out of the box is not always an option. Because I think it’s the easy way out. What if the challenge is enlarging your box?

That reminds me of what Brett Ratner said when people were giving him shit about making blockbuster movies when it’s harder to make something that is liked by a commercial audience rather than something niche …

Ang dali kasi ‘nun, sa totoo lang. Lalo na for us na ang tagal mo nang pinapanood tapos gagawa ka ng [snaps finger] biglang offbeat? I’m sure mas merong reaction ‘yung tao. It’s easier. I can do that but why go there right away? I’m still challenging myself sa side na ‘to. Ang dami ko pang kailangan i-improve eh. Gusto ko pa muna siyang i-explore dito and then go there when I’m ready, when I’m open as I can be.

Do you think about your legacy? The body of work that you’ll leave behind when you retire from acting?

Ngayon iniisip ko na siya. Kaya siguro mas picky ako pagdating sa projects. Ang tagal ko na rin sa business. Tapos na ako sa … feeling ko meron na akong privilege to say no to certain projects. And I promised myself i-e-explore ko na ‘yung different genres and I’m slowly doing it. I already did [a] horror [movie]. It’s not for other people, it’s not even for … sorry to say this … it’s not even for my fans. It’s for myself. I want to find that drive again. And I’m slowly finding it.

Styling by CHICA VILLARTA

Photographer's assistants: NICCOLO YABUT and JEREMY CLAUDE

***


“Kasal” starring Bea Alonzo, Paulo Avelino, and Derek Ramsay is in theaters May 16.