Giovannie Espiritu Interview
Giovannie Espiritu is named "one of the Most Influential Filipina Women in the World" by The Filipina Women's Network. During our interview, she also learned that she was awarded the Hyundai Evolve Innovation Award for her film "Legacy" by Outfest Fusion. She is an actor, mom, writer, award-winning filmmaker, activist, acting coach, and a survivor –we can see why she was recognized in the Innovator & Thought Leader category by the Filipina Women's Network.
Screamfest had the pleasure of interviewing her and discussing horror movies, her upcoming movie, Tubi original Titanic 666 with Screamfest alumni actresses Lydia Hearst and Annalynne McCord, stories from the set, imposter syndrome, and life as an LGBTQ Filipina Woman in the entertainment industry. She humbly offers a glimpse into what life was like before Hollywood and what lies ahead.
Since this is Screamfest, we must ask what your top 3 favorite horror movies are?
"JENNIFER'S BODY, JENNIFER'S BODY, JENNIFER'S BODY!"
"I just think that Needy's character arc was so badass and I loved Diablo Cody's script and social commentary. I love how horror films can subvert the narrative and expose aspects of society like that. Jordan Peele's "Get Out" was brilliant at that, but I don't think I can watch that more than once.
I love John Carpenter's The Thing and Aliens (James Cameron), but I'm really into zombie stuff too...so I have to add 28 Days Later to the list"
What is it like for you to be a Filipina LGBTQ woman in the horror film genre?
"Just being a Filipina LGBTQ woman in the entertainment industry, in general, can be a bit rough since there aren't very many roles written specifically for my type. I love the horror genre though because audiences love horror for the shock, scares, and stories... not necessarily for the name value of the actors involved, so those of us who aren't as well-known have a chance at being part of the fun."
What drew you to acting and filmmaking?
"I got into voice-overs on a lark. It's a weird story. Basically, I was in a cult when I was a teenager, living out in the woods, and I would try to keep telemarketers on the phone because they were my only link to the outside world (or so I thought at the time)... and one of them said I had an interesting voice and that I should try voice-overs. My "husband" at the time quit his job because he believed that Jesus was coming soon and I had a baby, so I didn't know what I was going to do for money. I looked up voice-overs, and the first thing that popped up was Stars the Agency and I sent them a really gimpy recording, and they ended up calling me in. They ended up signing me, sent me out on my very first audition that day, and I ended up booking it. I took it as a sign from God. (I'm not religious anymore BTW). From there, I figured I had to get good at it."
You were a Harvard Law Student but decided to continue pursuing acting; that takes courage. What is a difficult decision, and ultimately, what made you decide this was the next step in your life?
"Ugh. I honestly didn't have the money. It was a program that took place at Harvard and was accredited by Harvard Law, but it wasn't like I got INTO Harvard... I think it was eight grand for two weeks, and as a single mom... I just couldn't swing it. Plus I hate arguing. I'm more suited to becoming a counselor if I did go back to school. Acting was where I was actually making money at the time, so it was kind of survival for me. I know that's weird because people usually get into acting while they have a survival job... but acting literally was my survival."
You have made some successful short films; your first short, "Ultra-Feminist," got an Honorable Mention at OutFest: Fusion. Do you have any plans to make a horror short, perhaps blending women, social justice, and horror? Is that something fans can look out for in the future?
"I have a couple of projects in development, but I can't say too much about them right now."
What are your goals as an actor and a filmmaker?
"I want to learn how to make it sustainable emotionally and financially to be an actor and a filmmaker. A lot of people think that it is a glamorous job, but it is one of the most grueling, insecure, toxic work industries that you can be in. I've been lucky to have worked with some really great teams, but there are still systemic issues that make it really difficult to have good mental health. I was attending a Producers Guild zoom panel with the Daniel's (Everything Everywhere All at Once), and he was saying how if we depict humanity on screen, we have to care for the humanity on set, and it is our job to create those kinds of environments where people are cared for and feel valuable."
Outside of acting and filmmaking, what do you like to do?
"I've gotten into taking ballroom dancing lessons, and I'm really obsessed with Swing and Bachata. I used to take pole dancing classes during the pandemic, but my partner swung a little too hard, and it kind of broke... so that's on the back burner. I used to boulder and rock climb, but it's been a while since I've done that."
You have recently been named an Awardee for 2021 as one of the most influential Filipina Women in the World (WOW). What can you tell us what it means to you and how that makes
"LOL. Thanks. Honestly, it was a little surreal. I was in a room with really amazing Filipina women from all over the world and had such a huge case of imposter syndrome. Still do, honestly. I'm working on it."
How does your character in D-railed differ from the one you play in Titanic 666?
"I loved playing Jackie in D-Railed, probably mostly because of the way I got the role (it is a story in itself), as well as the fact that I got to work with Lance Henriksen. But Jackie is more grounded and lives outside of the cosplay world, and Nancy in Titanic 666 has no life, super star struck and a wee bit naive. It's interesting because they both have the thread that they happen to be put in situations where things are revealed to them."
On your most recent film, you worked with some Screamfest alumni actresses, Lydia Hearst and Annalynne McCord. How was it working with them?
"I didn't get to work in person with Lydia Hearst even though we shared a scene together, but we did get to react to something she filmed early (the magic of movies-), but Annalynne is so super sweet and funny."
Can you share any fun onset stories you had with them?
"Annalynne taught me how to banana a scene. Thankfully, my character just follows her around all the time, so the production needed more time to set a shot properly, so instead of going from point A to B, we would do a banana and curve around...so it looks like we are heading in a straight line on camera, but in reality, we are going in an arc. It's super nerdy film stuff... but I learned a lot from her."
TITANIC 666, Tubi's latest original horror movie, will be available for streaming this Friday, April 15th, 2022. The supernatural horror movie is set on the Titanic III hundreds of years after the original sinking. As the ship embarks over the Titanic's wreck site, dark forces rise and threaten all aboard. Tune in and watch Giovannie Espiritu alongside Screamfest Alumni actresses, Annalyne McCord and Lydia Hearst.
By Raych Hernandez
More on Giovannie Espiritu:
Giovannie Espiritu's identity is inherently political: A bisexual, once-undocumented immigrant Filipina mom who spent time in a Biblical doomsday cult as a teen. Her first short film, “Ultra-Feminist,” got an Honorable Mention at Outfest:Fusion, and her second film, “ALLY 3000,” won over 12 awards at film festivals in scriptwriting, social justice, and women in film. Most of her work has taken aim at dismantling the patriarchy, healing generational trauma, and exposing systems of bias with humor. She is a member of the Alliance of Women Directors and the Producers Guild of America.
As an actress, her television credits include ER, Bones, Gilmore Girls, Trauma, Perfect Harmony, and Young Sheldon. She can currently be seen as the lead in the Amazon series, “Dyke Central,” which was featured in After Ellen, BuzzFeed, Bust Magazine and Curve Magazine as a top LGBTQ series to watch. She was nominated alongside Academy Award nominees Alfre Woodard and Amy Irving for Best Supporting Actress for the feature film, Fiona's Script. Her other feature film work includes supporting roles in thriller "D-Railed," with Lance Henriksen, "Middleton Christmas" with Eileen Davidson and Michael Pare, and now will be seen in Tubi's original film, "Titanic 666," playing Nancy, an overzealous fan to Mia, a social media influencer played by Annalynne McCord.
Recently, she was recognized as one of 23 "Most Influential Filipina Women in the World" in the Innovator & Thought Leader category by the Filipina Women's Network and given a “Special Thanks” credit at the end of Pixar’s Turning Red for being the on-call acting coach for Rosalie Chiang. She has served on the Board of Directors for C.O.R.A. (a Bay Area domestic violence hotline and agency) and awarded a Certificate of Recognition from the Senate for her community service.
Her IRL and reel life mantra is to “Break Hearts Wide Open and Create More Moments of Joy.”