MANILA — Julia Barretto is feeling more “free” nowadays when it comes to her career choices, having graduated from being in a “love team” that lasted three years.
Barretto, 22, once formed half of the “JoshLia” tandem with actor Joshua Garcia, who is also her former boyfriend. The two co-starred in a teleserye and five films starting in 2016.
They broke up in mid-2019, signaling the end not only of their real-life relationship, but also their love team. The zombie flick “Block Z,” their most recent project together that released in January, had already been filmed to near-completion when they parted ways.
Barretto has since turned what she calls a “new chapter” as an actress, marked by her consecutive genre roles, from “Block Z” to the upcoming thriller series “I Am U”.
During the media launch of the iWant original series on Wednesday, Barretto was asked whether she has made a conscious departure from “kilig” offerings, which she had been identified with as part of “JoshLia”.
“At this point, feeling ko I’m just very, very grateful that I’ve been trusted with projects that are not the usual that I’ve done before,” she said.
“I’m glad na nakakapaglaro na ako, that I’m more free to do some scenes and some roles and take more risks, that I can now take roles fearlessly, that now I can be the actress that I’ve always wanted to be,” Barretto explained.
Referring to her screen partnership with Garcia, Barretto added: “Siguro, graduate na ako sa kung saan ako nanggaling. Graduate na ako sa pagiging permanent in a love team. I’ve been blessed to have experienced that, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve already graduated from that phase in my career.”
Barretto clarified, however, that the element of “kilig” or romance won’t necessarily be absent from her future projects. “I Am U,” for instance, sees her paired for the first time with in-demand leading man Tony Labrusca. She is also looking forward to doing mature romance-dramas.
Not being attached to a permanent love team, Barretto added, significantly widens the genres she can take on, the actors she can work with, and the characters she can portray.
In “I Am U,” for example, Barretto is decidedly more daring in scenes with Labrusca. Her dual role as Elise and the doppelganger Rose is also a first for the actress, as is working with acclaimed director Dwein Baltazar (“Oda sa Wala”).
“I’m very happy to be in the phase in my career na mas mature na ‘yung mga nagagawa ko, mas marami na akong nakakatrabaho. Mas free na ako sa pagpili ng projects. Hindi na ako parang na sa isang box. I can now explore as an actress different genres, and be able to work with different leading men, and different kind of materials, and different directors,” she said.
Barretto, however, only had good words for Garcia, who has found a successful new tandem in “JoshNella,” with actress Janella Salvador.
Referring to Garcia, she said: “Up to this day, watching him from afar… As I always tell him, ‘I’ll always be one of your cheerleaders.’ Wherever he is in his career now, I’m really proud of him, because I’ve seen his growth, and I was there in the beginning of that all.”
Barretto also expressed support for Salvador, her Star Magic Circle batchmate and known close friend.
“Dati kasi, palagi namin pinag-uusapan ‘yung mga pangarap naming dalawa, ‘yung mga gusto naming maabot, gusto naming ma-experience, ‘yung mga path na gusto namin mapuntahan. Ngayon, just watching her, being able to do these things, proud ako sa kaniya, and pinag-pe-pray ko rin siya,” she said.
Asked whether she feels she has “outgrown” Garcia as an onscreen partner, Barretto appeared cautious with her words, admittedly out of concern they would be misinterpreted in headlines.
Barretto has made no secret of her frustration with rumors that have negatively affected her friendship with Garcia, who has similarly insisted they have no ill feelings toward each other.
“His choice to still be in that path in his career, which is the love team phase, I respect that,” Barretto said.
“Have I outgrown him as a love team? Yes, definitely. Pero kung magkaka-work kami ulit, I have no problem. Pero siguro that’s in the far future pa, because I’m still working on Julia as the individual and Julia as the actress,” she said.