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Julia Barretto and Joshua Garcia Are in It for the Long Haul

The It couple is moving on to more grownup and nuanced roles, and they’re feeling more secure than ever.

by Fiel Estrella | Jul 25, 2018

Two years, four movies—including this month’s I Love You, Hater—and an upcoming teleserye later, JoshLia is learning what it means to navigate a true partnership and what makes it last.

Overnight sensation, It couple, whirlwind romance: Much has been said about the joint meteoric rise of Joshua Garcia and Julia Barretto. The entertainment industry is notoriously fickle, and it does not discriminate between the ones who stumble into fame from obscurity (often via reality television) and the ones who practically grew up in the limelight or are born into a family of actors. After all, success is often driven by risk—sometimes it takes a while to pay off, if at all; other times, it clicks into place instantly.


On Julia: Tunic dress, price unavailable, CHRIS DIAZ, chrisdiazdesigns@gmail.com. Shoes, P3950, CHARLES & KEITH, Greenbelt 5. Biker hat, P3950, AC+632, Greenbelt 5. On Josh: Top, price unavailable; Trousers, price unavailable, CHRIS DIAZ, chrisdiazdesigns@gmail.com. Shoes, P5395, ALDO, Greenbelt 5.

As it happens, Joshua, 20, and Julia, 21—now known by the portmanteau JoshLia—are the latter, gaining quite a following after the Metro Manila Film Festival top-grosser Vince & Kath & James. They’ve already become such a major part of the local romance canon that it’s easy to forget that they haven’t even been a duo for more than two years. They have less than five movies under their collective belt, and their first teleserye, the Alice Dixson co-starrer Nostalgia, isn’t due until September this year.

In their new movie I Love You, Hater, they’ve firmly crossed over to young-adult territory, playing two driven would-be professionals, Zoey and Joko, who get on each other’s nerves and push their own boundaries as they compete for an executive assistant job under broadcast journalist-turned-digital media empress (Kris Aquino making her Star Cinema comeback).


“I enjoyed doing this movie so much,” Julia says, noting that it’s a step away from her usual prim-and-proper roles. “My character here is so free and [easygoing], so I feel like this is my most free yet, that I didn’t really have to limit myself to a certain extent.” She adds: “[Zoey is] big on emotion. She’s very outspoken and physical also, so it’s different because I’m so used to timid, quiet characters, limited nuances.”

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Joshua, fresh off an acclaimed dramatic turn on The Good Son, relishes being able to work with something lighter. “Ako, na-enjoy ko ‘yung character ko, sa paraan na, ang dami kong napapatawa, ang dami kong napapasaya,” he gushes.

As colleagues, as friends, as a couple both on-screen and possibly off, few would have expected Joshua and Julia to make sense, but they just do. 

On-set, they enjoyed a supportive and close-knit environment, especially cultivated by director Giselle Andres. “Nae-enjoy ko ‘yung mga nakakatrabaho ko dun,” says Joshua. “Lahat ng nasa set namin, very friendly.”


Having had more experience with quiet and reserved characters, Julia admits, “It took time for me to feel more free and big in emotions and in actions. But in real life, I’m free-spirited myself.” Direk Giselle’s constant guidance, she says, was instrumental to getting into Zoey’s headspace. “It made me feel comfortable [to be] so open.”

Hindi niya kami pinapabayaan, so nagagawa namin nang maayos ‘yung dapat naming gawin,” Joshua agrees.

As colleagues, as friends, as a couple both on-screen and possibly off, few would have expected Joshua and Julia to make sense, but they just do. Julia’s whip-smart and articulate, bubbly and warm, and surprisingly pensive. Joshua is all bounding energy, laid-back but also earnest to a fault—sometimes, a brooding and enigmatic side shines through.

Julia has a simple theory for what makes it work: “I think we both love our craft,” she says. “We both love what we do. The fire’s in us. Everything is collaborative. It works well, [having that] same drive. We balance each other out.”

 

“When it comes to acting, [kahit] sa movie o sa TV, kailangan totoo,” Joshua observes. “Marami na rin kaming pinagsamahan [ni Julia]. Lalabas at lalabas ’yun sa acting namin, kung gaano kami ka-komportable.”

Their pet name for each other, “Baba,” tumbles off their lips easily throughout the day, seemingly punctuating their every sentence.

Watching the pair being groomed side by side or striking poses at a photoshoot, Josh’s words ring true. There’s a down-to-earth and in-sync quality to how they interact, from easy touches to secret laughter stemming from inside jokes. When Joshua found himself on his back on the floor during the Preview shoot, he softly gripped Julia’s ankle to help himself up. Their pet name for each other, “Baba,” tumbles off their lips easily throughout the day, seemingly punctuating their every sentence.  

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They share a pack of Haribo to snack on—he throws gummy bear after gummy bear to her from his grooming station, a full five feet away. She successfully catches a few with her mouth, acrobatically angling her body and head this way and that. Fans of Brooklyn Nine-Nine may remember a similar scene between Jake and Amy, the central couple: They play this exact game, except with peanuts, and Jake later remembers it as the night “that [Amy] flirted with me for 20 seconds and I became obsessed with [her] forever.” The cuteness is off the charts.


During the interview, they’re honest with each other, and they don’t dance around their feelings. It was a different story, however, when they first met. “I thought, like, he didn’t speak at all,” Julia recalls. “He was super shy about everything! Pero it turns out he’s really fun to be with. There’s actually never a dull moment with him so far.”

“Our comfort level has reached a point where we protect each other, we defend each other.”


On Julia: Belt skirt worn as top, P11,550, MINKI, Assembly, SM Aura. Khaki skirt, P8000, ASSEMBLY, SM Aura. Heels, P4895, ALDO, Greenbelt 5. On Josh: Suit blazer, P37,800, N. HOOLYWOOD, Assembly, SM Aura. Trousers, P13,000, ORDINARY PEOPLE, Assembly, SM Aura. Polo, P995, BENCH, Glorietta.

She adds that their friendship has grown through and reached so many levels. “We were able to get to know each other really, really well, which made us really comfortable with each other, and secure with each other,” she explains. “Our comfort level has reached a point where we protect each other, we defend each other.”

Nung nakilala ko siya, hindi pa siya ganun ka-open sa ibang tao,” says Joshua. “Dun lang siya sa mga ka-close niya nago-open.” When they grew closer, he was able to see sides of her that not everybody got to see. “‘Yung pagiging makulit niya, pagiging matakaw niya, mga ganun,” he grins.

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A lot of what makes any relationship work is adjustment and compromise, and the same goes for Julia and Joshua. “It’s different to just be friends with him and to actually be his partner,” she shares. “He’s such a sensitive guy, and I figured I tend to be extra careful with his feelings because he has a lot of growing pa to do, and a lot of toughening up to do.”

This time, in I Love You, Hater, they’re grappling with their identities, their dreams, and how much they’re willing to suffer for both. A common theme, of course, is love.

The adjustments they’ve made, she adds, have been healthy, and it’s been important for them both. “Siyempre, you have to adjust,” Julia says sagely. “You adjust because you adjust to the people you love. And then you adjust because you want to be patient with them so you can [walk with them] through life and this industry.”


Watch and necklace, prices unavailable, OMEGA, Greenbelt 5.

In Vince & Kath & James, they acted out a comedy of errors, an exploration of the powers and limitations of modern communication. Last year’s Love You to the Stars and Back found them struggling with questions of faith and fate. This time, in I Love You, Hater, they’re grappling with their identities, their dreams, and how much they’re willing to suffer for both. A common theme, of course, is love.

Sinasabi nito na maging totoo ka sa sarili mo,” Joshua says of their new film. According to Julia, Zoey will go to a certain extend to reach her goals. “For [Joko] naman, [he’s doing it] for his family.” The movie asks questions we’ve all asked ourselves at one point or another: “Why [do we become] fakers and dreamers? How far can you go just to prove yourself?”

They have the same vision and the same dreams. They understand each other because they’ve been going through many parallel experiences.

It’s something everyone can relate to, she adds, most of all she and Joshua themselves. Some love teams don’t work out, and very few last. But JoshLia has the makings of a truly great OTP, one that already feels like a classic. Asked when it started to feel like it could be the real deal, that their pairing could be the beginning of a real partnership, that they’re in it for the long haul, Julia doesn’t even hesitate.

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“The moment I realized that it was working was because I saw that we were on the same level of hunger to prove ourselves,” she answers easily. “This is actually going to work if we just work on it, the two of us—if we can be a team, and so far, we have been a team.” They have the same vision and the same dreams. They understand each other because they’ve been going through many parallel experiences.

They’re on the same track, and it’s the right one.

“I have a good feeling about this,” Julia insists, her voice unwavering with honesty and affection. “It’s been a great journey, and I don’t think there’s anybody I would rather go through this with.”

Produced and Styled by Loris Peña

Photographed by Shaira Luna

Art Directed by Mark Buenaobra

Makeup by Ting Duque (Julia)

Hair by Antonio Papa (Julia)

Grooming by Jay Herrera (Josh)

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