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Julia Barretto Is Ready for Mature Roles, Which Means Living Life on Her Own Terms

by Sofia de Aros | Nov 21, 2022

Julia Barretto is everywhere. She talks about distilling her life down to the essentials, taking on new horizons as an actress, and defining productivity for herself.

We shot Julia Barretto’s November 2022 Preview cover in Pasay City on a bright Tuesday. She had zero complaints about reclining on a car’s piping-hot hood for a layout, or about changing into an elaborate bridal tuxedo inside a van. She was just as game to climb a random metal container while wearing cream leather pants and high-heeled cow-print boots. And though pedestrians, joggers, and staff from nearby restaurants shyly flocked to sneak taking pictures of her, Julia worked as if no one was watching.


Julia Barretto for November 2022

Later in the day, she settled back into our hotel villa to film YouTube videos. After a quick, smiley take of the intro spiel, she jumped right to the outro—efficiently and seamlessly nailing both segments within 30 seconds.

"Time is gold, baby," she said, elegantly smoothing her post-shoot updo. "Let’s do this!"

Breathing Space

Julia is done with the psychological clutter and shopping sprees of her teen years, and she prioritizes keeping her headspace clear. Instead of buying bags and shoes "in all colors, because I can’t decide," she has turned to populating her home with thoughtful furniture, some of which were sourced from Baguio and local artisans.

She started building her dream house when she was 19, after over a decade of hard work. By the time she was 22, the house was all hers. Complete with bamboo fences, glass panels, and white walls, her home takes after wabi-sabi, a Japanese aesthetic that treasures imperfection and impermanence. Above her plush sofa set is the living room’s focal point: an abstract painting by Carlo Saavedra, its streaks swirling like a tornado against a wash of blue-green.

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When we spoke over Zoom on a Friday evening, she was running last-minute errands for a spontaneous weekend trip to Singapore with her sisters. "My favorite place in the world has to be Singapore," she said. "I have some friends who wouldn’t make it their favorite, but I feel that it super fits my lifestyle, my pace, my headspace, and my energy. It matches everything inside of me."


Much like Singapore’s famed orderliness, "straightforward" and "comfortable" were the keywords Julia volunteered in defining her personal style. In her constant rotation are white halter crop tops, neutral ribbed knits, cream trousers, dresses in various brown tones, and other cozy pieces evocative of a cappuccino. "I like being able to translate that I'm at a point where I'm comfortable in myself," she said. "I don't feel the need to put on so much for me to express myself."


Though she still has the bejeweled red Michael Cinco gown she wore for her magnificent debut (it’s in a special storage room in her house), she keeps it not for her own use but for her future daughter's. At 25, she’s confident in her decision to become a mother one day and already envisions the home she’ll build for her future family. After all, she’s been an adult for longer than most, having been introduced to the hustle even before she’d turned 10.

"I just feel like there's so many younger—like, young, young—actresses now and I just can't believe I was that young before. And then I was also working—you know what I mean? I had no choice but to really grow up. I always felt beyond my years. Now, I feel like I'm more the same age as my soul."


"I'm only just now realizing how important it is to really enjoy the time that I have now because I’ll never be young again. I’ll never be 21 or 25 again. I'm really just enjoying my life now and not being too hard on myself."

At present, she’s proudly drawn to "uplifting energy," and collaborators who are brave enough to give her a blunt edit—just like her glam team, who she respects and loves like family, and calls her best friends. "I love it when they’re able to put sense in my head. I like people who can put me in that spot. I like when people can be honest with me."


The Switch

Though there’s a culture of showbiz gossip surrounding the growth arc of child stars—particularly targeting women who begin doing so-called "mature" roles—Julia pays no mind. She sees no marked difference between industry kids and those who hop aboard later in life. "We just have an earlier understanding of how the industry works and gain a little more wisdom earlier, but I think we go through the same things," she said.

"I think the best part about that is you're able to guide and really help these people who come in," she added. 'They're new and they probably still don't know the other things that could happen, so it’s nice to support them and to guide them when they ask for it."



After 14 years with Star Magic, Julia made the switch to Viva Artists Agency in 2020 and landed one of her most daring projects yet: Expensive Candy, a romance film directed by Jason Paul Laxamana. In it, she stars as the titular Candy, a sex worker with whom high school teacher Toto (played by Carlo Aquino) falls in love and grows obsessed with. It’s a classic tale of perilous infatuation encased in sensual flair. Marvin Reyes’ cinematography makes Julia’s doll-like beauty even more magnetic, glazing it under woozy, sugary LED lights. In one scene, she sways in a strip club wearing a neon green wig styled in a bob, possibly a nod to Natalie Portman’s confectionary look in Closer (2004).

What factors did she have to weigh before taking on the sultry project? None, Julia says: "Jason and I were on the very same page. When he pitched it to me, I knew from the beginning—even without the script—that it was a green light. It was a go. Something in me was just really ready to do that."


She had previously collaborated with him on Between Maybes, a 2019 romance film in which she starred alongside her real-life boyfriend, Gerald Anderson. Her familiarity with the way Jason worked dispelled any hesitation she may have had. "I was less nervous and less scared of what I was about to get myself into because he's a very tasteful director and he is protective of me."


"His 'sexy' wasn't the type of 'sexy' people would expect," Julia explained. She knew people would want to watch the film for the bed scenes, but she stressed that she viewed the project primarily as a love story. Additionally, she shared that the film doesn’t intend to make a statement on sex work—a loaded angle that a number of film reviews have confronted. "We weren't on a mission to raise awareness on that. I mean, that's a very long, heavy discussion. Because as we speak, it's happening."

"I think that's why it was so important for people to give the film a chance. Of course, we received a lot of questions about that aspect, but we were really just trying to tell a love story here about two characters who had jobs that were open for discussion."

"So, for example, Carlo’s character is a public high school teacher, and there are a lot of discussions also revolving around that. I think one of my favorite messages at the end of the film—that I got as feedback from people who watched—was that love, sometimes, isn't enough. I appreciated that they learned more about love and life than opening the discussion of sex workers or the public school teachers that are underpaid."


"The discussion after watching the film was more [on] how hard life is in the modern day and the reality of what we have to get ourselves into to get by and to survive life. So I think the film was really more about that than opening the discussion of, 'Is this okay or not?'"


"I wasn't worried about what they were going to say, whether their opinion about me or my choice of doing the film. The message I wanted to translate to people as an actor was, like, 'Okay, this is a season in my life where I'm getting out of my comfort zone and you guys have to probably get used to me being older now.' I'm going to be doing mature roles."

"It doesn't mean I'm going to be sexy all the time. Dapat matanggal iyong notion na kapag mature role, kailangan sexy or may skin. It's just that in terms of the material—or the story that I'm trying to tell—it’s just going to be more mature now."



As an example, she talked about her most recent read, Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid, who is the author of the bestselling novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. The former is a historical fiction novel about sibling drama, and explores marital troubles, grief, parenthood, and healing. "I want to tackle stories about a mother and a daughter or a sister. There are just a lot of types of relationships that could be tackled, aside from love stories. But I do look forward to telling more mature love stories that are just relatable and real, especially when you get to the ending," Julia said.

Next, she got candid about a topic that’s been challenged since time immemorial—the quality of Filipino TV. I offered the sentiment that Filipino audiences are tired of recycled plots and bloated melodramas. "Trust us: we know. Especially us who have to do it again and again and again," she laughed.


"We understand and we get it, but recently I feel like the productions have been more and more willing to evolve. And, yeah, I do hope that we evolve more than that." But Filipinos already do love complex K-Dramas. "And Black Mirror," she added. So, why do templated teleseryes still persist? "We have yet to get to the bottom of that," she said thoughtfully.


Her theory, though, is that Filipino viewers adapt faster to dynamic, unfamiliar material when they don’t hold the starring actors to typecasts. Since so many local actors start out as child stars, audiences end up developing parasocial friendships with them and pile on their expectations—perhaps much like a tita would dote on a niece.

For example, one of Julia’s most prominent early roles was as Anna on ABS-CBN’s campy fantaserye Kokey (2007). As she grew, she took on sweetheart roles in teen romcoms like Vince and Kath and James (2016)—still very much within a wholesome range. Thus, even her axe-wielding character in Mikhail Red’s zombie flick Block Z (2020) was something new for the "Drama Princess," as she has been dubbed.


"With Expensive Candy, everyone then was like, 'Woah, what are you doing?' I mean, there were a few comments like, 'Oh is she gonna be a porn star now? Is she gonna be a sexy star now?' That's not the point, guys. That's why it's so hard to jump into material like this because the judgment comes first."

"But look at Florence Pugh and Ana de Armas—they’re just actresses. When they switch from good to bad to everything it's like, so easy to accept. I trust in our industry and I trust that we'll get to a point where we will be brave enough to tackle new materials and stories. But you know, what we'll need is the support of our fellow Filipinos, when we jump into something new."

"I think we just also need to get the support that they'll be willing to adapt if ever the change of material happens. I feel like slowly we're getting there, hopefully," she said.


Time as Gold

Julia’s rhythm proves that life manages to equip you for the season you’re meant to be in. During our conversation, she looked back on the busy days of her childhood, when she was a working kid, before she built her gorgeous house and settled into her newfound internal minimalism.

"It's not glamorous at all, you guys," she sighed. "The glam lasts only for a couple of hours, while you’re at work. Once you get home, you have to decide if you’re glamorous—I mean, there's so much work you have to put in in this industry.


ON JULIA: White Leather Set, MARIAN ZARA, Song of Style Cow Boots, NIRVANA CLOTHING

"When people see the results, they already look polished and easily done, but the behind-the-scenes are really challenging. But it's not a complaint—it's just that I think actors should also be considered as humans. People forget."

Given that she’s seeking out mature, typecast-defying material, I asked if she was looking to break into Hollywood. "It's something that definitely was always on my mind since I was young, but not something that I had put action to. I feel like there are still plenty of things I can do here and I'm fine with that. I don't have that urgency yet. But I feel like when the opportunity comes, I'll jump straight into it," she said.

As a newly-minted Viva artist and the CEO of a year-old accessories brand expanding from e-commerce to brick-and-mortar, the young actor certainly has plenty in store for her. Back in June, her brand, The Juju Club, launched its first pop-up site in Trinoma and was enthusiastically received. Excited fans-slash-customers rushed to take photos with her, to which she happily obliged. Julia even requested that the security barriers (arranged around the store for her safety) be removed to make the pop-up look more welcoming. And when she met a fan who flew in from Samar to visit her, she shed tears of joy.


Despite the dialogue surrounding celebrity and its impressive privileges, there’s no denying that many public figures are superachievers. After all, you need a mind of steel to juggle prolonged acting engagements, early call times, photoshoots, and endorsements, and somehow remain irreplaceable in the mysterious social environment specific to showbiz.


More often than not, you are also expected to start and run a business at some point: a makeup line, a jewelry brand, a wellness venture—you have to find the time to plant the seeds of a lucrative empire that may outlast your acting career. You have to function beautifully in spite of unfathomable social media noise, which is ironically crucial to remaining relevant. These are just some of the many taxing requirements that leave me wondering how Julia does it.


Talking to her, you get the sense that her mental activity is all lean meat—no throwaways. She admitted to feeling "uneasy" during the course of the pandemic after years of nonstop work, but now that the world has rounded out its adjustment to COVID-19 and is back on the grind, Julia says she feels that she’s "home."

"It doesn’t mean it’s easy just because I’m brave. I really still don't know what the future holds for me, if I'm being honest with you."

"I’m really hoping that whatever happens next year, it’s something that I genuinely want to do and that I genuinely feel is not wasting my time. I am manifesting that I will be more productive next year—on my own terms."

Produced by: Steph Sison, Em Enriquez, Ira Nopuente, Andie Estella, and Cheska Santiago

Co-Produced by: Reg Rodriguez, Patricia Melliza, and Leika Golez


Photographed by: Renzo Navarro

Photographer's Assistants: Alexis Wang and Dom Pamatmat

Art Director: Bacs Arcebal

Associate Art Director: Pau Moyano

Final Artist: Kahlil Alcala

Sittings Editor: Marj Ramos-Clemente

Styled by: Cath Sobrevega, Gail Ong, Justin Mendoza, and Charishka Mutya

Makeup by: Anton Patdu

Makeup Artist's Assistant: Bettina Erquieza

Hair by: RJ Dela Cruz

Nails by: Mimi Qiu Luxury Nails

Shoot Assistants: Katrina Maisie Cabral and Cass Lazaro

Words by: Sofia de Aros

Shot on location at Newport World Resorts

Summit Media has the biggest women’s network in the Philippines: Cosmopolitan Philippines, Preview, Candy, and Female Network make up this stellar group. We’re proud to share that Julia Barretto is the cover star across our sister sites! Check out her other covers here:

Cosmo: Julia Barretto Is The Main Character Of Her Life: 'I don't live my life for other people anymore'

Candy: Julia Barretto Is All Grown Up and She's Done Apologizing for Making Her Own Choices


Female Network: Julia Barretto Is Minding Her Own Business

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