For Lifestyle.INQ’s August 2023 cover story, Lovi Poe chronicles her 15-year long career, the lessons she’s learned along the way, and what lies ahead
“Do you think you’ve gotten used to it?” I ask Lovi Poe as we walk together.
On our way to the second layout location of our cover shoot, we encountered at least six different people who had stopped whatever it was they were doing just to greet her. (Yes, I was counting.)
“It must be crazy having random strangers come up to you all the time and say hi to you, like they know you personally.” Lovi grins.
“I love it,” she tells me.
Being the daughter of former actress Rowena Moran and Philippine action star Fernando Poe Jr., it’s safe to say that fame is an element woven into the fabric of her everyday life. However, Lovi has come a long way since being thrust into the spotlight during her father’s 2004 presidential campaign. With over 15 years of experience in the entertainment industry herself, Lovi’s career is the fruit of her own hard work.
“That’s my problem when I work on set. I can’t say no to pictures, even if they’re stopping me because the crowds start to get too rowdy. But I just can’t say no because I don’t wanna take away that simple joy.”
Contrary to the rules of politeness fame sometimes instills into actors, Lovi’s affection is natural. I had only known her for about an hour or so but her sincerity resonates. When strangers stop everything they’re doing just to get the chance to say hi to her, she stops everything she is doing too. “When people stop me and say hello, I’m grateful, you know? Sometimes I wish I could give them more time,” she shares.
For Lifestyle.INQ’s August 2023 cover, we’re shooting at The Peninsula Manila on a busy Tuesday morning. Guests shuffle through the hotel as we set up. You can hear the buzz of conversation from people catching up in the lobby. By the time our second layout was over, the six people I had counted on our way there had now become eight. The day had just begun.
“It’s just so fun how I get to wake up in the morning and I get to become someone else. I mean, what kind of job gives you that opportunity?” Four days before meeting Lovi, her latest film “Seasons” had just debuted on Netflix. It quickly made its way to the top of the streaming site, raking in glowing reviews.
“This was my dream [acting] growing up. And I’m just one of the lucky ones who get to do whatever it is that they dreamt of doing as a kid. It doesn’t really feel like work for me.” However, acting wasn’t always Lovi’s first choice. Playfully, she recalled her ambitions of pursuing a career in music, and how she’d join extracurricular activities at school to further develop her interest. “My club [in school] was always the glee club. And then, ‘pag puno na ‘yung glee club, fine, drama club na nga lang. Medyo masama pa ‘yung loob ko because I really wanted glee club.”
(But if Glee Club was already full, i’d do drama club instead. I’d even feel a bit bad because I really wanted glee club)
Funnily enough, Lovi dips her toes back into music with her latest character. In “Seasons,” viewers follow the good ol’ trope of best friends Charlie (Lovi) and Kurt (Carlo Aquino) who might just be a little bit more than friends. Inseparable since time immemorial, their platonic relationship takes a turn when Charlie decides to set Kurt up with Jane, played by Sarah Edwards.
“Charlie isn’t the best character, to be honest,” Lovi shares.
“When I came up with the concept of this story, I noticed how audiences always follow the character you want to root for because, you know, they’re great people.”
“With ‘Seasons,’ I wanted a character that made really bad decisions in life, because that’s most of us. It’s hard to follow a movie like that, because it makes you cringe and reminds you of certain things that you’ve done in the past. But that’s exactly what I wanted to showcase.”
Apart from playing the starring role in the film, Lovi played a critical role in developing the story’s screenplay alongside Dwein Baltazar.
“What I love about Charlie is how loving and fun she is. The things that make her a little less attractive are what also make her attractive. Her character is a bit heartbreaking, but that’s just how it is. I want people to remember with her character that, with bad decisions, you have irreversible consequences.”
Drawing from her own personal encounters, Lovi explains how there is always a lesson to be learned whenever it comes to relationships, regardless of whether or not you end up together in the long run. “I always say there are no failed relationships. That’s how I feel about Charlie and Kurt.”
Making her own mark
A product of two actors, it’s easy to see how Lovi’s desire to become an artist developed. However, the process of finding her way into film was not as easy as most people might think. Lovi laid out the foundation of her filmography by taking on roles in independent films.
“At first, it was so hard for me. I remember the first time na sinalang ako, oh my god, I gave my directors a hard time. It wasn’t instant. I wasn’t good. I was just grateful that everybody was so patient with me—my co-actors, my directors. The work itself was the best training.”
(I remember the first time I tried acting.)
As Lovi’s career persisted, her love for acting and filmmaking grew. “It’s hard for me to say that I love it more than singing now. But it’s just different. There are days when I want to sing more, and there are days when I want to act more.”
With over 70 acting credits under her belt, Lovi has proven herself to be one of the most respected names in the entertainment industry, showcasing her range as an actor and continuously challenging herself by taking on characters outside her comfort zone.
“I go the extra mile whenever I play a new character. You’re not gonna hire me just to stand there and look pretty. I’m not just decoration. I always want to do my best and give them what they asked me to do and more.”
While the Lifestyle.INQ team speaks to Lovi, I can’t help but notice her phone’s lock screen. At a glance, it looks like a familiar comic book character, but I just can’t seem to figure out who. A lightbulb goes off in my head. I quickly recall a fan-made illustration that made rounds online a few months back of Lovi as the Marvel Studios character “Wave” and quickly put the two together. I mean, it only makes sense for the daughter of “The King of Action Films” to be reimagined as a Marvel heroine, right?
“I’ve never actually done a full-on action series or action movie, which I think is quite odd,” she confesses. For the past six months, Lovi has played the role of “Mokang” in “FPJ’s Batang Quiapo,” a TV series based on her late father’s 1986 action-comedy film of the same name. “In ‘Batang Quiapo’ I do have some action scenes. They make me do some stunts a little bit. But yeah, nothing full-on.”
But she hopes to change this in the near future. “I’d honestly love to play a girl version of Panday.” I see her eyes light up at the thought of it.
Over the span of 40 long years, four different actors have played the role of Panday. In 1993, Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla succeeded Fernando Poe Jr. in portraying the sword-wielding Flavio, followed by Jericho Rosales, Richard Gutierrez, and Coco Martin, respectively.
“I think a female Panday would be great. Why not mix it up a little and turn Panday into a woman?”
Elevating the voice of female characters
As a child, I remember seeing Fernando Poe Jr.’s face plastered all over the television. It didn’t matter who I spoke to or where I went, everyone knew “FPJ.”
However, I also wondered often if there were any female versions of him. Someone I could personally look up to. A character that looked, sounded, and moved like me—a girl. Apart from the occasional Darna reboot, it always felt like there was a shortage of strong female characters in Filipino film and television. Understanding how her father shaped Philippine pop culture and entertainment, Lovi shares that there is still so much to be done when it comes to representing young girls on the big screen. Perhaps this is also the reason behind her desire to flip the narrative and breathe new life into such a male-associated character.
Addressing how women have been portrayed in film and television in recent years, Lovi shares: “I think we’ve come a long way. I think now, we see a lot of female characters that are empowered, and not just damsels in distress. I think we’ve showcased a lot of strong women for sure. But I definitely think we could do more.”
“There’s always room for more improvement, and there’s a lot of stories that can be told differently. We always do the same thing and maybe it’s because that’s what audiences are used to, but it’s important to explore and do more.”
Life behind the screen
While Lovi has successfully established a career for herself in front of the screen, she’s recently added a new feather to her cap with the launch of her own production house “C’est Lovi Productions.”
“Sometimes it’s a breather from acting, but it’s also very different,” she reveals. Since its launch, Lovi has been splitting her time between Manila and Los Angeles. On the rare occasion that she isn’t filming, she’s probably jetting off to Angel City to check in on things. Her latest project as executive producer? None other than a 2023 remake of “The Room” that will star Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul,” “Breaking Bad,” “Seinfeld”). “Life in LA, it’s a different pace for me. Manila can get hectic, and being there gives me time to relax. But I’m also there to work.”
“Our main goal for C’est Lovi Productions is to be able to showcase Filipino talent everywhere, all over the world. Hopefully that’s something that we can accomplish.”
Apart from her desire to uplift homegrown talent, Lovi also hopes to use C’est Lovi as a gateway to more screenwriting opportunities. But just like any other venture, she shares the different struggles that go into running your own production house. “Finding good material is one of the hardest things because there’s so much out there. It’s also hard to execute in general. It takes a while. That’s why I really look up to film producers because it takes a lot of work. There’s so many things involved. So many factors to think about.”
“I think to be honest, one of the best feelings ever is when you’re able to do a scene perfectly. When I finish a scene and I know myself that I really felt that scene and people start clapping, it’s one of the best feelings for me, ever. And it’s not even because of the recognition. It’s just touching people’s hearts when I do a scene, when I make people cry when they’re meant to be crying.”
After our shoot, Lovi will have another busy day of filming ahead of her. It’s a privilege that we managed to wrap up our shoot before it even got dark out.
Lovi continues: “Another thing that keeps me going is when I receive really sweet messages from the people who support me. Like recently, I received flowers and a sinigang bouquet from my supporters. They gave me letters one-by-one and I was just blown away! Things like that motivate me. They keep me going.”
When it comes to the daily life of a working actor, Lovi admits that some days can be difficult. I mean, I personally have to drag myself to the gym every week. What more for someone following a rigorous routine? Wake up. Eat healthy. Shoot. Work out. Have time for self-care. Take care of pets. Travel. Maybe even work out again. Sleep. Repeat.
For all intents and purposes, I am led to believe that Lovi Poe is the hardest working woman in showbiz.
There is a discipline required to make it in such a grueling industry. This discipline is something that Lovi has seemingly mastered. She does it ever so gracefully, even stopping along the way to thank the people who got her there.
As we part with Lovi, she shares one of the things she’s learned from her mentors after being in the industry for so long.
“Be good to everyone they work with. I’ve learned from my mentors how important it is to have good relationships on set. How you deal with staff, crew, directors, co-actors. Respect everyone who’s part of the team. No special treatment. I think without saying anything, that’s one thing that I noticed from the people that I look up to and my mentors. That’s how you last.”
Photography by JT Fernandez, assisted by Anton Sarte
Styling by Sophia Berbano Concordia, assisted by Anneliese Ng, Kyla Chuasiaokong, and Samantha Olegario
Creative Direction by Nimu Muallam
Make-up by Gery Penaso
Hair by Kiel Otilla
Production assistance by Lala Singian, Martin Agustin, and Colleen Cosme
Cover design by Julia Elaine Lim
Shot on location at The Peninsula Manila
Special thanks to Mariano Garchitorena, Nikki Martel, and Marion Branellec De Guzman