It is a gloomy Sunday afternoon, and Joshua Garcia is gamely sitting down on the floor of the studio, putting on his best swoon-worthy faces for the camera.
The 19-year-old actor is mostly quiet as he works, occasionally asking the photographer what to do and how to angle himself. It’s clear right away that he’s got that charming teenybopper appeal; the kind that translates to pabebe if a male equivalent of the word even existed. It’s the silent kind of cute that’s easy on the eyes — the kind that causes you to either keep staring or to look away shyly.
This is the guy who’s been dubbed by fans as “the baby Alden Richards” (thanks to his cheeky smile) and by critics and industry leaders as “the next John Lloyd Cruz” (thanks to his impressive acting skills). We witnessed his first major leading role as Vince, the mostly torpe Cyrano de Bergerac (minus the long nose), semi-guy-next-door type in Star Cinema’s Vince & Kath & James. Sure, Joshua’s a pretty face. But a quick assessment of his performance as Vince says so much more: the depth he brought to the character and the ease in which he effortlessly handled all those kilig moments was what made him stand out.
You can see it right now in the studio — the photographer has just asked him to laugh, and he makes a soft giggling sound that absolutely melts you, making it very hard not to laugh along with him. It is then that you understand just how natural the onscreen kilig is. If this is what it’s like to see him in person, what more on TV? The Batangas-born actor broke into showbiz in the same way as other local A-listers like Toni Gonzaga, Gerald Anderson and James Reid — through a stint inside the famed Pinoy Big Brother house. Hailing from Bauan, Batangas, Joshua had to drop out of high school due to financial problems. Winning the cash prize would’ve helped him and his family.
Since joining the reality show, his goals have changed. “Una, pumasok ako sa bahay dahil kailangan kong manalo. Kahit anong place doon sa (Final) Four, maalin doon sa apat, masaya na ako,” he says. Now, he has set his sights on something simpler and a bit nobler. “Ang goal ko dito is magpasaya ng tao kasi nasa entertainment kami,” he says. Doon kami sa mag-entertain ng tao. Ayun. Kasi nagpapasaya ka, kumikita ka rin. Masaya ka pa. Di ba?”
You’d think that someone who has spent time on a reality show would be used to coming up with quick comebacks and guarded replies for an audience. But Joshua, who placed sixth in 2014’s Pinoy Big Brother All-In, is still getting used to it. He’s been in the business for over two years, but it seems like he’s still warming up to the daily hustle — the back-to-back shoots and interviews, the taping for his afternoon serye The Greatest Love, the high-energy mall shows, and the promo tour for Vince & Kath & James.
He answers questions slowly and deliberately, looking to his handler every now and then, probably to assure himself that what he’s saying makes sense. Listening to him speak (he does, admittedly, sound just like John Lloyd), one thing is certain: he’s bent on taking acting very seriously. Since his performance as Vince, Joshua’s been quite in-demand. With TV show guestings and magazine and newspaper shoots happening left and right, he reveals that he hasn’t had any time to take a break. “Wala pa akong bakasyon eh,” he says with a sigh that makes him seem way more tired than he originally let on. “Pero pag nagkaroon, sulitin ko siya kasi di ako nakapaghinga noong MMFF kasi first time ko naman na mag-MMFF, so sinulit ko na.”
These words might be surprising to anyone who remembers him from his PBB days. Back in the house, he was known as the housemate who didn’t put in much work during group tasks, like when he and actress Jane Oineza had to teach a kid how to perform an original nursery rhyme. There’s no denying, however, that the present Joshua — three years older and a bit taller — has a more mature air.
When asked if he’d be willing to go back into the Bahay ni Kuya, this Joshua is quick to refuse: “Okay lang na guest na siguro isang araw lang,” he says, looking straight ahead. “Pero sa totoo lang, dein na, dein na. Na-experience ko na din kasi yun,” he continues. “Kasi maguguluhan talaga ang isip mo kasi walang time, walang date, walang cellphone.”
Before PBB, Joshua had little interest in showbiz, with his time in the spotlight mostly relegated to his performances with Batangas cultural dance group Sining Kumintang. And since PBB is a reality show, he really only got into acting later, when given the chance to attend workshops to hone his skills. During workshops, Joshua had a one-on-one session with veteran actor Pen Medina, who taught him lessons that he still goes back to today.
“Kasi dati, nahihirapan akong bigyang emosyon yung mukha ko, kung ano yung kailangan sa eksena,” he recalls. “Sabi niya, kailangan ko raw maramdaman sa heart rin, lalabas siya, kusa. Hindi lang sa mukha, kundi sa kilos, kung paano gumalaw.”
As a kid, Joshua enjoyed watching cartoons more than movies. His love for movies was sparked when his dad sat him down to watch The Matrix. “Sabi ng Papa ko na manood ako tapos intayin ko lang hanggang matapos kasi magugustuhan ko. Ganoon lang pala— tatapusin mo yung movie. Tapos nagulat ako na nagustuhan ko.”
John Lloyd comes up in the conversation even without prompting. When the subject of acting influences comes up, Joshua bashfully declares that “Kuya John Lloyd” is his idol. “Siya kasi ang nakikitaan mo na talagang seryoso siya sa craft niya sa batch na iyon,” says Joshua, with a tone of excitement and reverence.
But while he’d like to reach what Cruz has already achieved, he stresses that he has his own style as an actor, which is something that he hopes people eventually notice. “Siguro dahil parehas kaming seryoso sa craft namin and sobrang mahal namin ang craft namin. Siguro lang naman.” In this way, Joshua wants to take on more roles that challenge him to be a character completely different from what he’s like in real life. He explains that taking on a variety of roles will help him grow as an actor, especially since he can use different aspects of the characters to mix things up. “Mahahasa ka, maensayo — maho-hone (ang skills),” he explains.
Once the shoot wraps, he thanks us all, making sure to give all the ladies in the room a kiss on the cheek before leaving for his mall show in Navotas. It’s a simple gesture, one we imagine would get lots of girls doubling down from the kilig.
That Joshua has had a lot more to say towards the latter part of the interview signals that he’s warmed up, which could be another sign that he’s slowly getting the hang of things. Acting, he says, is a lot harder than it looks because of how you need to prepare. “Mahirap. Kailangan mo maging mabusisi, eh. Mahirap. Basta, mahirap maging actor.” Then again, that doesn’t make it any less rewarding.
The year may be only beginning, but we join everyone else in saying that Joshua Garcia is 2017’s next big thing.