Amazing Asians in the Arts: Giovannie Espiritu
Giovannie Espiritu is an actress and filmmaker based in Los Angeles!! Her primetime TV credits include ER, Bones, and Gilmore Girls, and she plays the in lead in the Amazon series “Dyke Central.” Her short, Ally 3000, is on the festival circuit and has picked up 9 awards, and as a filmmaker she has her first feature length script in the works! She has also been named one of the top 40 audition coaches in Los Angeles. Keep reading to find out more about what makes Giovannie an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Giovannie Espiritu
Filipinx (The Latinos of Asia) … but evidently there is Portuguese and French in my Ancestry through 300 years of colonization. I used to think that having European/Spanish ancestry made me cooler, but now I’m trying to re-educate myself about the ways that the world has devalued brown and black bodies…I’m not so sure how I feel.
Hometown: I grew up primarily in the Bay Area, but I don’t really feel like I had a hometown since I went to a different school every two years. Born in the Philippines, spent a year or two there as a teen.
Current City: Been in LA for the last 4 years.
The short I wrote and directed, Ally 3000, is still on the festival circuit, and so far it’s picked up 9 awards.
As an actor, I have a holiday romance called Middleton Christmas in post-production where I play the assistant to two-time Emmy winner Eileen Davidson.
As a filmmaker, I’m in development/trying to find funding for my first feature length script “Dis-Graced,” which is a religious satire loosely based on my own coming out (and coming out) of a fundamentalist Christian cult.
What are some of your favorite credits/projects?
My first gig on ER as Med Student Ludlow was a pretty big bang to start my career, so I’ll always be proud of that booking! People don’t know how hard it is to get into that industry, especially as a woman of color. I guess I’m proud of roles for different reasons.
I was nominated alongside Alfre Woodard as Best Supporting Actress for my role as Mara in the feature film “Fiona’s Script,” but that’s also where I met my buddy Florencia Manovil, who is a brilliant storyteller. We’ve known each other since 2008, so when she wrote the lead for me on her series “Dyke Central,” I jumped at the chance! It’s on Amazon right now, and while Gin is very different from me, I’m proud of the series because the leads are masculine of center women, which is still ahead of its time. We are only now starting to see the normalization of various genders and sexualities represented in media.
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
I guess people are always fascinated by my time in a fundamentalist doomsday cult. I’ve been more open about it in the last few years, but honestly, I joined because I was craving some kind of family structure. I am a survivor of childhood abuse which naturally made me more susceptible to unhealthy situations. I am still in the process of healing and understanding so I don’t fall into the same relationship patterns that I had before. That’s part of the reason why I love acting so my…not only is it cathartic for me, but it helps me understand humanity and the motivations that drive people. One of my acting teachers taught me “You either repair or repeat the patterns learned in childhood,” so I’m doing my best to repair and unlearn the generational patterns so I don’t pass them on to my kiddo.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you’d like to share?
I just love the friends that I have made over the years. They say that Hollywood is full of sharks and predators, and in some ways that is true, but I have always believed in the no-asshole policy and surrounding yourself with people who are uplifting and inspiring. My group of friends are some of the most creative, open-hearted people who are hell-bent on changing the world for the better.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
My naivety served me well getting into this business, but I wish I would have started writing and producing earlier. As an actor, I always feel like I have to prove myself to others and jump through hoops. There is also a need for more Asian writers because the representation in the industry is pretty dismal. It’s getting better, thank goodness, but we definitely need more.
Do you have any organizations or non profits you work with you’d like to highlight?
I’m in love with the Outfest Film Festival at the moment because they have been so instrumental in bringing underrepresented voiced to the light, Black Lives Matter (of course), and RAICES in Texas because we still have kids in mother*cking cages.
How did you get your start?
I actually started in voice overs and video games before I transitioned into on-camera film and television. I was still a part of the cult in the woods and the only people from the outside world I would talk to were telemarketers. One of them said that I had an interesting voice and that I should get into voiceovers. I looked it up on the interwebs and I sent a really crappy recording to the biggest agency I could find near me (which was still 4 ½ hours away). Stars (the agency in SF) called me in and signed me on the spot, sent me on an audition, and I ended up booking it AND recording it on the same day. I took it as a sign from God.
Who do you admire?
I’m really into Ryan Murphy right now. I first got into him with the POST series, and then I watched HOLLYWOOD, and now I’m backtracking and watching Glee and sheltering in place because even though people are galavanting everywhere WE ARE STILL IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC and the numbers still haven’t gone down.
Do you have any mentors?
Florencia Manovil is a big mentor/friend/inspiration as a bad ass boss lady… but since I moved to Los Angeles, I got cast in a monster thriller called D-Railed starring Lance Henriksen and I met super-producer Suzanne DeLaurentiis. I started working for her after the movie because I wanted to learn more about production/development/distribution and she’s been a great example of a woman working in a male-dominated industry.
Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here?
Acting kind of saved me from cult life.
When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?
I kind of fell into it, but I did have inklings along the way…but it’s really the only thing that I know how to do. I got into teaching (I’m one of the top 40 audition coaches in Los Angeles) and I enjoy that, but I never really planned things out.
Did you have any interesting “odd jobs” you worked at between shows to pay the bills?
Yep, I worked as an actor for the SFPD Detective training department. I’ve worked as a manager’s assistant, PA’d on shoots… a lot of acting is gig working in between the jobs…
Do you have any other “special skills?”
Eh…not ones that people would pay me for. I used to rock climb and boulder before the pandemic, but since we are trying to stay inside as much as possible, I bought a pole and am learning pole dancing through zoom classes. The muscle control needed is insane.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Mental health in this pandemic has been… interesting. The industry itself is already exhausting on the psyche, but I think not knowing where or when the next job is coming from has always been a challenge.
Where did you study at?
I studied at several different schools in the Bay Area, and once I moved to LA, I enrolled at the Upright Citizens Brigade because Amy Poehler is one of my she-roes. I was fortunate to be awarded several scholarships which helped me continue my education. I’m still learning and in classes as much as possible.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
My kiddo is amazing. (I had a kid in my teens during the whole cult thing…long story, but he’s definitely the best thing that has happened to me – made me grow up real quick and set my priorities straight). He just moved out last year an got two scholarships to college. It was beyond tough being a single mom trying to make a living in the arts.
What are some goals you hope to achieve?
Hmmm… I would love to own a home and travel more. I feel like for the first time (since my kiddo moved out), I can think beyond just survival (ironic, since I’m still thinking about health and survival everyday in the COVID-19 world). Career-wise, I would love to build a sustainable production company, working with friends and making BUCKO bucks by telling stories that make the world a more empathic and inclusive place. Oh, and an Oscar and a Peabody would be nice, but I feel like we have to diversify the membership so that they acknowledge more stories than trauma porn for people of color and marginalized communities.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love connecting with people on set. And if I’m being really honest, I love being able to have the right words to say. I’m an introvert, so although I come out fairly coherent in written form, talking to people in person (if I don’t know them well) is very awkward and embarrassing at times.
What helped you most to rebound from what you considered your biggest failure or mistake in your career?
I had a teacher that was horrible and I listened to what she had to say about me and it nearly destroyed my self-esteem and self-worth at the beginning of my career. I don’t regret it though…I know that going through it was part of my journey and helped me define who I would allow into my life in the future.
What made you take the leap from acting to writing or directing, and how did it change your way of thinking?
I began writing and directing as a response to the frustration that I felt at the lack of roles for normal sized women of color – especially in a bigger market like Los Angeles. I wish I had started creating content earlier. Stories are infinite and it helped me think more expansively… now I just have to learn the funding and distribution aspect.
What inspires you?
It’s been awhile since I felt… inspired… but I do want to create a better world for my kiddo. I guess the next generation does inspire me with their TikTok takeover of the number 45 rally and using social media and technology to change the world. I also love how more accepting they are towards one another.
If you could name one point in time when everything changed for you, what was it?
When I became a mom. That changed my life. My kid is my heart outside my body.
Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself?
Whew. I think I’m pretty much an open book. I guess I would like to plug my acting school: www.HollywoodActorsWorkshop.com - I teach acting to kids/teens/adults online internationally. I was named one of the top 40 audition coaches in Los Angeles, and my alumni students include series regulars and Emmy nominees, and are regularly signed by reputable agencies in every market.
To find out more about Giovannie, please visit her at:
Twitter: @ giospirit