SPOT.ph’s Cherie Gil Gallery. Photo by Raymund Isaac. Click for more photos.
Cherie Gil was born to have an audience. And, despite occasional detours, she has found herself now and again back in front of one throughout her colorful life’s many ups and downs. Born Evangeline Rose Eigenmann to a family of actors (to parents Rosemarie Gil and Eddie Mesa, and brothers Michael de Mesa and Mark Gil), she’s been performing since she was 1o. After 37 years in the business and dozens of unforgettable roles brought to life the way only she can, it can be said that she conquered the movies, television and now, with her acclaimed reprised portrayal of opera diva, "La Divina" Maria Callas in the ongoing play "Master Class"--the stage.
Since her divorce from international violinist Rony Rogoff in 2008, Cherie Gil has plunged herself headlong back into the biz, doing one teleserye after another (Katorse, Pieta, Rubi), shooting two movies (Working Girls and Agaton & Mindy), acting in plays ("Sound of Music" and "Doubt" in 2006, "Master Class" in 2008 and again this year) and has become once again a bonafide Manila resident, eager to explore and relish all that the city has to offer.
SPOT.ph gets into the head of the beautiful acting powerhouse who’s come full circle from living la vida Lavinia to La Divina, to see what she has to say about the art of acting, dancing, eating, relaxing, sweating it out, living it up, and imbibing her favorite Callas-isms.
Do random strangers ever come up to you and quote your famous "second-rate copycat" line?
Yes! Sometimes even from six-year-old kids who were not even born yet when Bituing Walang Ningning was made. Their parents stop me in shops just to taunt their daughters to say the line for my amusement. Quite humbling, in fact. More shocking even is to hear straight men--metrosexuals at that--utter the line. Hilarious!
Are you really that mataray off-cam?
(Laughs) Depends on my mood that day. Most of the time, I think I am not.
You’ve been in the industry for quite some time but you always manage to keep your acting interesting. How do you make yourself such a "likable" kontrabida?
I am? I never really put any deep thought into it. I just try to breathe in a real human being into the characters I play and try to emanate the different nuances we all go through in real life. Human beings are complex. All of us go through our good and dark sides every so often depending on our daily impetus and experiences. Life is a journey of learning from our mistakes and human errors. So in the case of my characters, I try to relive all these for all so that they may identify with it and realize that there is always rhyme and reason for our reactions and behavior and eventually find redemption in the end. They have just got to be human. That’s all. I do not believe in black and white portrayals of characters.
Cherie Gil and Sharon Cuneta in the iconic scene from "BituingWalang Ningning"
Do you ever get tired of being typecast as the kontrabida? What other kinds of roles have you dreamt of playing?
I really never branded the characters I have been offered as kontrabida nor do I believe in typecasting. I know for a fact, which is quite obvious, that most roles offered to me are of strong, feisty women. Anything different from that would probably be unbelievable (laughs) which really, I do not mind at all. I like projecting strong. I like projecting feisty and being an instrument in empowering our women of today.
Dream roles? Hmm... Anything that leads me to the stage from now on. Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard would be great to portray.
If you weren’t an actress, what would you be? Did you ever want to be a runway model?
I was a teen runway model. This was for Rustan’s VIP and I was the youngest of the crop that year. I was 14. We were the last batch, I believe, at that time. After that, I had the opportunity to do runway modeling for Pitoy Moreno and Fanny Serrano.
What other jobs would I be doing outside of acting? I would have loved to teach teens and kids anything about the performing arts. Outside of that, I would much prefer not to work and own a successful business in fashion instead and just sit on my laurels (laughs). Let my staff do the work while I travel the world (me bad). I also wouldn’t mind being involved in a fashion magazine, let’s say as editor-in-chief, maybe? I also wouldn’t mind running and organizing film festivals in the States especially in New York like Tribeca or the Sundance. So many possibilities!
Being as multi-talented as you are, is there still a skill you want to master or acquire?
Yes! Life should always be about learning something new. I would love to learn to speak fluently in as many languages as possible. Photography as well.
Have you always taken acting seriously? If not, when did you start doing so?
You mean if I always knew I wanted to be an actress? Umm... No, I didn’t. I was born into a family of actors and my parents, Rose Marie Gil and Eddie Mesa, were successful actors themselves. So I guess it was a natural result to become one since I breathed and lived that air as a child. It was only recently after so many years of doing films that I actually realized that this was truly my calling and in so doing, I took it more seriously and always made it a point to put my best foot forward. I began to attend workshops here and in New York to improve my craft and be more professional about it. I guess it comes with growth and maturity and having a better understanding of the self. For this, I thank Rony who was an inspiration and catalyst in my accepting my calling as an actress. So, it happened during my marriage, which was like after 15 years of acting already? I truly wanted to be a singer and performer on the live stage. This, I have always loved. Even as a child, I would improvise my own stage at home and invite neighbors and family (much to their chagrin) to watch me sing and dance. Dance was my very first love! Just too much work, training and discipline that I gave up on it along the way.
On the Spot: Cherie Gil
From Cherie's Facial Care Center ad campaign. Photo by Raymund Isaac
"The Punishing of Forgiveness," a photograph by Niccolo Cosme for his exhibit Cosme XXX.
Cherie through the years
The Eigenmann kids: Cherie (right) with brothers Mark Gil (left) and Michael de Mesa (center)
Teenage Cherie(center) with brothers Mark Gil (eft) and Michael de Mesa (right)
Cherie and Bernardo Bernardo starred in a 1983 local production of Neil Simon's play "Barefoot in the Park," where she experienced her first on-stage kiss. Photo by Jaime Patena.
Acting Royalty: The Eigenmanns, Michael de Mesa, Eddie Mesa, Cherie Gil, Rosemary Gil and Mark Gil
With on-screen husband Gardo Verzosa in this wedding scene from Rubi
With some of Rubi's cast and crew: Gardo Verzosa, Juan Rodrigo, Susan Africa, Dante Rivero
Preview cover, July 2005.
Cherie on the cover of Rogue's March 2008 issue.
In Boracay for the 5K Skyathon.
Cherie tangoes her way into "Shall We Dance?"
As "La Divina," opera diva Maria Callas in "Master Class" produced by the Philippine Opera Company.
As Baroness Elsa Schrader in "The Sound of Music" in 2006.
Waiting in line with other fans to meet the stars of "Nine" on Broadway
Cherie meets "Nine" stars Antonio Banderas and Jane Krakowski outside the theater. She asks him "Un beso, por favor?" and gets a kiss from him!
In New York with kids Raphael, Renee, Bianca and ex-husband Rony Rogoff. Renee is Rony's daughter from his previous marriage to Filipina model Ping Valencia.
With eldest son Jay, 23, Raphael, 12, Bianca, 14 and ex-husband Rony Rogoff in New York.
With close showbiz chums Giselle Tongi, Mylene Dizon and sister-in-law-to-be Julie Reyes
With showbiz friends Mylene Dizon, Eugene Domingo, Agot Isidro and director Andoy Ranay
Photo by Raymund Isaac for Facial Care Canter.