One phone call with a telemarketer changed Giovannie Espiritu’s life. Now, she’s an award-winning Hollywood actress, filmmaker and the creator of Ally 3000.
Her primetime credits include ER (NBC), Bones (FOX), Gilmore Girls (ABC) and Trauma (NBC). She starred in the Amazon series, “Dyke Central,” which was featured in After Ellen, BuzzFeed, Bust Magazine and Curve Magazine as a top LGBTQ series to watch. Most recently, Espiritu can be seen as Melody in the feature film “Middleton Christmas.”
Espiritu’s path to stardom was unique. As a teenager, she went to the Philippines to help take care of her grandfather, and after difficult situations, including abuse from her stepfather, she found comfort in being part of a youth group. At the time, she was not aware of what was happening but later realized she had joined a cult.
Being involved with this group, who she explained as religious and took instances as signs from God, brought Espiritu back to California as a married woman and mother living in the mountains.
Although her passion for the arts was always evident in her childhood – starring in plays and participating in conservatory theater – it wasn’t until a telemarketer suggested she’d be a great fit for voiceover roles that she took it seriously. “I always loved [acting], but I didn’t have the resources or supportive parents. It was more of a pursuit of survival at that point in time.”
She reached out to Stars Agency in San Francisco, was signed immediately, and booked her first gig. “I kind of just went all in, because I didn’t know what else to do. There wasn’t a backup plan for me.” For Espiritu, acting gave her a shot in the big leagues but it was also an escape from the life she was living.
Within a year, Espiritu’s career skyrocketed, she signed with an agent, and later booked her debut primetime role on NBC’s ER.
Although Espiritu’s landed a variety of roles, she felt as though Hollywood’s cookie-cutter algorithm to success was meant for someone else. “It’s like a supply and demand thing. So, yeah, you see good looking white dudes getting into the industry so fast. They barely have to do anything, because there are roles waiting for them. But if you are a normal looking, slightly plump, woman of color, it’s a lot harder.”
She explained having frustrations with being talked over and being discredited for her ideas and work. “As a woman of color, somebody would take my idea, and then it would be passed off as theirs just because they had the louder voices in the room.”
She continued with, “It’s like this Asian woman thing where it feels weird to brag. If we don’t speak up, the loudest voices get all the attention. I’m trying to stop being that way. But it’s so ingrained in us.”
In 2019, Espiritu took matters into her own hands with Ally 3000, a short film written ad directed by Espiritu herself. She explained that the story stems from a mix of anger and frustration. She said, “What would it be like if I had the privilege of a white male? What kind of things would I do in the world? How would I move differently? What could I accomplish or what could I do?” The film, which also stars Kevin Duffin and Leticia LaBelle, explores gender and racial inequalities in the workplace.
Ally 3000 won Best Screenplay at the Culture and Diversity Film Festival (Los Angeles) and the Cyrus International Film Festival (Toronto) as well as picked up several awards in the categories of Social Justice/Women Filmmakers/Scriptwriting/Humorist in the IndieFEST Film Awards and International Best Shorts Awards.
As a writer and filmmaker, the process has been cathartic for Espiritu. “It’s like a way for me to expunge all the poufy feelings [or the frustrations] that I have in a way that is creative and not destructive.” Despite the adversities, she’s found peace and purpose in acting and the art of filmmaking.
“I know that acting creates empathy in other people. I have seen acting change somebody’s heart or they understand themselves better while playing a character. That’s why I love it so much – and that’s why I keep going,” she said. “The external stuff is cool, but it doesn’t feed [your soul] at the end of the day.”
For Espiritu, she believes that success in the industry does not have to be measured by the opportunities people give you. Instead, success can be measured by what you’ve done to move one step closer to your goal.
“There’s this thing where you have to hustle all the time. Hustle. Hustle. Hustle. And it can break people down,” she said. “Be graceful with the progress. I think one of the lessons of this year is that we can allow ourselves to sit and be still. We still have work, but we still need that incubation time. So be graceful with that.”
When Espiritu isn’t acting or writing, she coaches kids and teens online nationwide through www.HollywoodActorsWorkshop. Currently, she’s in pre-production for her upcoming project titled “Disgraced.” Follow more of her work at www.GiovannieEspiritu.com and @giospirit2 on Instagram.