Giovannie Espiritu does not have a typical acting origin story. A bisexual, once-undocumented immigrant Filipina mom, Espiritu spent time in a Biblical doomsday cult as a teenager, where some of her only friends were telemarketers. But it was those telemarketers that got her into acting – and since then, she has never looked back.
“When I was in the cult, the only people I would talk to were telemarketers,” Espiritu tells Tagg. “But then one of them told me I should get into voice-overs because I have a really interesting voice. I sent an agency in San Francisco a recording of myself, and they ended up signing me and booking me for a video game.”
After a few years doing voice-overs, Espiritu took an acting class and booked her first on-camera job on the long-running medical drama ER. She also appeared in episodes of Gilmore Girls and Bones in 2007.
But perhaps her most famous role to date came in 2015, as Gin in the Oakland-based dramedy Dyke Central. Produced, directed, and written by a queer Latina filmmaker named Florencia Manovil, Dyke Central ran for one season and revolved two 30-something butch roommates Alex and Gin and their queer friends.
The experience was formative for Espiritu, who credits Manovil for “showcasing the queer community before it became cool” and featuring a world where queer people are “part of it and not just trauma stories.”
Playing a character like Gin, who was a Filipina genderqueer soft butch, was also particularly rewarding for Espiritu, as it represented a return to a gender expression she embraced during her youth.
“In real life, I’m more femme,” says Espiritu. “But with this role, I got to lean into the more masculine, more tomboy part of myself, which I had when I was younger. But when I was part of the cult, I let that go, and I lost that part of myself.”
Since playing Gin, Espiritu has booked a number of acting roles. Recently, she appeared alongside AnnaLynne McCord (90210) in the 2022 Tubi original Titanic 666, a supernatural disaster movie that takes places 110 years after the Titanic sank.
But Espiritu’s work has not just stopped with acting. In the last few years, Espiritu has also blossomed into a filmmaker in her own right. For example, in 2019, she wrote and recorded “Ultra-Feminist,” a poem-turned-short-film that speaks to the misogyny that Espiritu has faced as a woman of color in the industry.
Espiritu’s second film, “Ally 3000,” centers around a new tech product designed to alleviate white guilt in the workplace.
“Basically, all of my films revolve around some kind of injustice I’m feeling,” shares Espiritu. “Ally 3000 was about the frustration and micro-aggressions that I was facing within the work environment as a woman of color and what we have to do to be pleasant and acceptable.”
Aside from being a filmmaker, Espiritu has also been an acting teacher for the last fifteen years. She works primarily with kids, including Rosalie Chiang, who stars as the lead character of the 2022 Pixar film, Turning Red.
Earlier this year, Espiritu also started her own production company called Her Hunger Media, which came out of a place of frustration and anger with racism and sexism in the film industry. “Just being a woman in this industry is already difficult. On top of that, I’m also a Filipina person of color,” shares Espiritu.
“Even in the Asian circles, sometimes Filipinas aren’t Latina enough looking to play Latina roles or Asian enough looking to play Asian roles,” says Espiritu. “I started Her Hunger Media because I was tired of waiting and asking permission to be part of the story.”
With Espiritu at the helm of Her Hunger Media, the film and media industry are only destined to improve.