Comebacking Claudine plays a cougar in GMA’s ‘Lovers/Liars’

The Kapuso network might as well be starting a trend with its new primetime series that premieres on 20 November, at 9:30 p.m.: Lovers/Liars, headlined by the comebacking Claudine Barretto. It’s a cougar story. And it seems to be the first one on Pinoy TV and in a major network. 

Barretto, 44, portrays a woman who owns and runs an architectural company and is carrying on a clandestine affair with one of her young architects, played by Yasser Marta.

The young architect, meanwhile, has a girlfriend, portrayed by Shaira Diaz, a Sparkle star of the network. 

Marta, a Fil-Portuguese, 27, started as a child talent on RPN 9 Junior Newswatch Edition in 2008 and on Goin’ Bulilit on ABS-CBN. In his adult years, he emerged the grand finalist in the talent search segment Spogify on Eat Bulaga in 2016. He became a member of a GMA 7 boyband, One Up, and has since appeared in short roles in Kapuso drama series and comedy shows.

His role as Barretto’s boytoy in Lovers/Liars is his first major job as an actor. 

Marta once admitted having had a non-showbiz girlfriend for eight years. This was followed by a short-lived relationship with Kate Valdez, a fellow GMA 7 Sparkle star. 

Practically all the characters in the new series live up to its title of being lying lovers, both young and old. The other young ones are portrayed by Lianne Valentine, Michelle Vito (formerly with ABS-CBN), Sarah Edwards, Rob Gomez and Kimson Tan.

Polo Ravales and Christian Vasquez are the series’ seasoned actors. Ravales portrays a closet gay guy whose secret lover is played by Gomez.

Crisanto Aquino (Instant Daddy, Vivamax’s Relyebo and TBA’s Write About Love) directs from a script by Noreen Capili, based on award-winning writer/director Joey Javier Reyes’ storyline. 

Barretto’s last TV series was in 2016 yet: Bakit Manipis ang Ulap?, produced by Viva Television and TV5. Her co-stars were Cesar Montano, Diether Ocampo and Meg Imperial.

Her career has been hampered by a soured marriage (to actor Raymart Santiago, who has also moved to GMA 7 from ABS-CBN) and health fluctuations. 

Barretto began her showbiz career as a child star on ABS-CBN. At her prime in that network, she was paired with Rico Yan, Aga Muhlach and Piolo Pascual. 

Lovers/Liars is a co-production of GMA 7 and Regal Entertainment of the Monteverdes (“Mother Lily” and daughter Roselle Monteverde). The series will replace Unbreak My Heart, the co-production of ABS-CBN, GMA 7 and Hong Kong-based regional content supplier Viu. 

Empowered women

A “cougar” in American slang is a woman in her 40s who seeks the company of men younger than her by a decade or more.

In Unbreak my Heart, Jodi Sta. Maria’s character Rose also fell for a younger man, Renz (Joshua Garcia) but the relationship was labelled a “May-December affair,” and it seemed to have been a short one.

After some nights with Rose, Renz met a woman his age, Alex (Gabbi Garcia), who would turn out to be the daughter Rose had been looking for.

We have a strong feeling that if Lovers/Liars makes it big, TV series producers will start churning out more stories of mature women falling for younger men. Pinoy cougars will be billed as “empowered” women.

Many of our actresses with box-office power are already in their mid- and late-30s: Lovi Poe, Kathryn Bernardo, Janine Gutierrez, Carla Abellana and Beauty Gonzales. Nadine Lustre is already 30 years old herself. 

Those just in their 20s include Andrea Brillantes, Francine Diaz, Belle Mariano and a bevy of Vivamax stars, none of whom, incidentally, has topbilled a movie shown in theaters. 

Well, actually one Vivamax star is topbilling a horror film set to be shown in theaters nationwide beginning 22 November.

Rhen Escaño stars in Marita, directed by Roni Benaid, the writer and director of the hit supernatural horror thriller Mary Cherry Chua, also produced by Viva Films in July this year and released in theaters. 

The conservative Louise de los Reyes co-stars as a drama teacher, with Marita (Escaño) as a former popular theater actor on campus.

The female newbies in the film include Ashtine Olviga, Andrea Babierra and Yumi Garcia, along with fresh male faces such as Ethan David, Taneo Uyam and JD Axie.