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From perennially playing sidekick or supporting roles, Pepe Herrera and Ritz Azul are finally lead starrers in ‘The Hopeful Romantic’



Pepe Herrera and Ritz Azul didn’t expect to get top billing in Regal Entertainment’s “The Hopeful Romantic.” They knew it was a comedy from the get-go but when told they would lead the cast, they thought it was a joke.

(From left): Ritz Azul, Pepe Herrera, and Topel Lee (Photo by Lester Ramos) /

Ritz Azul, Pepe Herrera, and Topel Lee (Photo by Lester Ramos)

Well, who can blame them? Although Pepe is this accidental star after becoming a household name for playing Benny for a time on “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano,” he thought that was a far as he’d go. Previously, he was part of the celebrated musical “Rak of Aegis.”

“I was always just dreaming of becoming a singer and performing on stage with a band,” he said in an interview. “So this, it’s a beautiful surprise.”

In the movie, Pepe plays Jess, a 33 year old valet parking attendant at The Manila Hotel. He is an honest man and, er, a virgin. He promised himself that he will only give himself when he already found his true love.

The comedy actor enjoyed the 12-day shoot, saying the vibe on the set was “very light.”

“Everyone worked together really well. Everything went smooth. We had a happy set.”

The trailer of the movie has been watched at least six million times online so that’s quite a kick for him.

“I enjoy reading the comments,” he said. “They have been praising it, saying they can relate to the story. One of the greatest prizes for actors is when viewers connect to the character you play.”

Coming out of cocoon

The actress is as thankful getting her biggest break yet. Though it took awhile, eight years actually, she believes everything happens for a reason.

A scene from 'Hopeful Romantic' (

A scene from ‘The Hopeful Romantic’

During the story conference, Ritz already knew that the movie has sexy scenes that is why she prepared for those both physically and emotionally. Did she have insecurities? Of course.

“I think it’s normal for every girl to feel that way. Nevertheless, I was able to overcome my inhibitions during the shoots as everyone was very supportive and all were really cheering for me,” she said.

Ritz is proud to say “The Hopeful Romantic” imparts valuable lessons, foremost of these is the importance of staying true to self.

Asked if they are the hopeful persons, both say they always see the glass half-full.

“The Hopeful Romantic” opens in cinemas nationwide on Sept. 12.

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