BEVERLEY HILLS, CALIFORN1A, MAY 15, 2012 (PHILSTAR) CONVERSATIONS With Ricky Lo - Again, if I were somebody else, I would start this story this way:

I attended the presscon for Lionsgate’s What To Expect When You’re Expecting (showing in the Philippines starting on Thursday, May 17, released locally by Pioneer Films) Sunday last week at a function room of (as usual) Four Seasons Hotel. When Jennifer Lopez walked in from a side door (the stars’ “secret” entrance) with co-stars Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks and Anna Kendrick, she stopped in her tracks when she saw me and yelled, “Hi, Ricky! Did you get the Christmas Card, Valentine Card and many other cards that I’ve sent you?”

[PHOTO - What to expect from Jennifer Lopez if and when you catch her in unguarded moments]

Then, she broke away from her companions and rushed to plant a kiss on both my cheeks. Well, I’ve interviewed her thrice before — in 2000 for The Cell with Vince Vaughn in New York, a few years after that in Hong Kong where she launched her album and in 2010 for The Back-Up Plan with Alex O’Loughlin (of the revived Hawaii Five-O) — and I presumed that, ehem, we’re close.

But, of course, that was not what happened. I wasn’t much of an ilusyonado to presume that every Hollywood star that I interview automatically becomes close to me. The truth is that when Jennifer arrived, she didn’t even glance at me…maybe because I was partly hidden at the back of the venue? Well, maybe.

In the movie inspired by Heidi Murkoff’s best-selling self-help book for pregnant women, Jennifer doesn’t play a pregnant woman (Cameron and Anna do) but a photographer (Holly) set to travel the world to adopt a child, with Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro (See accompanying story) as her husband Alex who isn’t too sold to his wife’s plan. In The Back-Up Plan, however, Jennifer did play a late-bloomer in a hurry to get pregnant at all costs, come what might.

There were more than 50 of us journalists both “domestic” and “international” in attendance and time was limited so I had to compete with the rest for a chance to ask a question. I got it!

As an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), I had to introduce myself first.

“Hi, Jennifer. I am Ricky Lo from the Philippines…”

Jennifer: Oh, hi, how are you?

“I’m okay. On behalf of the Filipinos, I want to thank you for ‘saving’ Jessica Sanchez on American Idol.” (Remember how Judge Jennifer went onstage and grabbed the mike from a stunned Jessica and “scolded” everybody for not voting for a truly talented singer, thereby retaining Jessica among the Top Four. Jessica has just made it to the Top Three, with one more hurdle for her to land in a winner’s slot.)

Jennifer: You are very welcome!

“I notice that you have such a strong Philippine connection…”

I thought I saw a sparkle in Jennifer’s eyes. I guessed that only she and I knew what I meant, with the other journalists absolutely clueless. You, too, know what I mean, don’t you?

Well, Jennifer’s second husband (lasting 10 months), dancer Cris Judd, was half-Filipino, and the ex-boyfriend of the ex-wife (Dayanara Torres) of Jennifer’s third ex-husband Marc Anthony was a Filipino — yes, Aga Muhlach (the CamSur’s would-be congressman).

Her first husband was Ojani Noa and their marriage lasted for only 11 months. Jennifer is now romantically linked to dancer-choreographer Casper Smart.

It was even Jennifer who brought up her “Philippine connection” during our third interview, also in the same venue. When she learned that I came from the Philippines, she volunteered the information about her second failed marriage, saying, “Yes, my ex-husband was half-Filipino.”

At the What To Expect presscon, as intro to my question, I said, “Did you know that making babies is a popular cottage industry in the Philippines?” (Laughter from the gallery) “My question is: Having had twins, what tips can you give expecting women not only in the Philippines but all over the world?”

Jennifer: “You know, making babies is a very personal experience. One woman’s experience may not be the same as those of the others, or different from mine, so I can’t really give any tips.”

“That’s okay. Thank you, Jennifer!”

As in our previous encounters, Jennifer was lovable and lively, full of energy, her sing-song voice as musical as ever, answering every question with infectious verve, straight from the heart. She easily breaks into a lusty laughter that makes her so charming.

In case you want to know, Jennifer in person looks exactly like she does on screen — seems taller than her 5’6”-frame, has a deliciously light chocolate-brown complexion and, as she told Conversations in a previous interview, she keeps “that J.Lo” look by one simple “beauty secret:”

“Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!” Is her famous butt really insured by several millions? “Not true,” she had said in our first interview.

[PHOTO - I told Jennifer that on behalf of the Filipinos, I wanted to thank her for ‘saving’ Jessica Sanchez (below, now well into the Top 3). She smiled and said, ‘You are very welcome!’]

About the book: “I find it so incredibly accurate, so helpful to pregnant women. It’s so amazing, that’s why it’s popular.

It tells you exactly, week to week, what’s happening to you in the moment. I think women, by nature, when we’re pregnant, we are so worried that things might not be okay. And here you have this book saying, ‘This is supposed to be happening. Don’t worry. You’re supposed to feel like this.’ I think the movie does the exact same thing. It reassures you by telling five totally different stories about being pregnant and making you laugh. The book helps you to not freak out; it calms you down.”

About her character Holly: “She lives with a tremendous guilt for not being able to do certain things and one of them is the fact that she can’t have a baby. The one thing that women are supposed to be able to do, she feels like she can’t deliver that. So she’s always pushing to make this perfect life. She tells Alex, ‘Let’s have the house and the baby and the this and the that.’ And you realize how much it’s all weighing on her. She and Alex have been trying to have children but they just can’t. So they decide to adopt one.”

Is she happy where she is now?

“Yeah. I am good even if I feel a little bit tired right now. I’ve been rehearsing (Presumably for her reported forthcoming concert tour with Enrique Iglesias. — RFL), I’ve been doing Idol, promoting this movie and taking care of my kids. But I feel good about everything; I feel that everything is going so well.”

In a post-divorce interview with Vanity Fair middle of last year, Jennifer said about the break-up of her marriage to Marc, father of her twins, “I really wanted this family to work. That was my biggest dream, and I worked hard at it. We both did. Sometimes it doesn’t work — and that’s sad.”

Asked if she hoped to have more children, Jennifer laughed.

Your Conversationalist with Jennifer a few years ago in Hong Kong where she launched her album. Inset: The book that inspired the movie.

“It would be a blessing. But right now, I’m focused on just my two kids.”

Motherhood becomes her.

“When I was about to give birth, it just suddenly hit me that I was going to be responsible for two other human beings. It hits you again when the kids start talking. You know, when you have kids you really have a great time every moment of the day. They just bring so much joy and happiness to your life. But it makes me feel kind of guilty when I have to leave home to work when they ask, ‘Mom, are you leaving again?’ And I say, ‘Yes, baby, mommy has to work every day.’ Someday, they will understand.”

[PHOTO - Your Conversationalist with Jennifer a few years ago in Hong Kong where she launched her album. Inset: The book that inspired the movie.]

After the presscon, I made my way to the “secret exit” and handed Jennifer copies of The STAR carrying our three past interviews.

Her eyes lit up and she cooed, “Glad to see you again!”

Oh well, whether Jennifer really meant it or said it for want of anything nice to say, that was more than enough. When she flashed her million-dollar smile at me, I was transfixed.

J.Lo made my day.

Rodrigo on J. Lo: We’re both Latin, physically affectionate

The name Rodrigo Santoro may not (yet) ring bells hereabouts but thereabouts (in the US and Latin countries), he’s an actor to be reckoned with.

Before he took on the role of Alex, husband of Jennifer Lopez’s character Holly in What To Expect When You’re Expecting, Rodrigo has played quite a number of memorable roles, including as Jim Carey’s character’s first love in I Love You Phillip Morris (with Ewan McGregor also as co-star); the TV remake of The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (with Helen Mirren as Mrs. Stone and Olivier Martinez as her young lover); in Love Actually (with Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth and Liam Neeson); and in Steven Sodenbergh’s Che and Pablo Trapero’s Lion’s Den, each of which got multiple nominations in the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

[PHOTO -Top Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro plays Jennifer’s husband in the movie]

Rodrigo was already a big star in his native Brazil when he made his American debut as Randy Emmers in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (with Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz who is also in the cast of What To Expect). He has won eight Best Actor awards for Brainstorm in which he played a man forced into a mental institution by his parents, including the first ever such award given by the Brazilian Academy of Arts and Film.

How was it working with Jennifer?

“Oh, it was very easy,” said the bearded Rodrigo, who graced the cover of Vogue in December 2011, the first male to be accorded the honor. “It wasn’t hard at all. The description of our characters is ‘Holly and Alex are incredibly happy with each other, they are very playful with each other.’ That’s what Jennifer and I are in real life. We are both Latin. (Jennifer is Puerto Rican who was raised in New York and Rodrigo a true-blue Brazilian who grew up in Rio de Janeiro. — RFL) That’s how we are — we hug, we touch…that’s part of our culture.”

True. Like all Latinos, Rodrigo is physically affectionate, kissing ladies with malice towards none. He demonstrated it by bending forward and kissing the lady journalist beside him on both checks. How the lady blushed!

“Some women may be offended by that but I mean no offense, no harm,” explained Rodrigo. “When I say ‘Hi!’ to a woman, it’s natural for me to kiss her. I am what I am and I express myself how I am. But I respect the differences in cultures.”

What type of women does he find attractive?

“You can’t really make a list of, you know, ‘I want this, I want that.’ And then you meet somebody who is none of that but has something inside her that makes you go, ‘Wow!’ So it’s senseless to have what they call an ‘ideal woman’.”

After What To Expect, Rodrigo will be seen in The Last Stand with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Forest Whitaker, and in the telemovie Hemingway and Gelhorn with Clive Owen (in the title role) and Nicole Kidman.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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