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‘The Iron Heart’ Star Richard Gutierrez Dashes To His Next Adventure

Before taking on a new career mission, the matinee idol-turned-action star looks back at almost a year of adrenaline-pumping journey

It’s the tail-end of September, right smack in the middle of a typical week for hustlers, and we find Richard Gutierrez in and out of his action-chasing character on The Iron Heart. We are at the Hotel Okura in Pasay City, one designed opulent in oriental that it may as well be the next backdrop of a Bond movie–the Sean Connery-led ones. We stare at the matinee idol trading off earth toned muscle shirts and guns Apollo would wear and carry. We then get a glimpse of the RG we know, 007-esque, slick in his tailored suit about to surprise everyone with what a street-fightin’ screen Casanova would exactly do–dip in the pool.

As Richard enjoys a little of Japan in Manila, in the next few days, he’s set to fly to Tokyo. He will find himself back at work to tape the final episodes of his action series. The show is one he’s worked on in every sense of the word, he says, if his ripped bod doesn’t already tell you that.

“Every time we're shooting out of the country, it's always exciting,” Richard, ever so delicate in his delivery, tells Metro.Style. For The Iron Heart, he and the crew have shot in Cebu, Iloilo, and Italy.

The Iron Heart star Richard Gutierrez on the cover of Metro
On Richard: Watch by Omega, Officine Paladino suit, and Mango Man dress shirt | Photography by Doc Marlon Pecjo

“I've traveled to Tokyo a couple of times, but it's the first time that we're actually filming there. And we are very excited because napaka-unique ng culture nila. We're going to do a lot of cool action scenes there,” he gushes. “We're going to shoot the highlights in some of Tokyo’s hotspots. I think we're filming mostly in the Shinjuku area, which shows the counterculture–expect a lot of neon lights and Japanese street culture on the show!”

Produced by Star Creatives, The Iron Heart premiered on the Kapamilya Channel’s Primetime Bida slot in November last year. It wraps up soon following 11 months marked with memories, friendships, learnings, and the most important as far as Richard is concerned, a sense of accomplishment as an artist.

The artist’s heart

Starting young in the world of celebrity, as some who have walked this path may agree, can be both a blessing and a curse. Strip off the glitz and the glamor and what awaits in the latter part of the race can be an artist still left confused or satiated on the craft.

Richard, who with twin brother Raymond hit the showbiz radar early on thanks to immediate celebrity folks, has lived almost all his life in it. After his child star stints, Richard went to charm viewers with his boy-next-door roles and knight-in-shining-armor characters next. In almost all of these, he headlined–even after he made the big move to ABS-CBN in 2017.

No feeling of confusion or satiation for Richard who, after showcasing his chops on La Luna Sangre and FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano, feels more confident on his career track. He says he’s exactly where he should be–on the set of The Iron Heart

“I've been asking for a project like this for a long time. It finally came true,” he muses on playing an intelligence agent with rock-hard strength and power out for blood.

“From the beginning of The Iron Heart, we had a vision of making a dent on the TV landscape and to somehow establish a new kind of action series. That was the goal. The intention was to give a different flavor of action on the primetime scene in the Philippines, and I think we were able to do that with the amount of time and budget and everything that we have.”

The Iron Heart star Richard Gutierrez on the cover of Metro
The Iron Heart star Richard Gutierrez on the cover of Metro
On Richard: Chynna Mamawal suit and H&M dress shirt

Thankful to his directors including Lester Pimentel Ong, who from the beginning has been on a mission with Richard to up the quality of action in the country, Richard says, “Against all odds ’yung production namin, but we were able to do everything. I loved that the audience liked the  show and I'm thankful that I have a great team behind me.”

The show’s September 28 episode recorded a 9.4 people rating from Nielsen Philippines, which for a nightly show, is the highest any ABS-CBN show has achieved since the network’s free TV shutdown in May 2020. It’s just the icing of the cake of what The Iron Heart has contributed over the past year–even on digital. Last September 11, the show raked 451,538 live concurrent views on YouTube.

Nu’ng nakita koyung first few edits and even the trailer and the teasers, I was just so excited. I was so happy na lahat nu’ng pinag-uusapan namin, nangyari. You know, there are moments na obviously you can do better in certain things, but with the time that we have and everything that you know that you have to consider, we did pretty well and I was so happy with the outcome.”

“I think na-reach naminyung goal of establishing a new kind of action series. You know, the directors are really good. They know what they're doing. They know what they want. Our action team, you know, is a very experienced one. The years that I've been training martial arts, finally, naipakita ko na dito sa ABS-CBN, so it's kind of destiny for me to finally be here. To execute it and show it to the people and be surrounded by a great team, that's actually the blessing.”

The Iron Heart star Richard Gutierrez on the cover of Metro
The Iron Heart star Richard Gutierrez on the cover of Metro
On Richard: Zara blazer and Charles Tyrwhitt pants

An action-packed journey

In this age, missing an episode of any TV series is no longer an issue. The Iron Heart, like many of ABS-CBN’s shows, plays on various video-on-demand platforms and channels to cater to all viewers with different watching habits.

This is something Richard feels not just especially delighted about but also pressuring. “For us who are creating the content, you can’t take the scene lightly anymore na, ‘P’wede na ’yan kasi dadaan lang naman sa TV.’ Now, you can’t do that. That’s why we're also more careful when executing scenes.”

A quick search on YouTube leads viewers to the many scenes, confrontations, and even comedic scenes between Apollo and his partner Poseidon–played by theater gem Pepe Herrera. Richard specifically remembers an off-script moment where Poseidon becomes needy of Apollo so much so they might as well be mistaken as lovers.

Mayroon kaming mga eksena ni Pepe na nag-argue kami pero ang attack ni Pepe ay para s’yang naging girlfriend. Nag-stick s’ya sa audience,” Richard recounts with a laugh. “Actually, muntik na akong tumawa sa mismong taping pero pinigilan ko lang! So, after ginawa ’yun ni Pepe, nagtawanan lahat sa set. Tapos sabi ng director namin, ‘Good na ’yun. ’Yun ang gamitin natin.’”

With Jake Cuenca, Albert Martinez, Ian Veneracion, Dimples Romana, Christian Vasquez, Sofia Andres, and Sue Ramirez among the cast, The Iron Heart boasts a star-studded lineup Richard himself individually respects.

In particular, he mentions his contemporary Jake, who plays double agent Eros, as among those he enjoyed working with the most. Remembering their beginnings as teenybopper show heartthrobs, he enthuses, “Jake was my kind of counterpart. We kind of started at the same time, and we haven't worked together in a long time. So, full circle na we were able to do this project together and catch up. We had our own lives and went through our own lives. And then finally, we would meet again as actors.”

The Iron Heart star Richard Gutierrez on the cover of Metro
The Iron Heart star Richard Gutierrez on the cover of Metro
On Richard: Charles Tyrwhitt suit

Richard is firm on where he’ll head to after closing The Iron Heart chapter: Nowhere but home, next to his family. Today, inside these hollow walls on marble walls, he finds a temporary thrill in looking “expensive” and suave as one of the most adored hunks in showbiz. But believe him when he says he’d rather undress to get home to Zion and Kai, both captivating social media onlookers at 10 and 5, respectively.

“What changed from being a bachelor to a dad? Maraming nagbago. Complete 180 'yan,” he exhales. “I'm more chill now, I guess. If I'm not working, I'm not actually going anywhere. I'm just staying at home with my kids and I hang out with them. I go with them to play sports and take them to the movies.”

“So, I guess I have a more relaxed lifestyle now, rather than going out and meeting up with friends and all that. I’m more of that guy who would just choose to stay at home, spend time with the kids, and maybe go out of town or go camping with the family. I don't really look for, you know, gimik or inuman. I’m kind of past that.”

While years of experience in acting have molded Richard to be wiser and more mature in his career, he’s keen to say that he isn’t the same toward parenting. “I don't think you can ever master parenting. I think it's all about adjusting and readjusting again and just being there to support your kids,” he says. “I just think that's the number one consistent thing. I think what's important is the love and support that you have, but day to day you have to be able to adjust everything. You have to be flexible.”

The Iron Heart star Richard Gutierrez on the cover of Metro
The Iron Heart star Richard Gutierrez on the cover of Metro

Leading a simpler life now as a father, Richard also shares a simple parenting dynamic with wife Sarah Lahbati. He relates, “Since I've been working a lot out of town, Sarah is staying with the kids day to day. She's really like hands-on with them. She's the one who's always there. She knows the day to day things of the kids. And I plan trips like camping or just any kind of out-of-town adventure.”

“We can have different roles, but obviously we have to be prepared also to catch the role of the other. It's not always a clear role. You kind of have to catch each other to be able to sustain parenting. I'm just happy that I have someone like Sarah who's very willing to do everything. I’m very lucky!”

The formula to Richard keeping it cool these days? Having a supportive spouse and kids, who he says are the greatest fans of his work. Richard recounts how even in their locked-in tapings back then, his family showed the most intense support–which altogether helped him keep his focus throughout the series.

“Actually, isa 'yun sa mga hindi nababanggit when it comes to doing series, especially long format TV series, is mental health. My family was a big help. I had to be open to them and have the support that I needed. And then at the same time ako on the set, I tried to keep things light–na hindi ko masyadong dinadamdam ang nangyayari. I tried not to take everything so seriously. And I think that also helped a lot. I also talked to my co-actors or directors, you know, just checking up on everyone. But I also did a lot of meditation and said prayer on my own time.”

Having appeared almost four decades in the limelight with a lot of bone-breaking shows in his credentials, Richard always seems to be chasing a pump of adrenaline. For now, at least after The Iron Heart, he’ll take a break and be the cool–or uncool–dad his kids know him to be.

The Iron Heart star Richard Gutierrez on the cover of Metro

Photography by Doc Marlon Pecjo

Creative direction by Chookie Cruz 

Editor-in-Chief: Geolette Esguerra

Sittings editors: Red Dimaandal, Grace Libero-Cruz, and Kate Paras-Santiago

Cover story by Barry Viloria

Fashion Associate: Carla Buyo

Video Producer: CJ Reyes

Editorial Assistant: Mika Yusay

Grooming by Aimee Grey

Hairstyling by Alvin Nieto

Styling by David Milan, assisted by Renz Esguerra and Jessica Santos

Cover story by Barry Viloria

Photography assistants: Neil Bolongon and Patrick Vivar

Shot on location at Hotel Okura Manila and Newport World Resorts

Special thanks to Star Creatives TV, Star Magic, Maserati, Rens Dingli, Daryl SimoneLove Capulong, Diane JuntadoJoy AndradeAaron Dominic Paguia, and Addie Capinding