With his showbiz pedigree, one would think Richard Gutierrez would have it easy. Sure, he had access to showbiz's power circles, being the son of former matinee idol Eddie Gutierrez and the fiery, yet well-loved Annabelle Rama; yet he started out by playing small roles in some cheesy youth-oriented programmes.
It was only a few years ago that he started making a mark, playing the lead role in the hit TV series Mulawin, where he played the role of a winged half-man, half-bird superhero. Since then, he has spread his wings and zoomed to greater heights as an actor, following up his hit fantasy series with another, and another, and another.
In fact, he is working on a new TV series that is expected to be another blockbuster.
Codename: Asero is his latest made-for-TV-movie - and it's being filmed in Dubai.
The production schedule was tight, we were advised, and so it took a few days to arrange an interview. After several phone calls and emails, we managed to fix a schedule in between his mall tour in Dubai.
Touted as Gutierrez's biggest TV venture so far, with a budget that can afford an overseas location shoot and a day or two at the Burj Al Arab at that, expectations are high about his new programme. Will Gutierrez's reign continue?
Flashing a big smile, Gutierrez walked calmly through a frantic group of fans at Dubai Festival City, and signalled he would be ready for an interview after a few minutes of autograph signing and picture taking with his adoring supporters inside a shop featuring one of his many commercial endorsements.
After some time we managed to get close to Gutierrez and started the interview. A first timer in Dubai, Gutierrez could not contain his excitement about being here, and spending some time with his supporters.
"It's been a great experience so far. We've been working almost round-the-clock so we don't have time to go around much, but the places we've been to were absolutely fantastic," he says with a glint in his eye.
Excusing himself briefly to have a picture taken with an aggressive, but rather amusing fan who managed to squeeze past security, Gutierrez looked comfortable with his status as one of Philippines biggest stars.
Yet he didn't imagine following in the footsteps of his father.
Raised in California for most of his life, Gutierrez was a reluctant celebrity at first, but would later be lured into showbusiness soon after his family settled down in the Philippines after returning from the US.
"This is really a surprise to me. I mean the kind of reception we've received here has been absolutely amazing. It's very heartwarming how they have embraced us and shown us their hospitality. And working with the local people and other expatriates here has truly been an unforgettable experience," he continues.
Although he has had very little chance to go around the city, Gutierrez was impressed with what he has seen.
"An unbelievable place," he says of the city. "I've heard a lot about Dubai, but seeing it for the first time and being here makes a great difference. I am glad that this place has provided a lot of great opportunities for our countrymen, but I know it can be tough for them being away from their families back home. So I am glad I had this opportunity to spend some time with them and to make them happy even for just a short while."
If the screams and the pushing and shoving inside the store were any indication, it's safe to say Gutierrez has made his fans happy. People brought pictures and waited patiently outside the store. And as soon as they got in, they embraced their favourite TV superhero, and kissed him on the face and hands.
"I'm just as excited as they are, so I don't really mind. All this is part of the job," he quips, while showing some scratches unintentionally made by one of his fans.
"What is more important for me now is that I am able to do something that makes other people happy. Besides I love the work that I do. It's not really about the fame and all the perks that go with it, although I enjoy those don't get me wrong. It's about me being able to do what I do, and in doing so make not only myself happy, but others as well."
With those words, it's not hard to imagine how anyone could not like Richard. But success also breeds contempt. There was even a rumour that circulated a few weeks back that Gutierrez would soon be leaving his home studio for a bigger talent fee.
Success, some people say, has gone to Gutierrez's head. Something the young actor was quick to correct.
"I am happy where I am, and had no intentions of leaving. As far as I am concerned, I am thankful for the opportunities I am getting in my home network. The business aspect of my job is handled by professional people I trust. Having said that, again, it's not about the money; I had no intentions of leaving. It's not always about the money," he explains.
He sounded a bit cryptic, and though we tried to push about what led to his "rumoured" dissatisfaction, he could only smile and gesture his lips are sealed. "What is more important is that I've signed a new contract with my home studio and can only promise better programmes and movies for my fans," Gutierrez continues.
By this time, the security had signalled it was time again for another round of picture taking and autograph signing. The crowd has become a little uncontrollable, getting more and more anxious to catch a glimpse of their favourite star while on a break from his limited Dubai stint.
We knew we only had time for one last question, so we asked what his thoughts were when people tell him he is the certified king of primetime TV.
"Just a title," then he flashes that smile again.
The huge crowd inside, a still long line of people waiting outside, and his blockbuster movies and hit TV programmes only confirmed that Gutierrez has indeed arrived, and will reign for a long time.