With his handsome built and inarguable charm, actor Xian Lim carries the title of ideal leading man without much effort. Always sharp-dressed and eloquent on screen, it’s easy to assume that the 27-year-old star could be nothing but intimidating in the flesh. But when the cameras are not rolling, what we found is a spirited character who is a breeze to get along with and a working artist at heart who is proudly dedicated in his craft.
Xian was born and raised in the U.S., and upon moving back to his home country in 2008, the then-aspiring basketball star was presented with a chance to enter the entertainment industry. After going through auditions and workshops, he soon got his first primetime role in the series Katorse alongside stars like Erich Gonzales, Enchong Dee, and Ejay Falcon. In 2011, Xian solidified his presence in the scene with his first starring role in the series My Binondo Girl with a new leading lady in the form of Kim Chiu, a tandem that has captured a massive following among Filipinos around the world.
But after years of being coupled on screen with Kim, Xian has been reinventing himself outside of their famous love team. After their last project together in 2016, he has already landed a leading role in the film Everything About Her with seasoned stars Angel Locsin and Vilma Santos. Just recently, Xian also starred in the romantic comedy Dear Other Self opposite Jodi Sta. Maria.
Aside from being an actor and a host, Xian is also an equally passionate musician in his own right. Unlike the work he does on film and television, performing on stage liberates him from any sort of character or façade. “Nothing beats the connection you build when you’re performing for a live audience. It’s very raw. It’s like giving them a chance to see the real you.” He adds, “What people see on TV or on social media is not even half of what a person is. It’s probably just 10%. Being with a live audience is an opportunity for me to show them who I really am.”
In a couple of weeks, Xian will be showing a more personal side of him like we’ve never seen before. For the second time around, he’s staging a solo concert entitled Songs in the Key of X. A lover of ballads and a multi-instrumentalist, Xian’s classic take on music and endearing showmanship will surely make for a great evening at The Theater at Solaire come July 15, three days after his birthday.
Amidst rehearsals and shooting for a new movie under Star Cinema, Xian drove to Tagaytay to meet us on a rather intensely foggy afternoon. The gloomy weather set an unexpectedly breathtaking mood for our shoot where he posed in aptly layered outfits. At dusk, Xian candidly sat down with us to talk about his upcoming endeavors, his equal love for acting and music, and his level-headed approach to the tricky trade of show business.
Can you tell us about your preparations for your birthday concert?
After my first concert last year, we were already coming up with a concept. I was brainstorming with my director and we were so excited for the next one, not even knowing who will give us a second concert. Basta we already had it in mind. We thought, “Meron man o wala, we’re going to be ready.” We just had to make sure that the songs we’re going to choose will cater to everyone in the audience. Once we got the go signal, we rehearsed non-stop. It’s something that I really dedicated my whole time to. I may be doing other projects, but I still keep in mind that I have a show to put on.
How is it different from your first concert?
The theme itself is going to be different. I don’t want to give away so much, but this is going to be even more personal when it comes to the songs we chose. In this concert, I want to take my audience to the journey of my life.
Do you still get nervous when you perform live?
Oo naman. Yes na yes. And I think that’s a good thing. I asked a couple of performers also, like Sir Gary Valenciano, after performing for so many years, kinakabahan pa rin sila. I think the reality is that we never really know what we’re doing. We never really know what to expect. We can always rehearse and rehearse, but the performance itself is going to be different.
What type of music did you listen to growing up?
I personally like ballads, but I grew up with my mom and lola, and they loved listening to Bee Gees. I grew up in the ‘90s which was a boy band era, but I wasn’t really exposed to that kind of music. I was more into old school stuff.
“Nothing beats the connection you build when you’re performing for a live audience. It’s very raw. It’s like giving them a chance to see the real you.”
Do you think that influenced the kind of music you play today?
I think so. That classic vibe really plays a huge part in my taste in music and my personality. I do love other genres like hip-hop but deep down I would always go back to that classic sound.
How many instruments can you play?
When I was still studying back in the States, my elective was Band so I would always ask people to teach me a couple of instruments. Now, I can probably play around 17 instruments. I have a collection at home. I have a trombone, French horn, melodica, saxophone, trumpet, guitars… But my main instrument is the piano.
What’s the most challenging to learn?
I think it’s the brass instruments. You really have to keep on practicing. The ones with a mouthpiece are hard to really master because it involves lip muscle memory. The trombone is really challenging because it’s not like the piano where the notes are laid out already. It’s kind of like the violin with no frets. Tantsahan talaga siya.
Would you say that you enjoy music more than acting?
No, I can’t say that. Both of them are really different. I can’t compare the two. I can’t live without music, and I can’t live without being able to act and create. Kailangan ko ‘yung parehong mundo na ‘yun. I can lose everything, ‘wag lang ‘yung dalawang ‘yun. As long as I’m doing both, I’m good. I’m happy.
Growing up, did you always think of being in show business?
No. I was a shy kid. I wasn’t the bibo kid. I was the quiet one watching the bibo kids and thinking I’ll never be them. I just got into basketball. And then when we decided to move here in 2008, while waiting for my residency, someone asked me if I wanted to audition. So I did, and then I took up some workshops. After that, I just fell in love.
What do you love most about being an actor?
You can be crazy. You can be creative. Hindi ka naka-kahon. You don’t have a routine. It’s for people who are never content. The performance is always never enough. You always want more. You always want to improve. I think that’s one of the best things. You also get to inspire people. If you do it right, you get to become an example to those who watch you.
What has been your most memorable project so far?
I think it’s the one I did last year with Angel Locsin and Ms. Vilma Santos. We did a movie called Everything About Her. I learned a lot from Ms. Vilma. She’s been in the industry for decades. But it goes back to the thing that I said earlier. You never really know what you’re getting yourself into. You just have to get up, go to work, focus, and love everyone around you. As an artist, you’re lost on your own. You’re constantly finding your way. It’s like putting together the puzzle of your life. But realizing those things from a veteran, it just made me feel better about myself.
What do you always look forward to when you’re working on set?
I love seeing the preview after I do a scene. It’s always different when you read a script. What you visualize is different from the actual scene. I love hearing the criticism of the director as well. Their vision is always going to be different from yours, and it’s great to get their inputs. Of course, I also look forward to the final product.
“I can’t live without music, and I can’t live without being able to act and create. Kailangan ko ‘yung parehong mundo na ‘yun.”
What’s the biggest challenge of being in this industry?
Being in show business is a challenge in itself. To be more specific about it, it’s hard to get work. There are so many people who want the job just like in any other creative field. It’s hard to even exist in this world. You really have to love what you’re doing. You have to dedicate your life to it. The usual working hours don’t apply to you. Even if you’re not on set, you’re still working. You’re constantly working on new ideas and improving yourself. I think these are the things that most people don’t understand.
What keeps you motivated?
The first thing that comes to mind is the following, the fans. I love seeing their smiles. It might be cheesy, but to be able to see them happy and inspired by something that I’ve done keeps me motivated. ‘Yung iba naiiyak, ‘yung iba nakaka-relate, and they really see something in you. Second, just the idea of being able to create something out of nothing. That’s the main thing for me.
How do you deal with the negativity in this industry?
I don’t entertain them. It’s always going to be there. At first, it bothered me. But now, I just laugh it off. People will always have something to say about you. There are those who won’t like you, but you just have to stand by those who believe in you.
Let’s talk about your personal style. What’s your go-to outfit on a casual day?
I always go for a plain shirt, some comfy jeans, and a hat. That’s like my security blanket.
What’s your top grooming priority?
I love getting haircuts. I’m really not the type who will grow my hair out. I visit my hairstylist probably every two weeks.
What’s your favorite way to unwind?
Staying in my room, playing the piano, watching movies, getting a massage, or going to Subic.
What’s the top destination in your travel bucket list?
I haven’t been to Greece, so that’s one. I also want to see Petra, Jordan.
“As an artist, you’re lost on your own. You’re constantly finding your way. It’s like putting together the puzzle of your life.”
What’s your fitness routine like?
I go to the gym every other day. If I can go every day, I will if time permits. Actually, pwede naman eh. Even the busiest person can keep up with a routine. I know Dwayne Johnson wakes up at 4am just to go to the gym. So I think there’s always time. I love biking. I got into it last year. I do around 3 hours of it.
Do you avoid any food to stay in shape?
Wala naman. I think it’s okay to eat anything as long as it’s in moderation. Just know your fitness goal. Don’t starve yourself. Everything else will follow if you stick to your goal.