Travelgirl: I’m so happy to get to know you. You are an international star. You’ve traveled extensively and lived in many different, wonderful places. You were born in Buenos Aires and moved to Spain when you were 12. Did you have a mentor or did someone inspire you to create a life in the arts?
Juan Pablo Di Pace: I moved to Spain when I was 12 for a couple of years and I moved back, specifically to Madrid, when I was 29 because I loved it there so much. Spain has been very important to me all my life. My parents and immediate family live in Spain.
I was influenced by and always admired the Spanish director Pedro Almódovar, who was awarded several Oscars for his influential work. I loved his language and his storytelling. He was famous for his very definite palate of moods and colors. When I was young, watching his cinema was intriguing. I knew I wanted to do what he was doing one day. His films were fun and tragic at the same time. He was brilliant with melodrama.
Films have a way of transporting you to a different place. I was a big dreamer when I was young and anything that took me out of reality was my gem. I love when a director has a definite language. I consider myself a storyteller first, before anything else. I sing, I act and I direct, which are all facets of telling a story. I admire people with a strong point of view. My first work on the stage was both directing and acting. I do admire directors as much as I admire actors.
TG: You are multi-talented. You are an actor, a musician, a writer and a director; which of these genres most defines you?
JPDP: That’s like a Sophie’s choice. Storyteller would be the answer. I have been very busy writing and I’m also directing my own web series. My normal outlet is multi-faceted. It’s difficult to decide which most defines me but, because I started with an interest in storytelling at an early age, it’s still a great interest for me. I have two series I’m working on and a movie I’m writing at the moment.
TG: I’m intrigued with New Boy. You’ve written about both a poignant and wonderful experience in your life. I know it’s yet to be released, but I would love to hear about it.
JPDP: New Boy is based on my own experience as an immigrant dancer. I moved to London to learn to dance when I was 18. To be able support myself, I got a job working in a home for people with learning difficulties. The movie is the story of that experience. It’s about this kid who was basically a fish out of water when he arrived in London. In the beginning, it was just a job. But the people he worked with changed his life in a very dramatic and profound way.
This film was the official selection at LA Shorts. The short film was called Admission and it premiered in the festival circuit. This was the initial contact with, what was to become, my bigger, broader film, New Boy. These adults who suffered autism and a variety of other disabilities had a major impact on me. On the outside this looked like such a sad situation because these adults were left to their own devices. But, I saw it differently when I lived with them. We went to the park together. I brought in food. I helped with their shopping and we formed beautiful friendships. As an immigrant who literally had just arrived, I had no family nor friends and these people became my family. What I loved the most was the fact that these friendships we formed were real. The importance of the situation was that I was there and we were spending quality time together. Now, 28 years later, I want to tell this powerful story through my film.
TG: Your resume is amazing; you appeared in London in the musical Chicago and you played the role of Danny Zuko in the Trieste production of Grease in Italy, which you also partly directed. You played Tony Manero in the 2009–2010 Spanish production of Saturday Night Fever in Madrid and recently you’ve played the role of Jesus Christ on NBC’s A.D. The Bible Continues, for which you won the Grace award, which honors inspiring performances. I would surmise playing Jesus Christ was quite an undertaking.
JPDP: I think the takeaway for me in my acting career so far is that certain roles come to you at times in your life when you need to hear a certain message — when you need to learn something specific. Each of these roles had a very specific and important place in my development as a human being. Playing Tony Manero was important to me because it occurred when I was leaving England. I lived and devoted 10 years of my life to my career while in London. I was a bit frustrated and all of a sudden I was given an opportunity to portray this charming, carefree, ambitious guy who lived in New York during the dance scene of the 70’s. It was so satisfying to portray this cocky, arrogant, lovable guy whose power was in dancing. Playing that role for a year-and-a-half all over Spain and in Madrid gave me so much confidence. It came along at the perfect time.
Jumping forward, playing Jesus was a completely different situation. I had moved to the States and was then in my 30’s. I had grown up Catholic. The role didn’t make me more religious but I certainly listened to his message in a more profound way. When you have to say the words, interpret and inhabit his words, you really listen. That’s the beauty of being an actor. You are actually speaking through someone else’s words and you have to inhabit the person you are portraying in order to be able to communicate his message. It was magical because I had to forget everything I knew about his image. I had to ask myself what would it really be like to be that pure of a human being. Again, when you are asked to play with those emotions, you do wonder what it would be like to be him. It was an amazing opportunity for me as a person and as an actor.
TG: Travelgirl has been watching Dancing with the Stars for years and years. We were thrilled to have Cheryl Burke on our cover a few years ago. Talk about that experience; you were a favorite to win.
JPDP: Dancing with the Stars was a hoot. It was a lot of fun. I had been a dancer before so it wasn’t like I went in as most competitors do to see if I could do it. That certainly wasn’t the case. I could already dance but I had never done partner work like that nor ballroom work, so it was a huge challenge both emotionally and physically. You are in the best shape of your life when you are on Dancing with the Stars. It was a great experience.
I enjoyed every single Monday night; it was exhilarating dancing in front of a live audience. Knowing that millions of people were watching me do the quick step or the tango was thrilling. I thrive on pressure; I love pressure. I was like a kid in a candy store every Monday and it was really, really fun.
TG: Did you grow up watching Full House and were you amazed at the show’s popularity after all these years? Please talk about your role as Fernando on the #1 Netflix show Fuller House where you were nominated for an Emmy and won the People’s Choice Award.
JPDP: It was huge deal and so rare, in today’s climate, to be on a show for five seasons. It was a bit of a pre-existing phenomenon with Full House and it transferred to Fuller House. I was at the right time at the right place to become part of Fuller House. I didn’t grow up watching Full House so I went into the role somewhat blind.
I was living in Argentina when the original show was on. We got about three sitcoms in Argentina and Full House wasn’t one of them. It was kind of cool that I didn’t know about it, and it was wonderful when I saw the response from the audience who had loved the show for so long and had grown up with it. We became a family, those girls, those people, that crew. Warner Brothers became a home and to be part of that was a gift. Fernando, unlike other roles that I have done, taught me to be kind of a clown and to enjoy comedy. I played an absolute fool and buffoon and to have the opportunity to play this role in every episode for five seasons was special. It was an absolute joy.
TG: Let’s talk about your musical career. In 2017 you wrote and performed a critically acclaimed solo show at Feinstein´s 54 Below in New York City. In 2018, you headlined the Music of George Michael with the Houston Symphony Orchestra.
JPDP: Music is something I absolutely love, and performing at Feinstein’s was definitely a highlight. I’m obsessed with New York; I still have the Broadway itch. When Broadway comes back, I would love to add a performance on the Broadway stage to my resume. To perform my own show in New York was a big deal. At the beginning of this year I brought the show back to The Green Room 42. For me, the live element of the show is important because of the energy you get from the audience, which is quite different from being on a movie set. We are living in such an unusual time. It’s sad to see that a lot of stage performers have to branch out and rethink their livelihoods at this time. There’s nothing like live theater.
I’ve been singing all of my life. I started on the stage in Grease. Now, all these years later, I have quite a few musicals under my belt. Song writing became part of my life, too. I have an EP coming out in January and I’ve already shot a musical video for it. I’m recording and collaborating with amazing song writers including Nick Gale (Digital Farm Animals), Caroline Kole (Songland), Diane Warren, Desmond Child and Jeffrey James, who has been on Songland, and I love it; I love singing. It’s a guilty pleasure for me. It’s not how I make my living; I make my living acting but singing is one of my passions. It’s a way to express how I am feeling without the pressure of having to sell records or get out there and make money.
TG: Please talk about your leading role in Dashing in December. It’s a wonderful film and fabulous that a mainstream TV Christmas movie is focusing on a gay couple. The world has come a long way!!!
JPDP: Dashing in December could not have come at a more perfect time. Like everyone else, I was quarantined in my house. Jake Helgren, the director and writer, called me and told me he had written this wonderful movie and he asked me to be in it. His pitch was so great. He was doing something that hadn’t been done before. The movie is about a connection that builds between two guys. It’s about a genre of film that is usually associated with a straight couple and Dashing in December gives it a twist. It’s the story of two very different men who meet. My character is a guy who is happy with his life. He has a horse and works as a ranch hand and he’s very content. He meets this other guy, Wyatt, who is neurotic and ambitious and isn’t content; he wants more out of life.
What attracted me to this movie, aside from the fact that it’s an LGBT love story, is that the story gets into the question of when in our society is it enough? My character is at the heart of that question. The movie is filled with drama and romance and fairy lights but it’s actually not your typical Christmas movie. Dashing in December deals with real emotions. It’s the story of people meeting from two different worlds who seek to find out if they are compatible.
TG: Please talk about Project Angel Food.
JPDP: I’m on the board of directors of Project Angel Food based here in California. This organization delivers 1,500 meals per week to people who have underlying health conditions including HIV, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and other debilitating maladies. This organization was created back in the 80’s with the AIDS pandemic. Over the years it’s become hope for people who have a serious illness and can’t get out to obtain food. It’s very worthwhile. (To learn more and to donate, please visit the website at www.angelfood.org.)
TG: You’ve traveled and worked in so many international destinations. Travelgirl wants to know, do you have a favorite travel destination and what places are on your bucket list?
JPDP: My number one bucket list destination is New Zealand. I am in love with the country, the people and landscapes. Each time I see a movie about this county my mouth waters. It’s difficult to choose my favorite destination. Spain is such a beautiful country; I visit often and, of course, my family is there. I’m half Italian and Italy is so beautiful. I love so many places in Italy, the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Tuscany. It’s wonderful and enriching to be there. I’m a Europeanofile; I love Europe so much.
A third place I truly love is Greece. I love the islands, the color of the sky and the buildings. Those white houses with the blue doors are so picturesque. One of my favorite places in the world is Skopelos; that’s where we shot Mamma Mia.
TG: Please share some sage advice for those young hopefuls who hope to follow your path to success.
JPDP: You know what Renee, any kid who wants to be an actor but says if it doesn’t work out, I can do something else, then I say this career isn’t for you. There is no plan B in this profession. You have to make so many sacrifices. If you can’t imagine doing anything else then, by all means, go fight for it. Train, watch as many performances as you can, study your heroes and know that practice makes perfect. There’s a myth that acting is easy and it is not true. This career comes with a lot of rejection and adversity. You have to love it so much you can’t live without it. If that’s the case, then go for it with all you have.