BWW Interview: Juan Pablo Di Pace of AN EVENING WITH JUAN PABLO DI PACE at The Green Room 42
It has been said that there is no locked door that beauty cannot open. The only problem is that, once the door is unlocked there must be something to keep you in the room. Arguably one of the world's most beautiful entertainers, Juan Pablo Di Pace has all he needs to stay in the room. With training as an actor, singer, and dancer, Mr. Di Pace has performed as a triple threat in cities all over the world, in a variety of languages, landing on high-profile television shows in America and on prestigious stages around Europe. No matter the demands of his film and TV shooting schedule, though, Di Pace always makes time to return to the stage, where his love of performing began.
In 2017 (three years ago, in February) Mr. Di Pace made his New York cabaret debut to great acclaim and Full Houses. Now, determined to start his new year on the happiest note possible, Juan Pablo will play the hip and happening club The Green Room 42 for two performances. Arriving in New York from Spain on Saturday and starting a grueling rehearsal schedule on Monday, Juan Pablo gave up part of his last day off to give me a call at home to discuss his love of song and dance, and the continual evolution of what is shaping up to be a really exciting career for a man so happy that he never takes any of it for granted.
This interview has been edited for space and content, and it is a shame it is a written interview instead of a video interview because The Accent! Swoon.
Hi. This is Juan Pablo.
Hi, Juan Pablo how are you today?
Good, good, good!
Thank you for talking to me today.
Oh, my pleasure, my pleasure! You got me at a good time, as I landed last night from Madrid and today's light, it's a good day. Tomorrow, it's crazy.
Juan Pablo, you're opening your nightclub act at The Green Room 42. How excited are you about that?
I'm really excited because this is my second time in New York doing a show. Last time it was at 54 below and that was three years ago -- I had the most incredible time last time. In a way, this is like a treat for me. I spend most of my time in LA on TV so for me to do live theater concerts is really where my heart is because I started that way. You know my career started in the theater. So to do that, and to do that in New York is fantastic. I had a chance to see the space last night when I arrived and I loved it. It's really great. Great venue.
What is it about playing New York nightclubs that you find exciting?
I think it's the audience. I think it's New Yorkers... because you guys know what you like, you are used to going to see shows and you respond in a way that it's different. Also, the venues here are incredible. I'm trying to do the same show in LA and I'm having a hard time like finding the right venue cause there are very few venues in town like the ones you have here. Plus I'm such a sucker for Broadway that anytime that I can come back and feel like I am, you know, a little bit part of that world, it just makes me feel great. Cause I've done the Broadway of Spain, I've done the Broadway of London, but, I haven't yet done actual Broadway though. So it's kind of like a step... It's an inch closer to being on a show.
Well, what's going on? What's it going to take to get you on Broadway, kid?
I don't know! You know what? I've been so close so many times, (Laughing) so I've been waiting for the perfect show and perfect chance to do it. I love it. I grew up on musicals and every time I travel to New York I try to watch as much as I can.
All right, so play with me for a second. Let's play! Pretend I'm a billionaire. What play am I going to put you in? You can cast yourself in any show that I've got the money for. What do you want to be in?
Whoo! Okay. I think it would be a revival of Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Oh, I love that!
Yeah. And I can switch roles every week. (Laughing)
You could do Molina and Valentin in rep! All right. I'll go dig up the money for you!
(Laughing) Otherwise, Sweeney Todd wouldn't be bad either, but I think I'm too young for Sweeney. I don't know. Maybe.
No, it depends on how much vision the director has. So you have played on nightclub and theatrical stages throughout your entire life, often in musical parts. I assume that the musical performing arts were your first love -- how did that passion begin?
I was always kind of in love with how my sister was the actor of the family and I was not. I was a very shy kid. And I used to see her do her plays and her plays were always experimental. She was 12 and I was eight. But 12 and she was doing all these experimental plays. I remember thinking, wow, she's so brave and she had so much balls to do theater and be so exposed. So that kind of just stayed there, I never really tried. When I was 17, I was accepted into an international boarding school and we had a chance to choose what we wanted to do as an activity. Out of the blue, I was like, "I want to do a musical. I want to do Grease. And they approved it. So I ended up saying Danny Zuko as my very first thing on stage ever, and I didn't really know what I was getting myself into because it kind of destroyed everything else that I thought I wanted to do. I thought I wanted to do fine art, and I want it to be an animator, and do cartoons, I was into sculpture. I was very much into the visual arts. And as soon as I stepped on stage and I started singing "Summer Lovin" I was sold. It was the moment I decided I've got to do this thing for a living 'cause it just gave me so much happiness from that moment. I decided to go where this was done, and because of my passport and I was living in Europe already, it was easier to go to London and, study musical theater in London. That's what I did. I got myself a scholarship for musical theater school like Fame, where you're dancing, singing and acting every single day, all day long. That was the beginning of it all.
You have lived and worked in several different countries. How do the public attitudes toward the entertainment industry differ from place to place?
Well, you could say that in America the entertainment industry is definitely an actual industry. When you go to places like Spain, people go to the theater, they watch movies, but it's not as much as here. So the kind of volume of the work tends to be more in the States. But then in England, they have the tradition of Shakespeare, and the most incredible actors and theater companies. So, I don't think it's very different. And the Spanish as well because the Spanish are incredibly cultured and musical people. So I think that what changes is the culture itself, how they approach it. But I love being able to taste the different places and how people work in the different places.
I understand Mr. Banderas has opened a theater in Spain.
He has, yeah! With A Chorus Line!
Maybe you can go do some work there with them.
Sure! I've got a lot of friends who are doing that, actually.
As an entertainment industry professional, you've done many different types of work. When you branch out and do something that people aren't used to seeing you do, do you find them open to your new adventure?
Well, it's only a matter of educating people. I try to put as much of the not-so-known work that I do on my social media so that I can educate people who know what I do as an actor and say, "Hey, do you know that I sing, too?" So I try to do it that way. And when I was on Fuller House I pretty much begged the creator to make me sing and dance -- and then it just became part of Fernando, of the character. I always try to kind of add a little bit of that element to what I do, but it can be a challenge sometimes. It's a better time now because it's more normal to see a hyphenated kind of performer than it was a 10, 15 years ago. People have their ideas of what you are and what they know you for, and it takes some effort to sort of open their minds as well. I mean, some people are just happy doing the one thing and I wish I could, I wish sometimes I didn't love singing so much, or I didn't dance as much, but the truth is that I do and that I love it. And when a lot of time passes that I don't do one thing I miss it. I miss it. So I've learned to be able to, in different moments of my life, put my energy into this and that and sometimes it's a lot of work but I guess the way I see it, it's all the same thing. It's not like I'm trying to be a doctor and a lawyer at the same time. It's all storytelling and expression. So whether that be through music or TV or movies, it is the same
And thanks to Fuller House, you got to release a single.
Yeah, that's true!
And it's one of a few singles that you have. Is there a possibility that you might put out a CD for your fans?
Yes! I have been working on music for a while. I might even release a mixture of the live shows from 54 Below and this show coming up at The Green Room 42. I'm thinking about it... and I've got a good number of songs that I like, ready to be released soon. So in a way, these shows are a sort of temperature test case for some of my original songs as well.
Yes. Now let's talk about those original songs. Are you writing the songs, the original songs?
I am. Yeah. I am, with producers, with writers that I love that I get with and share my ideas ... like that's the one thing... I know what I want. I know what I like, I don't consider myself a songwriter even if the lyrics are mine -- a lot of them are mine --- but songwriters have the most amazing way of using their brains that I don't have. So I decided I can do it with someone, but I don't think I did that with it alone.
So your upcoming show at The Green Room 42, it is a different show from the one you did at 54 below.
It's an updated version of that. Some stories, some material is the same, but I've had other material and a few other songs that weren't in the last show. I wanted to continue on the story a little bit and explain, or just share some fun stuff that has happened in the last few years. It's been three years since I was here last! So, you know, things happen in life. I think Fuller House had just started and it has just finished and Dancing With The Stars hadn't happened so I think it's kind of like a mishmash of old and new.
Did Dancing With the Stars increase your fan base?
I guess... maybe. I'm not really sure. What it did increase is the attention on my dancing skills (Laughing) that before wasn't really something that people knew about. I got a ton of just lovely people saying how much the enjoyed it and how much they thought we did something special in the show, which was my goal when I went in there. I actually don't know why I went (Laughing) when I did! I was like, "Oh yes, I'm here because I really love dancing!" So that's the case, "Let's just put out the best possible pieces, we can muster" with incredible Cheryl Burke. So I love the fact that people recognize that. And at the end of the day, the competition is, you know, it's child's play. Like, who cares if you win or don't but those eight weeks, where you're in front of millions and millions of people, the way I see it is: make it count.
If they did an all-stars edition and invited you back, would you go?
The answer is I don't know. I don't know because I left on such a, such a high and it was so perfect for what it was. And I don't know if I want to go through it again. (Laughing) Like I got a big kind of injury from it. So it's kind of like... it's a lot. But I have a lot of love for it.
When you are creating a club act where you're presenting Juan Pablo Di Pace, how do you decide how personal you want to get with the story that you're going to tell?
Well... It's a mixture of the songs that I really want to sing. I look at these shows almost as a musical, in a way. I've tried in the past to do the whole concert thing where you just sing one song and another one, and then maybe you say two words, and then sing another one. And it's just not me. I need to have a through-line and a reason. (Laughing) I almost need to explain why in this moment of my life I need to sing this song, or what story, what thing, what anecdotes that I went through inspire what I'm about to sing. I guess that's any cabaret. That's what cabaret is. I think I was so inspired, honestly, by Elaine Stritch At Liberty.
That, for me, is like a staple of cabaret -- that is like my bible because you watch this woman who is pretty much telling you how her life was informed by alcohol... and she makes it fun! She makes it hilarious and she makes it tragic and she makes it emotional and she makes this whole journey that you go with her. I thought "That's what I want to do!" So the show that I wrote in 2012, that was the first time that I did that, it set the tone for every other show that I've done since -- to get personal. I mean, I don't want people to come and, you know, it's not a psychology session. It's not a therapy session for me. I want people to laugh. Ultimately I want them to laugh at me and at themselves. If there's a story that touches your heart, I welcome it. I love taking people through a journey. That's why I discovered that, for me, singing has a lot to do with these live shows. I think this is where I'm happiest, singing in front of an audience and telling a story. There's some personal stuff there, but it's mostly fun.
The Latin X entertainment community has been experiencing a rise in visibility. What can the industry do to keep the momentum of that movement climbing?
Well, I think the industry has no choice because now we're part of a fabric. I mean we're always part of the fabric. We just weren't given a platform, but now we have it. The fact that that LatinX performance and shows are being watched and produced -- it's awesome. But I think it's also our job as LatinX people to continue that and get loud and just talk about our experiences because there's something quite interesting about this country that because there are so many minorities in this country, we want to know how all of these minorities live, what they experience, what their life is like. I saw this brilliant Ted talk with America Ferrera and she was talking exactly about that. She was like, "It's funny that I did one show back in the day, I did Ugly Betty and after that show, I thought, that's it! The discussion's been opened. Now it's going to be different. And it wasn't." And then she had to wait for another I don't know how many years to do the next thing. But I think luckily now the floodgates have opened a little more. And it's thanks to people like her and Lin-Manuel, and it's awesome. I think it's amazing. I was lucky to arrive in America at the beginning of that around 2014 or so. And it's been wonderful to see how we are more of the conversation
In American television, you have tackled the hour-long drama and the half-hour sitcom and the reality talent show. What do you have your eyes on next?
I've been writing this feature now for many years, so I definitely want to want to direct. I'm also playing with producing a TV show.
(Laughing) So, so megalomania at it's best! (Laughing) I love being in the driver's seat. (Laughing)
Own it! Work with it! While you're in town, which Broadway shows are you're going to go see?
I have been told The Inheritance is amazing. I'm going to watch that Broadway show. What do you recommend for musicals?
I don't get to go to the theater. I'm always in nightclubs reviewing shows. I would recommend Waitress except it's closing today.
I've seen Waitress many times. In fact, I would've loved to go into that if it wasn't closing. It might've happened.
Well, we're going to find something. We're going to get you on the Broadway!
We're just going to put that out there until it happens, we're just going to keep saying it until it happens.
(Laughing) Aw, thank you! From your mouth to god's ears!
Juan Pablo on the Broadway!
I'm very excited to see you on the 9th.
Fantastic! Thank you so much.
Don't work too hard. Get some good sleep.
(Laughing) I'll try!