Actor Juan Pablo Di Pace has appeared in Netflix originals, cable teleivision shows, and Meryl Streep movies. He touts an impressive résumé, having played Jesus on NBC’s A.D. The Bible Continues and recurring character Nicolás Treviño on TNT’s Dallas.
But before all of that, he was a dancer, and he wants the Broadway community to know one thing: “I am one of you.”
Di Pace, whose Feinstein’s/54 Below cabaret show, Act One, runs February 21–22, made his professional debut at the age of 22 as a dancer in the London production of Chicago. By the time he was 23, he also covered the principal role of Billy Flynn. “It was kind of strange,” he says. “I was way too young.” Still, Di Pace counts Danny Zuko in the Italian production of Grease and Tony Manero in the Spanish production of Saturday Night Fever among his more fitting roles—at least at that time.
Even before that, Di Pace made his stage debut as Danny Zuko in United World College’s production of Grease, which he describes as “the most international, colorblind production of Grease you will ever see in your life.” That high school production featured a Rizzo from India, a Sandy from Sweden, a Kenickie from Russia, a Frenchie from Norway and a Teen Angel from China. “Imagine all the accents!” he jokes. Di Pace is glad more Hollywood and Broadway productions reflect his high school experience with Grease. “I love that in Hollywood and on Broadway we’re acknowledging that the world is colorful and casting has changed. Every show has a bit of everything and that’s how it should be,” he says.
Aside from London, Di Pace, who is originally from Argentina, has lived in Italy and Spain. However, when his acting career came to a sudden halt in Spain, the performer made the choice to move to the United States. “I was having doubts about how things were going and what to do and someone said to me, ‘Just go. Go to America. You’ve been wanting to do it for a long time,’” he recalls. “In my mind, coming to America was a complicated thing. [But] the moment I made the decision to come, it was uncanny how quick the visa, the driver’s license, the national insurance number, and the social security number, fell into place. Obviously, life had a plan because I came here, and, within a week, I was doing Dallas.”
Since that whirlwind breakthrough, Di Pace has been cast as Fernando Hernandez-Guerrero, Kimmy Gibbler’s racecar-driving ex-husband on the Netflix original series Fuller House. When he auditioned for the role, the writers were considering Fernando as a Colombian character, but, since Di Pace is Argentinian, he asked if the character could share his roots. “I was like, ‘Well, if you make him Argentinian, I’ll have more to say about that,’” he says. “He is the first Argentine character on a sitcom, ever. [Where he comes from] is a big deal. People don’t realize that in South America there are so many countries and we’re all very different.”
Proud of his home country, Di Pace keeps close ties to Argentina and—if he could choose—he would love to make his Broadway debut in a revival of Kander and Ebb’s Kiss of the Spider Woman. “It’s a show that talks about my country around the exact same time that I was born,” he explains. “The show is centered in the late ’70s and that’s when my parents met, and that was the reality that they lived in. People disappeared; people went to jail for no reason. [I’d love to play either] Molina or Valentín; one of them is the dreamer and the other one is the political purist, but they’re both such great parts and they both have such great numbers. I have a huge connection to it. Plus,” he grins, “it’s Kander and Ebb.”
Juan Pablo Di Pace’s solo show Act One will be performed at 54 Below February 21-22. Visit 54Below.com for tickets and more information.