The Californian born and raised Joey Vieira plays Nico, Diego’s father in Paramount’s Dora and the Lost City of Gold, as well as a key role in the Australian crime-TV series Reef Break.
How different are the acting industries in Australia and America?
They are different in unexpected ways. Los Angeles is the home of the Western entertainment industry and almost everyone I knew was involved in one way or another. In LA there is no time to rehearse with the casting director when you show up or ask for another take. It’s much more brutal as it has to work at a faster pace. You are a very small fish in a large pond competing against hundreds if not thousands of people reading for the same roles. In Australia, there are fewer shows and films to read for, but there is also a much smaller pool of actors. The US is much more focused on diversity in casting, including across your cultural background and accents and I can see Australia starting to edge more into diversity across casting, but it still has some way to go before it actually reflects the community that lives here.
Is the goal for you to be able to move freely back and forth between film and TV as you’re doing with Dora and Reef Break, or do you have a preference to settle into one of these areas?
The industry has changed so much since the introduction of streaming and now it’s not as career-limiting as it once was in terms of choosing which kind of production you will do. A-list actors move freely between television and film and across platforms, and it’s much more acceptable to do so.
For me, it’s about the work and having the ability to immerse myself into different characters from all kinds of different backgrounds. As a child of immigrants in the US, to marrying an immigrant in the US, to now being one myself, there is so much material I get to draw on from my background, from my experiences across cultures and the life I have lived, and getting to step into characters whether it be television or film and amplify some of those through the characters, is why I love this work.
Dora the Explorer has been around for years, the characters have been developed and as such they all have stories about them. Given this, are there different challenges for an actor when approaching an already existing character as opposed to an entirely new character?
I watched a lot of Dora and Diego series with my son, probably every episode, in his early years which really wasn’t that long ago (he’s now 8). I grew up in a Spanish and Portuguese speaking community (in fact, even though I was born in California, when I started school, English was my third language) so these characters and languages are so familiar to me. I went back and looked at Diego’s family, and in many ways, I have less pressure on my interpretation of Nico as he’s not as familiar to the general public as Dora and Diego. In many ways, being a parent of a child from two different cultures, it sat really well for me to inhabit Nico.
Is Dora and the Lost City of Gold trying to act as a type of sequel to the show, given the age of the characters and the High school setting?
There is actually an animated series called Dora and Friends, which follows Dora from her younger self into a tween setting. I see this film as having all the spirit of the young original Dora but with the city elements that you see in Dora and Friends. I can’t say too much about the script but what I can say is that when I read it, I laughed out loud as it’s really funny and that elevated even further on set with actors like Isabela Moner, Pia Miller, Michael Pena, Eva Longoria and Jeffrey Wahlberg bringing it to life.
Can you give us some details on the role you play in Reef Break?
I play Detective Tolan and I’m teamed up with the wonderful Australian actor Desmond Chiam. I can’t say too much about the show but I’m happy to brag about all the wonderful cast and crew I’ve been working with including directors Shawn Seet and Kieran Darcy-Smith.
How does Reef Break stand apart from other crime-thriller shows?
Reef Break is like Magnum PI and Hawaii Five-O with the incredible Poppy Montgomery being the lead protagonist. It’s a visual feast of beaches, big characters and action and will have audiences on the edge of their seats from the start to the end of each episode. I love that it’s got a strong female lead in a role that has traditionally been male. I think that has offered so much more for the team to work with and really tells it from a different perspective.
Reef Break premieres on ABC TV on June 20, 2019, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is in cinemas September 19, 2019