Spoiler alert! “Dallas” surprised viewers this week when Juan Pablo Di Pace’s character, Nicolas Treviño, stood by and watched his partners in crime execute his lifelong friend, Drew Ramos (Kuno Becker). I spoke to Di Pace last week about Nicolas’s dark turn and what will happen next on the TNT drama.
Dude, you killed Drew!
I know, I know. I’m so happy I did. [Laughs]
How’d you find out your character was going to become a killer?
There was sense among the cast that someone was going to die. Then it became clear it was Drew, and then when I read the script, I thought, “Oh, it’s me! I’m the killer!” [Laughs] But it’s a horrible thing. He’s like Nicolas’s half-brother.
What was it like to film the big scene where Drew takes the bullet?
It was hard. The producers really wanted to show that Nicolas is this badass, cold guy. So I went there and I was really cold. I went in thinking, “OK, I’m not going to feel anything. I’m not going to cry.” And all of a sudden, in the last take, my eyes were bawling. It just felt so wrong. It’s inevitable that Nicolas would feel something because Drew’s family.
How long did that scene take to film?
Steve Robin, the director of that episode, wanted me to do it many times because he really wanted different sizes of the shot. It was a very intense half-day, but I absolutely love Kuno Becker. He’s wonderful to work with. So it was a great day, all in all. But it certainly gives Nicolas a twist. Everyone was wondering, “Is this guy a complete monster?” Yes, he is a monster.
So when you joined the “Dallas” cast, did you know this was the direction Nicolas was going in?
Well, when I joined the show, it was very, very fast. I had just arrived in L.A. I was just breezily going through my first week [there], and then I get the call: “Put yourself on tape for ‘Dallas.’” I did that, and two days later, I’m talking to Cynthia [Cidre, the show’s executive producer]. And then a day after that, I’m in Dallas shooting. So I had no time to think about the enormity of it all. But what Cynthia did — which was great — was on that flight from L.A. to Dallas, she explained to me the whole two seasons prior, and she explained the arc of the character in Season 3.
What did she tell you about Nicolas?
She mentioned that he’s not what he seems, but I did not predict he was going to be a killer. That was definitely a big surprise for me.
Would you have preferred knowing that from the start?
In this profession, you always have to readjust. I don’t know if you remember the first season of “24,” but Nina Meyers was Jack’s sidekick, and at the end of the season, they told the actress, “Oh, by the way, you’re the mole.” So as an actor, you always want to know, but sometimes the producers don’t tell you so you don’t play what’s coming.
I have to tell you: I liked Nicolas so much as the charming rapscallion. I loved his first scene, where he breezes into the boardroom and upsets the Ewings’ apple cart.
That’s what’s fun about playing him. He has these different colors. He’s a guy with a secret, and he’s always hiding stuff. You know, in the beginning, we thought, “Elena is the one person he can tell everything to.” Not anymore. Now he has to hide the death of Drew, and that really affects Nicolas a lot. It’s stirring inside of him the rest of the season.
Well, let’s talk about his relationship with Elena. What’s up with the whole diaphragm-puncturing business?
Elena is the love of his life. I mean, that is one true thing about him. He adores her and doesn’t want to lose her, but he also knows he won’t be able to keep everything from her for very long. And when she finds out, it’s not going to be pretty. So I think the puncturing of the diaphragm is his way of securing a place in her life. Having a child together means having a connection to her that is beyond all the bad stuff that he’s doing for the cartel. It’s a twisted plan, of course. It’s very Nicolas. [Laughs]
So he’s killing people and he’s sabotaging people’s birth control. What else are we going to see him do this year?
I’d tell you but I’d have to kill you. [Laughs]
Oh, no. Nicolas is coming after me now!
I’m just going to say, toward the end of the season, it gets very exciting. The “Dallas” writers have this talent for giving you the cliffhanger, and I can tell you there’s another “Oh my God” moment before the season ends.
Oh, good. So how are you enjoying working with the cast?
I love it. Jordana [Brewster] was the first person I did a scene with when I arrived, fresh off the boat. She’s just a dream to work with. And the rest of the cast is just a hoot. Julie Gonzalo is so funny. Linda Gray is the greatest woman on the planet. So beautiful and gracious. She gave me this huge hug when I finished my boardroom scene and said, “I’m so excited you’re here.” And you know, to have that hug from Sue Ellen was spectacular.
There are a lot of people who’d like to get a hug from Sue Ellen.
And then there’s Patrick Duffy. The boardroom scene was on my second day, and I was pretty nervous. It was a big speech, so I was kind of walking backwards and forwards, going through my lines, and the rest of the cast was — I won’t say distant, but giving me my space. And so Patrick comes up to me and says, “By the way, Juan, we know how freaked out you are and how difficult this is, because we’ve all been there, so we will talk to you properly in about two weeks’ time.” [Laughs] And that was so nice because when you first join a show, it’s so nerve-wracking, and you want to do the best you can. That was really sweet of him to say that.
And he directed one of the upcoming episodes. What was that like?
That man is so talented. You’ll see that. That episode is an actors’ episode. There’s a lot of confrontation and dialogue. He did an incredible job of jumping out of the director’s chair and then [acting in] these really intense scenes. It’s the kind of episode where you say, “So this is the season finale, right?” And it’s not. There are three or four more after that.
It sounds like you’re enjoying being part of this ensemble.
We’ve had so many laughs. I watched all the Oscar-nominated movies this year with Emma Bell and Brenda Strong. We went to the cinema a lot when we weren’t shooting. It’s a really chill team, and very tight as well. We’re like a family.
And what are you hearing about the show returning for a fourth year?
Well, we’re just thinking positively. It’s difficult for a lot of shows to make it to season 2 or 3, so we’re really blessed the show’s gone this far. But we’re just looking forward to going back to Dallas.
Good. Are you hopeful you’ll be part of the fourth season?
Yep, I’m hopeful. Because Nicolas’s character … I can’t tell you anything.
Well, I’m worried about the guy because once you start killing people….
Yeah, I know. He’s treading a very fine line.
Besides “Dallas,” you just completed a movie with Matthew Morrison from “Glee.” What was that like?
It was great. Matthew’s a really cool, talented guy. It’s an independent film about this guy who loses his father to cancer and can’t really deal with that, so he decides to go onto a reality show like “The Bachelorette.” So I play this guy who’s called Dunkin, and he’s his nemesis on the show. I’m playing a manipulative character, someone who’s using his charms to get what he wants, and manipulating people’s feelings to win the show.
Sounds like a fun movie. When will that come out?
It’s being prepared for the Sundance festival, so sometime early next year.
You also write and direct.
Right. I’m finishing a script that I’ve been writing for five years with a friend from Argentina. I’ve directed five or six short films and couple of music videos when I was living in the U.K. I love it. I still have to do my first feature, but right now, I’m just excited to be Nicolas. I cannot wait for people to see more of him because he’s a twisted, twisted guy.
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