Joey Dedio doesn’t have kids, but he sure likes their company. The native New Jerseyite, who has called Miami Beach home for the last four years, stars as Tio Papi, out Friday. The actor (TV’s The Karate Kid, Captain Planet and the Planeteers) plays Ray Ray, a carefree NYC bachelor who longs for the good life in Miami. His life changes in one night when his sister and her husband are killed in a car crash, and he is left the caretaker of their six kids. We talked to Dedio, who also shares screenwriting credits.
Since you aren’t a father, how did you come up with this idea? How did you prepare for the role?
Right, I really don’t have experience, though I have the cutest nieces and nephews in the world. Not sure if I get them if something happens to my sister. I’ll give you her number, and you can ask her! But seriously, I was walking in the park in Los Angeles. It was a beautiful day in Echo Park. There were colorful balloons everywhere, a birthday party, and little kids jumping on this guy’s back going, ‘Tio papi! Tio papi!’ It was picture perfect. They looked so happy. That’s when the idea came to me. Ding, ding!
How different is this from a movie like say, “Uncle Buck” or “Raising Helen?”
I haven’t seen those, but someone told me that Tio Papi was like a better, Latino version of Uncle Buck. The wild thing is that whether you’re Latino, African American, white, Asian, no matter your socioeconomic background, everyone comes from a family. And it’s amazing the stories that are coming out now, about people who have unexpected circumstances. One single woman I met in the Bronx had a sister who died and left her with five kids. She’s the sequel: Tia Mama!
You had the star power of Kelly McGillis as the child welfare counselor, Carlos Leon as the father of the kids a nd Fatima Ptacek, who voices “Dora the Explorer.” How did they come on board?
For Kelly’s role, we wanted someone recognizable so I sent her the script, and she loved it. She wanted in. She’s just a great, great person. And Carlos was terrific too. The saddest problem was he was in the movie for such a short time. As for Fatima, we hit the jackpot with that one. She’s a class act, as are her parents.
Your character yearns to live in Miami. Sounds like pretty close to real life.
When I was a little kid I remember seeing the orange juice commercials. It was always all about going to Florida. I think every New Yorker’s secret dream is running away to Miami, the mecca. You’ve made it if you get there, you know? It just resonates, so I incorporated that into the script. I love it! I think it’s one of the greatest places in the world. I’d like to bring more filming here, to thrive. Miami is a character in this movie. I wanted to bring attention to it.
How did the whole cast get along? Like The Brady Bunch?
I know it sounds very cliche, but you do become a family. I’ve traveled all over the place with these kids. It would be easy to make a TV series with them. You know who the wild one is; the conservative one. The real smart one. We all hung out on a daily basis, and they came to me like I was their real uncle. ‘Hey, can we go get ice cream?’ How can you say no? Did I spoil them? If I said no, I’d be lying.