INTERVIEW: DAYS' Jordi Vilasuso dishes on Dario, the character's real connection to Summer, and tough family issues

Posted Monday, March 21, 2016 11:27:46 AM
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DAYS' Jordi Vilasuso dishes on Dario, the character's real connection to Summer, and tough family issues

Days of our Lives' Jordi Vilasuso (Dario Hernandez) reveals all the muy caliente details of crashing into Salem, helping amp up the soap's Hispanic appeal, and how he's preparing for baby number two.

Boy, is it a good time to be Days of our Lives' Jordi Vilasuso (ex-Dr. Griffin Castillo, All My Children; ex-Tony Santos, Guiding Light). The actor not only recently began airing as the Hernandez clan's Dario, which will help the NBC soap as it works to catapult its popularity within America's Hispanic community, he recently announced that he and his wife, Kaitlin, are expecting their second child later this year. Needless to say, life is good for the Miami native.

However, the same can't be said for Dario, who just arrived in Salem and has already shown he'll be quite a force for dad Eduardo (A Martinez), brother Rafe (Galen Gering), sister Gabi (Camila Banus), and mom Adriana (Alma Delfina) to deal with. And what's the story about Dario's mysterious connection to Marie Wilson's Summer? Soap Central spoke with Vilasuso to get the details on that and so much more. Wow, it seems like such a great time to be you right now! A brand new job at Days of our Lives and a new baby on the way. Congratulations!

Jordi Vilasuso: Thank you! It is a beautiful time, I have to admit. We feel very blessed, and we're very grateful. We've done a lot of growing up, my family and myself, and I feel we are so strong as a unit right now, stronger than we've ever been. We went through some challenges because, with this business... you just don't know what the future is going to bring. And with this job, we've gotten so many blessings. I couldn't be in a happier environment, and to be growing my family, to add another little one, it's perfect in terms of timing. Acting is pretty nerve-wracking in and of itself, but when you have a family to support, the pressure must get really intense.

Vilasuso: Yeah, it is. It's a big responsibility. I've had a lot of success in this medium, in this genre. And to be honest, we prayed really hard for some consistent work, and this job kind of just came as a blessing. So we were dealing with faith and some really tough questions, questions about my career and putting a family together, and now we feel like we can really plant some seeds and really kind of enjoy this time in our lives. It's a very, very joyful time. Very joyful. You've mentioned to me in past interviews that family is extremely important to you, so do you want to have a big family? Is that something you can see yourself doing, maybe driving a minivan full of kids?

Vilasuso: [Laughs] Well, I want to be responsible, first of all. In this career, there are some things I have no control over... so I'm taking it one day at a time and not planning too much. We talk about it, but really, it's just one day at a time, and we're really happy in terms of the separation in age between Riley and her soon-to-be sister. We think that's great, because Riley is in a really good place. We just got out of the terrible twos, which can be a little stressful. My brother is going through it right now, and I was just with him, and we were talking about it; that's when you learn about your parenting skills and what it is you have to do. I'm the doting dad, so of course I'm going to brag, but I feel like Riley is ready for that leadership role now, and she's ready to kind of help us out. I mean, she's already telling me what to do! She's telling me how to do things, so I'm like, "Okay, you want to help out? You're ready! Keep practicing." That's adorable! What kind of stuff is she "ordering" you to do?

Vilasuso: She tells me to buckle my seatbelt, she tells me not to curse, and she tells me to be careful. My favorite thing is when she asks me if I understand. "Do you understand, Dad?" I'm like, "Wow." [Laughs] Okay, she definitely sounds like she's ready to be a big sister! And it shows that she pays attention to you and listens to your parenting, so that must feel really good.

Vilasuso: Yeah, she does. She's a great kid. We're really, really happy. Are you at all nervous to have two kids? It's twice the fun, but twice the trouble!

Vilasuso: We are. It's been three years [since Riley was born], and a lot of the things my friends are going through with their new ones, I'm remembering. I was talking to my brother-in-law yesterday, and his wife is about to have her son, and he was bringing up Braxton Hicks, which are these contractions that I totally forgot about. And I was like "Oh, my God, it's like an old vocabulary word!" It's from the beginning, and I totally forgot about it. You do forget. It's crazy how much you forget about bringing them up and the whole process. So yeah, I'm a little nervous. But not as much as I was with the first one. We're in a much better place with this one. So it's a lot of excitement and a lot of gratitude for where we're at. [Kaitlin] is about [18] weeks away, so we've got some time. She's in nesting mode. We just moved into our new home, and she's in nesting mode, which is really fun. I'm on DAYS, which is great, and it's like five minutes from where we live, which is great. I can walk to work, which we love. It's a really good time. Changes all around: You have a new job, a baby coming, and a new home. That's a lot to take in!

Vilasuso: Yeah, it is! It is a lot, but we're enjoying it. I like being busy, and with DAYS, you don't really work all the time. The schedule is kind of like one week off, and we're dark a lot this month. So we have time to do some things [to prepare for the baby], and then I work very hard. So it's just a sweet, sweet gig. She can do her thing, and we don't really have a set babysitter. We switch off, and I really love spending time with my daughter. I'm going to take her to the pool today, which will be fun. And my wife is at Target and running errands and doing stuff that she needs to take care of. So it's all good. I love being a dad. That's one thing I'll say I think I got from my dad. I really enjoy fatherhood. If I'm at a party and there are kids there, I gravitate toward the kids. I like hanging out with the kids and being a goofball. It's funny, and that's my vibe. I always think actors must make the best parents, because you're not afraid to be super imaginative and play because you're always playing make believe anyway.

Vilasuso: Yeah, and you learn a lot from kids, too, just watching them explore and how free they are. I love that. Have you noticed, now that you are a father and you're around Riley all the time, if it has impacted your acting at all?

Vilasuso: Oh, for sure! Just having a family, the love and the responsibility and the whole thing is just so much deeper than anything I've ever had. Even just thinking about it, I start to tear up, because it's just so big, you know? And there's just so much investment and love. It's nothing that I've ever had in my life before, and it's forced me to look at life in different ways. Every decision I make, it comes around my family. It's not like I can just go off and do whatever job. Even with acting, my family is number one, and then my career [comes second]. That's how I really feel, and it's a delicate balance. And like you said, with this career, you never know what's going to happen, so my wife and I, we really formed a strong foundation through self-examination, reflection and prayer, and we really found some grounding. And it's a daily thing that we work on, and that's where I come from. I'm grateful for my parents for that, and I'm very lucky that I had that. And I hope to instill that in my little ones, too. It's a really incredible journey, fatherhood and family and what that means. And I didn't really know what it meant. People would always say, "Family is number one," and I'd be like, "Okay, I get that." But it's like, no, now I get it. I'm really happy to hear you've found a really nice rhythm and footing. Though I hear from a lot of parents that once you get everything running smoothly after the first baby, the second one comes, and everything blows up in your face again. Total chaos!

Vilasuso: Yeah, I'm sure. But a beautiful chaos! And it's all about learning, in the end. Thank God we had struggles and all that stuff, because it got us to this place. A friend was telling me the other day, "If you can get through [all you've been through recently], you can get through anything." So it's good. It's all very good. Another good thing is this DAYS character you have. I've read some other interviews you've done, and you say you really, really love this particular character. What did you see in Dario that made you so happy to get the part?

Vilasuso: Well first of all, the whole environment at DAYS is fantastic. It's the best place I've ever worked. Everybody comes and works very, very hard and is there for the right reasons. They all want to do very good work, and they want the show to do awesome, and that's number one. The character, I love where he comes from, being gone from his family for so long, coming back, being Hispanic, what that means culturally. Relatability on my part is fantastic, and I'm so happy and so glad that they're highlighting that. We're speaking Spanish on the show, and we're incorporating different cultural things. It's where I'm from, and I can relate to it, so I really enjoy that. I also like that Dario has a past that's unknown, too. He was gone for so long in Argentina, and there's a little bit of mystery. We don't know where this guy's gone, what he's been up to, why he came back to the States. What happened? And I think that can be an interesting story, if and when it does come to be. And with every sibling, there's a different thing. With Rafe, Rafe is kind of like a dad. Although, I think it's always been difficult for him to accept, especially as a grown man, that Rafe has been the father figure. And then my real father, having to deal with that is something very difficult for him, as well. Eduardo was gone for so long and for so many years, and me discovering why he was gone is [intense]. Dario is not going to accept that and is not really forgiving of that, whereas a lot of his other family is on board with that. But this guy was gone, he abandoned Dario and the family, and now he's back? And Dario is supposed to just get over it and be loving and accepting? No! He wasn't around, so why should he come now, come back into our lives? So I think there's a real struggle with forgiveness, and there will be some interesting things because of that, some interesting stories and how Dario deals with that. And I also like that he's expressive and passionate about the way he feels... Myself, Jordi, and my family, we're working on stuff, but there is a temper that's there that I love to be able to express on-screen. And especially with this character, I think he has things that just come out in different ways, and I think that's a really interesting thing to do in acting. Like, what are these feelings? They come out in different ways, and I think that will be really great for me to explore as an actor. And you know, then my mom, there's this thing you'll see in Dario as the character develops, he has this thing about taking care of women, and I think it comes from his relationship with his mother. He had to be sort of a father figure with his mother in a lot of ways. He had to take care of his mom and be there for his mom, help out his mom and love his mom. So I think that will come through in terms of his relationships with women on the show, as well. They've really brought on a whole family, Latino characters, and you're speaking Spanish and bringing this whole new element to the show. How do you feel about being a part of this big change at DAYS? And also, since you actually do come from this kind of background in real life, do you feel they're doing a good job of representing Latino culture in a realistic way?

Vilasuso: Oh, I think they're doing a fantastic job, and I'm grateful for it. We have tons of Hispanics living in this country, a huge bilingual population and demographic, and I think a lot of these people watch telenovelas, and we are so blessed to have two stars from that genre, from Spanish television, Ximena Duque [Blanca] and Alma Delphino, who plays my mom, [Adriana]. We're blessed. And these girls are great. They're real pros, and I'm hoping they'll attract their audience, as well, to watch our show. Who knows what can happen? Eva Longoria [ex-Isabella Braņa, The Young and the Restless] has a great show on NBC called Telenovela, and it's a really funny show. So in terms of stories, to bring this to light on daytime television is great, and I'm super excited to be part of that now. And hopefully, God willing, it will keep this genre on its feet and keep it moving forward and make it exciting and bring other audiences on board. I'm definitely working on my Spanish, which has been crazy. I was going to ask you if you speak much Spanish, so I guess you do!

Vilasuso: I do, and it's like with anything else, I get better at it when I practice it. I almost have to push myself to speak with Alma and Ximena in Spanish, and Camilla, as well. She's from my hometown -- she's a Cuban girl from Miami -- and she speaks Spanish very well. I've done plays in Spanish, and I've done movies in Spanish. But it takes practice. Out here in L.A., I mean, my wife speaks English. She didn't grow up speaking Spanish, and every time I talk Spanish with my daughter, she cringes and says, "No, I don't want to." Really? Oh no!

Vilasuso: Yes, I know. She has a little prayer she does in Spanish, and she can say, "I love you," in Spanish. And it's on me. With everything going on, I really didn't make that a priority, and now I'm like, okay, we're going to look at these schools, they have these Spanish-speaking schools that are fully immersive, and hopefully I can get her to work on that as part of her upbringing. You have a second chance with another child coming, so start speaking Spanish immediately!

Vilasuso: That's true! Maybe this time. It's funny that you mentioned Eva Longoria's show, Telenovela, because part of the premise of it is that she's a telenovela star that can't speak Spanish.

Vilasuso: Yeah, exactly [Laughs]. But I know Eva has been working on her Spanish for a long time, and you know, it's part of the Americanization of what happens to us. I have friends from Miami who have dealt with developing content for both viewers, Spanish and English, and the population is growing so much. It's definitely an audience that can be served in this genre, and I'm totally happy to be a part of it. In terms of Dario and his past, he used to be a thief and was pretty obsessed with finding his sister, Arianna's, murderer. How has he changed since then, since viewers last saw the character?

Vilasuso: Oh, I think a lot has changed. I know his history, because I looked it up, but I think that thing with Arianna, and it has come up, and it's so funny because Lindsey Hartley used to play that role, and she [played my sister, Cara Castillo] on All My Children, so it's crazy full circle. And she used to play Galen's sister [Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald] on Passions! It's a funny world. So I think there is a bit of that coming through with his family. He was also a petty thief. When I read about him, those were exact words that were used, so I think that there's still some underhandedness, and he's not necessarily always on the up and up. He's not really a super straight shooter. There are things that he feels very strongly about, but I also think when it comes to business and making money, I think he saw Titan and what they were doing down there, and this is just a history that I made up, I'm using my dramatic license here, but I think he kind of sees business as a hustle, as well. It's kind of like, in the corporate world, people are getting screwed over just as much as in the street hustle. Although, I think he does it with a little bit of class. I think he's justified in a way that he feels like, "I'm not stealing babies or anything like that." Yet! You're not stealing babies yet.

Vilasuso: Yeah, but there is an underhandedness where I feel like, yeah, this person is not really the greatest person, so it's okay if they get screwed over a little bit. I think you'll see a little bit of that, which is totally fun to play. I've played a lot of gangsters in my life, and not that Dario is a gangster, but he definitely isn't afraid to delve into that part of commerce or lifestyle, if you will. He has some rough edges. Can you preview what viewers can expect now that he's dealing with his family face-to-face?

Vilasuso: There are definitely going to be a lot of surprises for him, and that readjustment period is going to be a little awkward, coming back to the small town of Salem. And I think his mother coming back, and being back with his family, a part of him, now that he's older, missed that. He wants to step up now as a man, and with his father being back in town now, [Dario is thinking], "Uh-huh. That ain't gonna work." So I think he's going to do what he can to help out his family and not leave Salem. His mom is there, his family is there, so he's not leaving. He's like, "Okay, this is where I'm supposed to be right now." And this relationship with his dad is [complicated]. It's just unacceptable to Dario that he's back in town, and then learning his dad's past really enrages him in a lot of ways. It brings up a lot of stuff regarding his history with his dad and makes him think about where he really comes from. This person, this man, Dario doesn't want that in his life or around him. And what he did to his mother and how much hurt he put her through? Dario feels he needs to protect her. And the fact that the rest of the family doesn't see it as clearly as Dario is frustrating to him, as well. We've had a lot of those moments in our lives, that family dynamic of when you see it differently than your parents or your brothers and sisters, and you're like, "Are you crazy? How can you not see this?" And Dario trying to come to come to terms with that will definitely be on-screen. Is there an element there that perhaps they won't take Dario so seriously because he himself has been absent for so long?

Vilasuso: Yeah! [Laughs] That definitely comes up with his brother, Rafe. They're definitely butting heads in terms of that. But Dario also didn't have a family, he didn't have kids, and he wasn't married. So that's a different thing. [Having those things] is a responsibility, and if Dario had kids, maybe it would be different, as well. Maybe part of Dario thinks with his family in Salem, maybe he will find love in Salem. Maybe this is the place that he plants roots and aspires to be the man that his father never was. Maybe that's what Dario will grow into in terms of a story; maybe they'll develop that part of his story. I can only imagine that fans are dying to see you in a romance, and soon, because nobody does shirtless scenes like you, mister!

Vilasuso: Oh, my God! That's funny. They had one shirtless scene [in the script], and I was like, "Oh man," and the vanity gets in your head, and I was working out constantly and getting my abs super ripped, all that terrible stuff. And I love to work out, thank God. I was actually at the gym earlier, because I love working out. But then they were like, "No, no, no, we're not going to do a crazy body shot," and I was like, "Are you kidding?! I've gotta [get in a good shot]! What are you doing here? Come on!" [Laughs] So yeah, I didn't really see the scene, so maybe there will be a little of that, but hopefully that will come to be sooner or later for whoever wants that. They're out there, trust me! Do your thoughts and feelings about love scenes change as you get older? I think in the beginning, many soap actors are ripping their shirts off left and right with no problem, but as you age, does it become an issue?

Vilasuso: Taking off my shirt? No. I mean, it's all part of it, and if it's done in good taste, it's all part of the genre, so I really don't have a problem with that. I'm cool with it. There's a certain sexuality that's a part of this, and if it's done in good taste, it's done in good taste. I really have never felt like, "Oh, I can't take off my shirt." I mean, I want to look good! But the romance and sexuality on the show is a big part of it; it's part of what keeps people watching, and I'm pretty cool with that. It's part of our human life to express that, and if someone enjoys it, then good, I'm glad I'm giving them that. Always for me, if it's done in good taste, it's all good. And if that's an asset that I have, that I've been blessed with and work at, then I'm happy to show it. Speaking of love scenes and shirtless scenes, what can you reveal about Dario and Summer's relationship? We know they have a history as con artists together, but is there more to the story?

Vilasuso: It's a funny relationship. They're friends, but who's to say they weren't at one point friends with benefits? They know each other well, and again, Dario is very protective of the women in his life, so there's a little bit of mystery there. People are going to wonder the real story of their relationship. Summer is a little off-kilter, and she is kind of a lost flower child. She has that kind of thing going on. We definitely work together on some things, and I think it's an interesting thing. But also, she's a friend, and Dario wants to see her [decision to go] back to Salem, that part of her life, to work out. She's had a tough life, and Dario's heart goes out to her. But it's a friendship. I think the romance, when and if there ever was one, it was put aside because Dario realized she's a little much! It probably wouldn't end well, so they agreed to be just friends. Now whether that friendship [changes], you know, sometime that line is skewed after you get a couple of drinks in you, but I can't say if or when that happens. Fair enough. Can you say if you will you be working with your former All My Children costar, Vincent Irizarry [Deimos Kiriakis; ex-David Hayward, AMC], much?

Vilasuso: It's so awesome that he's on the show. We had a really beautiful chitchat recently, and man, I really enjoy being able to work with him. He's a real good friend, and he's always been really open with me about anything, you know. We've been there for each other, and I'm really grateful for his friendship and that we get to work together on the show. He's great. And I really respect him. He's had such an incredible history with this genre and his life, and spiritually speaking, he comes from the same place I do, so it's just a really nice connection. He's a great guy. Will Dario and Deimos cross paths a lot on-screen?

Vilasuso: Yeah! Much later on, you'll see us interacting. But we shoot so far ahead, so you'll have to wait. It'll happen further along. And I really can't wait for fans to see everything and how it's going to play out.

Photos: JPI/

What do you think of Vilasuso's version of Dario? How would you like to see his storyline play out? And which lady do you think Dario will soon be romancing? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.

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