Taking over the reins for a beloved childhood favorite isn’t an easy task, but it’s one that actor Josh Dela Cruz has taken in stride. Currently starring in the reboot of Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues, Josh has so quickly become a fan favorite that the show has already been renewed for 2 more seasons. Josh was kind enough to give us the time for an interview about this inspirational role.
Can you tell us about what led you into this very iconic role?
I was going into my fifth year at Aladdin on Broadway and while I loved my job and the people I was working with I started to feel that I wanted something more. I realized I was looking for a way to help people using the skills I had learned along the way but just hadn’t figured out how to do it until I went in to audition for the remake of Blue’s Clues. I remember how nostalgic I felt thinking back on all the good times I had watching the show with my little sister. My castmates at Aladdin, who are like family to me, helped me learn the lines for my audition and as we were going over each scene we started to laugh and reminisce about how much fun we had watching the show as kids. In that moment I realized how much of a positive impact the show had on so many people’s lives and this was the opportunity I had been waiting for.
Reviving a show that meant so much to an entire generation must have been a monumental decision. Can you talk about how you’ve approached the pressure that must come along with that?
I approached the show like any other audition: I figured out what the scene was about, what was happening, what needed to happen and why I was doing what I was doing. When I focus on these types of things, it makes it much easier to ignore the things you can’t control. The most important and influential piece of advice actually came after I got the job. Steve Burns, the original host, pulled me aside during a work session before filming season one and said that he wanted to make sure that I knew they cast me because they loved what I did with the role and that I don’t need to feel like I have to recreate something that he or Donovan had done before—they loved me for who I was and what I brought to the role. It was something that I needed to hear because it gave me the confidence I needed and the permission to dive into the role and really enjoy the process. You can’t ever control how people will react to your work, you can only do your best.
After studying theatre at Montclair University, did you know that you wanted to work in children’s programming? How did you travel that track?
I honestly never thought I would work in children’s programming, let alone that I’d work in television. But there’s proof that if you work hard, be kind to those around you and do your best to enjoy every opportunity that comes your way, no matter what it is, life tends to reveal itself in surprising ways. I recently saw “A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood,” the Mr. Rogers documentary, and thought how blessed I am to have the opportunity to help teach kids to grow and learn and love themselves and the world the way that Mr. Rogers helped so many, including myself. I have the best job in the world and didn’t see it coming. Obviously acting on stage is very different than acting with cartoon characters, what’s the most difficult part of the green screen life? I’d say the most difficult part of green screen life would be the silence. When you’re acting on stage, the audience is usually a good metric of whether or not a joke is working. When I got to set I was panicked because I had no idea if what I was doing was funny or engaging because everyone has to be quiet in order to record clean audio. I remember looking to the director after a take and asking, “Was that funny?” I quickly learned that I needed to trust my timing and just have fun. It’ll all work out eventually. Still, it never hurts whenever we break a take because it was really funny.
Can you describe what a normal day filming on set is like? What sort of discussions are had beforehand on the educational impact your work will have?
At the beginning of each day the director, my off-screen assistant (who is more than anything, my scene partner), and I read through the scene before we start shooting. Then we go through the actions and blocking with the addition of the animation team and director of photography. That usually includes looking at storyboards and laying down pieces of tape or putting up tennis balls to establish eye line. After that, we rehearse the scene a few times, making sure that any camera moves are in sync with my performance and then we shoot. After a few takes I’ll ask to look at the best ones and then adjust my performance and eye lines with the help of the director’s notes. We start on set at 9am, break for lunch around 1pm and then finish the day at 6. It’s a long day but we’ve created a pretty amazing family on-set and the day flies by with tons of laughs along the way.
What has been the most satisfying part of being a part of Blue’s Clues?
I grew up never seeing myself represented on television in a relatable way so, when the show premiered I got texts from friends and friends of friends telling me that their kids pointed at the screen and said: He looks like me! That is really special.
Right now is an anxiety-ridden time in our country with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Kids and parents are at home struggling. Can you talk about what you’re doing while staying at home? Any advice for parents with young kids?
It’s a really strange time right now. I’m able to work remotely which is a huge luxury that many people don’t have. So many people, including my wife, lost their jobs because of it. I’ve been doing my best to stay informed with the most up-to-date facts, exercise every day, eat as healthy as possible, and enjoy spending time with my wife and our dog. Since I live in Canada half the year while we’re filming, I don’t have nearly as much time to be home and enjoy my family. So, the silver lining in all of this is that my wife and I are able to build and strengthen our relationship—to learn and laugh and simply be together. I can’t imagine what it’s like for parents that are essential workers or that have lost their jobs and have to home school their kids on top of everything else going on. I’m not a therapist, but I would encourage families to talk about their feelings. It’s okay to be anxious or scared or to feel alone. That’s what I’ve been feeling. But after talking with my wife and friends and family, I realized that we all feel this way. We are not alone and in times of hardship we can draw strength from one another. We can find some relief in knowing we will make it through this and at the very least find the moments of laughter and togetherness that we sometimes miss because we’re too busy with life outside of the home.
One of the struggles that’s come along with discourse around this pandemic are ongoing attacks on Asians and Asian Americans in our country. Associating race with disease has an ugly history and we’re seeing that coming back around. Can you talk about any experiences you’ve had with this, or if you’d like to address to the issue?
Thankfully, I haven’t experienced this firsthand. However, I’ve had friends who have and it makes me feel so many things. I feel angry, scared, and confused. I want to keep being angry at those people, but that’s not how we’re going to change their minds. I believe that most of the people that are acting out like this also feel angry, scared, and confused about the changing world around them due to this virus. It’s easier to lash out at a scapegoat that is tangible rather than accepting it’s a virus 0.125 microns big. I think that we need to condemn these actions while also helping people understand that Chinese people or people of Asian descent are not the cause. We need to address the emotional damage that events of this magnitude cause. I think that at this time we must focus on facts and the understanding that we are all in this together. If we don’t, we will be putting our energy into blaming and acting out against a group of people for no reason. Instead, let’s learn how to prevent this from happening again and how to protect ourselves now from a virus that knows no borders and holds no biases.
When I told my girls that I’d be doing this interview they jumped with glee. I hope it’s ok that they each passed on a question!
Of course it is! Thank you :O)
Fia, 9, would like to know if it’s weird working with imaginary characters all day.
Not at all, Fia! When I was little, I loved using my imagination so much that I went to acting school and did more of the same! Sometimes, the older we get the harder it is to remember how to use our imaginations, be creative, and play. Thankfully, I’m lucky enough to get to practice that every day while we’re filming. I’ve truly never been happier.
Josie, 3, would like to know you and Blue’s favorite food.
Blue and I share a love for roasted brussels sprouts and veggie pizza!
Thank you so much for the time, is there anything else you’d like fans to know?
Thank you so much for this interview! Sure, yeah, it’s frustrating to hear that people still believe that this virus is a hoax. I hope they realize they have the privilege of feeling this way because of the millions of people taking social distancing seriously and essential personnel are risking their lives to treat and contain this virus. Most of my family works in the healthcare system and they tell me what it’s like to be working on the front lines in hospitals during this pandemic—it’s terrifying. A lack of clear and sufficient government standards as well as, little to no supplies of personal protection equipment have become the norm and they need our help and support. Please send a letter to your congressional representatives and tell them how important it is they fight for healthcare workers and other essential workers. This is so important because the only way we defeat this virus and recover from it is if we take care of each other. Thank you, again. I hope you stay safe, stay healthy, and keep being kind to each other.