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October 1999

Fallen Star

Portuguese actor live in Munich.

It’s the dream of most, the reality of few — being famous. When João Pedro Rodrigues da Silva signed up for acting school in his native Lisbon at the age of 14, he was not expecting to reach star status within several years. Nor did he count on throwing his fame away and moving to Munich six months after achieving it. But, going by the pseudonym “J.P.,” he did both. Portugal in 1987 — da Silva describes the relatively poor country as having been behind the times. Then, it was still legal for children to work at the age of 14 and attend school from 7 p.m. until midnight. “I studied theater by day and went to middle school by night,” explains the former actor who now goes by “Pedro.” “Within months of enrolling, I landed my first part — an extra in The Russia House starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Sean Connery. I was in a café scene for about half an hour. When the movie came out, I was shocked to see that my scene had landed on the cutting room floor. But I loved having the chance to work with those two. They were so nice, even to the lowliest players!” Da Silva did not, however, remain in the background for long. Subsequent roles in two foreign films — La Gamine with Johnny Halliday and a Portuguese production as yet unreleased — led to the handsome youth’s breakthrough part as “Mario” in the soap opera Primeiro Amor. “Soaps in Portugal are different than in the States,” offers da Silva. “They are about 220 episodes long, and all is resolved by the end.” Filming the television drama lasted six months, during which “J.P.,” then aged 18, worked from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m., seven days a week. “None of us saw the light of day in all that time. It was fun, but grueling.” The series was broadcast during da Silva’s daily grind. All too quickly he was recognized everywhere he went. “At first, I loved the autograph signing and people hounding me in restaurants and on the street,” recalls the ex-celebrity, “but soon I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t just be me. I am gay, so to make matters worse, I had this big secret to hide. I’d go out to the bars after work and nervously case the place for my agent.” On a well-earned two-week vacation from filming, da Silva visited Amsterdam, where he fell in love with a Münchner. “I had the distance to look at my life as a national personality,” says the expat. “I had to admit to myself that I was not cut out for celebrity. I realized that, if I remained in Portugal, I would never get a moment’s peace. I also wanted to live an openly gay lifestyle, so I decided that, since my new partner was from Germany, I would finish the show and emigrate.” Now 26 and a team sales manager at the Munich-based branch of photo archive Tony Stone Images, part of the Getty empire, da Silva — who is as candid about his homosexuality as his teen idol past — has no regrets. “I have a fulfilling job, and, for a little over a year, a great partner. I can live without my name in lights, although I do miss acting.” And what about da Silva’s parents: how did they feel about their son’s relinquished fortune and admitted sexual preference? “My parents never wanted me to be famous,” laughs the former heartthrob, “until the first episode was aired on TV! My mother told everyone in town to watch. But they have always supported me and accepted my choices both professional and emotional.” Will he ever return to Lisbon? “I love Munich,” states the charismatic actor emphatically. “I have felt nothing but welcomed here — both as an Ausländer and as a homosexual. This is my home.” When reminded of recent reports of “gay bashing” in Munich, as well as the U.S. gay publication Advocate’s warning to homosexuals that the Münchener Polizei is “very intolerant” of them, da Silva responds calmly: “These acts of violence occur in every city. I repeat, though, I find Munich to be generally quite safe. You can be “out” and simply behave appropriately in risky situations.” Does the Portuguese television-viewing public still remember “J.P.”? “When I go back for a visit, some old ladies still smile at me, but few approach me. Of course, the soap ran seven years ago. I don’t look like that kid anymore.” But you can’t take the teen star out of the man. In describing his workplace, the gregarious Latino blurted out a telltale line: “I work in an office of about 50 people, and, not to sound arrogant, but I want them all to know me, Pedro!” <<< Liz vannah

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