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Panto star Joe Tracini on following in footsteps of famous dad

PUBLISHED: 15:30 16 December 2019 | UPDATED: 16:26 16 December 2019

Joe Tracini at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Joe Tracini at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

Louisa Baldwin spoke to Norwich Theatre Royal panto and former Hollyoaks star Joe Tracini about how his famous father inspired him to take to the stage and his Norfolk roots.

David Gant as Baron Hardup, Hercules and Joe Tracini as Buttons in Norwich Theatre Royal's Cinderella Credit:@richardjarmy - www.richardjarmy.co.ukDavid Gant as Baron Hardup, Hercules and Joe Tracini as Buttons in Norwich Theatre Royal's Cinderella Credit:@richardjarmy - www.richardjarmy.co.uk

Joe Tracini will provide comic relief in this festive season's panto Cinderella as her loyal friend Buttons - a role he admits is easy to play as he is used to being in the friend zone.

Whilst he uses a different surname to his father, something he admits is to avoid expectation, within a few minutes of meeting him it is clear exactly who his dad is, with the same razor-sharp wit and exaggerated hand gestures.

Joe Tracini is every bit Joe Pasquale's son's, albeit his pitch is about an octave lower, and since being born at the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston in 1988, he has gone on to have a successful acting and comedy career.

Alongside 15 pantos in his adult life, he also portrayed Dennis Savage in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks and young audiences may recognise him as one of the presenters on CBBC's The Dengineers.

Meeting him in the stalls of the Theatre Royal, he is a bundle of energy and warmly greets me and it is clear he doesn't take any of his jobs for granted and genuinely loves panto.

The interview was laced with self-deprecating humour and although he has big boots to fill as he is taking over from Ben Langley as the comedy character this year, who had proved popular with audiences, he only feels pressure in terms of making sure it is an amazing show.

Who do you play in Cinderella?

I play Buttons who is basically the friend zone with legs and a face and I don't have to act too much as I've been in the friend zone for 31 years and it is lovely.

Joe Tracini at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Jamie Honeywood Joe Tracini at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Have you had a lot of experience doing panto?

Yes, I think I spent more time in panto than I did at school. This is my fifteenth one as a grown-up and I did my first one when I was three and I love it.

In my first panto as a grown-up I played Peter Pan, which is ironic as he shouldn't be but I was and then before that I was a Lost Boy for quite a long time - not literally, I had a home.

READ MORE: EastEnders and panto star on being a Branning and 'really cute' Norwich

What was it like growing up with Joe Pasquale as your dad? 
I had no other frame of reference, he was just my dad so it was just the same as someone else's dad is a plumber and they don't really watch them doing the plumbing - it was like that if plumbing was jokes in front of many people.

I didn't really know anything else, it was fine - he was there sometimes and he wasn't there others.

Joe Tracini at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Jamie Honeywood Joe Tracini at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

How did he inspire you to get into comedy?

I think whatever I wanted to do my family would have supported me - it just helped that it was exactly what my family did and I used to watch Dad in the wings.

As I've got older, the less I work like him but there are things in my body and in the way I move that I can't control.

It is creepy and uncomfortable for me to watch as I think I'm just my dad all of the time.

What do you remember of your early years in Norfolk?

I was born in Yarmouth in the James Paget Hospital and then I lived in Hopton Holiday Village, which was very pleasant I believe - it may not have been and I've blanked it out.

The cast of Norwich Theatre Royal's Cinderella Credit: @richardjarmy - www.richardjarmy.co.ukThe cast of Norwich Theatre Royal's Cinderella Credit: @richardjarmy - www.richardjarmy.co.uk

Do you come back here often?

None of us live here anymore as everyone moved back to Kent and London, but I like it and people are always nice.

The comic character was previously played by Ben Langley, do you feel pressure taking over the comedy role?

I'm not a comic and have never professed to be one, I'm just me, so I think the downside of doing my part is that I don't get to work with people like Ben, who is a really nice bloke whenever I've met him.

There is a bit of pressure but no more than normal, there is a standard that has been set at the Theatre Royal over many years and I think there is pressure on everyone to keep it up as a cast.

READ MORE: Rehearsals underway for Theatre Royal's Cinderella panto

Richard Gauntlett, left, Fairy Godmother, with, from second left, Buttons (Joe Tracini), Prince Charming ((David Witts), and Cinderella (Kara-Lianne Jones) during rehearsals for the Theatre Royal panto, Cinderella. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYRichard Gauntlett, left, Fairy Godmother, with, from second left, Buttons (Joe Tracini), Prince Charming ((David Witts), and Cinderella (Kara-Lianne Jones) during rehearsals for the Theatre Royal panto, Cinderella. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

You also appeared in Hollyoaks, what were your highlights on the show?

It sounds weird, but when my wife died in a bomb that was good.

It was a highlight as I was busy for a week, in a show like Hollyoaks if you don't have a jawline it is quite a struggle to get meaty storylines so I didn't really have any apart from that one.

I made some really good friends up in Liverpool and again it wasn't a plan it was an accident - my entire career has been an accident which is great.

Do you get frustrated sometimes you don't get cast as the love interest?

I know what side my bread is buttered and I'm alright being the one who is a bit of an idiot.

I was going to get a hair transplant, but then I thought it was a lot of money and people like me shouldn't have hair jobs and by doing that I would minimise my casting bracket - the funny guy has a scalp with lots of skin.

You use a different surname to your father, why is that?

Absolutely, as my name is literally Joe Pasquale and I didn't want the expectation and if I'm on a list I've got something to live up to.

My great-great grandad is from Sicily in Italy and was an idiot as when he moved to England he filled out his citizenship form wrong and put his last name as his first name, first name as last name and last name as middle name so was Joe Tracini Pasquale rather than Pasquale Giuseppe Tracini.

So I asked my grandad what our original family name was when I was looking to change mine, which he said was Tracini and I thought great and changed it.

A couple of years ago when we emptied out his house because he went into a home, we found out it was actually Treliani and my grandad had just forgotten and made a noise and that is my name now.

READ MORE: 19 of the best pantomimes coming to Norfolk this Christmas

How often to you get to spend time with your dad?

Now I'm down south I'm available to see him more, but we still don't as we are both better in small doses and if we spend too much time together, although we love each other very much, we may hurt each other with words so we try to minimise it to a phone call every day and see each other once every other week.

Why should people get tickets to come and see Cinderella?

Pantos get a bad rep sometimes but they shouldn't, for many people they wouldn't go the theatre without it and I am lucky I get to do it every year.

Cinderella is definitely the best panto and you really feel at the Theatre Royal that everyone is excited about the show.

Cinderella runs until January 19 and you can purchase tickets at theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk, by phone on 01603 630000 or in person at the box office.

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