Joaquin Pedro Valdes: The Rising Star Shines in Death Note with Support From Bronia Buchanan’s BBA Management

Joaquin Pedro Valdes: The Rising Star Shines in Death Note with Support From Bronia Buchanan’s BBA Management

Joaquin Pedro Valdes is a talented actor, singer, and all-round musical theatre star. A client of Bronia Buchanan’s BBA Management, Joaquin has performed in and toured with some of the world’s biggest musicals. Most recently, he played Light Yagami in Death Note: The Musical, the Japanese manga adaptation that’s proven a hit with British audiences.

Originally hailing from the Philippines, Joaquin has followed in the footsteps of Lea Salonga and Jon Jon Briones, Filipino actors who have found success on the stage overseas.

Here, Joaquin offers insights into his acting journey, including his experiences with Death Note, The Lion King, and brand-new musicals. He also shares how BBA Management has helped him shape his successful career trajectory so far.

Bringing Death Note to the West End

Joaquin says Light Yagami in Death Note is “one of the best roles” he’s ever played. It seems that critics agree, calling his powerhouse performance “a joy” and “constantly enigmatic.” One review has called the musical “the launchpad Joaquin Pedro Valdes so richly deserves.”

Initially, Death Note was scheduled for two nights at the London Palladium. Both shows sold out in five hours. In response to the demand, the musical added a matinee performance at the Palladium and seven nights at the Lyric Theatre. These shows also sold out. As Joaquin puts it: “There is a following.”

The Moral Complexity of Death Note

The Death Note story follows Light, a genius high school student in Tokyo, who finds a supernatural notebook (dropped by Ryuk, a god of death). Anyone whose name Light writes in the “Death Note” dies soon after.

Thinking he can make the world a better place, Light writes the names of criminals in the notebook. The police, along with a brilliant young detective called L, begin to hunt the mysterious killer.

Light’s complex nature drew Joaquin to the character. “He starts out as a hero and ends up as an anti-hero. He’s given this opportunity to fix the wrongs of the world.” But that raises a moral dilemma: “If you had all the power to fix the world, what does that make you?”

“I love characters like this,” Joaquin adds. Light is “so complex and [he’s] very nuanced to play.” Joaquin notes that the challenge of the character is to get the audience to love Light at first, then hate him in the end. It’s “quite Shakespearean writing.”

Death Note’s Devoted Fans

While Joaquin had “an inkling” that Death Note was “really special,” he thinks the musical has achieved something “unprecedented.” Namely, the merging of two large pre-existing audiences: fans of musical theatre and fans of manga, anime, and Japanese culture.

“I can’t even say it’s a cult following anymore,” Joaquin explains. “It’s a brand-new audience. And it was the best audience ever to perform for.”

While Joaquin calls the fandom “a hard audience to please because they’re so protective of these characters,” he could sense their support while onstage. “You could feel that they wanted you to do justice to the source material that they love so well. And I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

In 2021, Joaquin made his West End debut as Ram Sweeney in Heathers The Musical. Like Death Note, Heathers has a strong following. Many returning Heathers fans have “high expectations” for each performance. But unlike Death Note, the Heathers crowd can get a little wild.

“It’s like you’re in a concert,” Joaquin shares. “I mean, they just love it. They feel like they’re part of the show. With Death Note, it’s quite different.”

Joaquin says that, although they applaud and laugh at all the right moments, the Death Note fandom otherwise stays silent during the performance.

“They’re just waiting on bated breath because they want to consume … every single thing. The reaction after, at the curtain call and [on] social media, that’s where they pour out all of their love, their support, and it’s really intense. It’s really great.”

A Career Highlight

When it comes to picking a career highlight, Joaquin says Death Note is the “inevitable and obvious choice.”

The audience reactions and reviews are a clear testament to the success of Joaquin’s Death Note performance. But the actor emphasises that he has “never liked working for the outcome [or] applause.” He enjoys the process of his work: “I’ve always approached every job with utmost gratitude and 1,000% focus and devotion.”

Joaquin adds: “It really truly feels that Death Note and the role [of Light] is something that I have earned through the years of hard work and determination. And that’s the best compliment.”

Joaquin’s Previous Roles

Playing Simba in Disney’s The Lion King

Adding to his impressive CV, Joaquin starred in The Lion King’s 2022 UK tour. He’s the first Filipino to play Simba — “one of the most iconic roles ever” — in the West.

Joaquin sees Disney’s The Lion King as a title that represents one of the “main arteries” of musical theatre. Along with Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King pumps “life and blood” into the industry. If these larger productions are thriving, “newer works and smaller venues” can benefit too.

“To be a part of one of the biggest titles ever like The Lion King reminded me of exactly how cool it is to be in this industry here in the UK,” Joaquin shares.

While Joaquin is usually the one in the spotlight, he’s a theatre enthusiast who loves watching new and existing shows. He recommends two original London productions in particular for theatre fans: The Little Big Things at Soho Place and Dear England at the Prince Edward Theatre.

Performing In New Musicals

Earlier this year, Joaquin played Connor in Killing The Cat and Stephen in Then, Now & Next. Both are brand-new musicals. These new shows can present a contrast to the “long-running, big commercial shows” Joaquin has now performed in. Or, as he calls them, “well-oiled machine[s].”

Joaquin explains that established productions usually have an “entire battalion of creatives that will get you show-ready by the time you step on stage.” In contrast, new musicals tend to have a small creative team.

Joaquin likes the “challenge of bringing brand-new stories and brand-new characters to life.” There can be a “nice pressure” to being the first person to inhabit a character.

“You as an actor have input in how the story is going to unfold for the first time … You’re contributing your ideas and your opinions on it.”

“You get to introduce that to a brand-new audience,” he adds. “It might not be a big audience yet, but there’s that excitement and that electricity of bringing something new.”

Joaquin’s Background

Starting Out in the Philippines

Joaquin started performing professionally at the age of 10 in his home country, the Philippines. He got “bitten by the bug” of musical theatre after joining his best friend in a theatre company’s summer workshop.

The first show Joaquin ever saw was the Filipino production of Les Misérables. While he doesn’t remember much of the performance, he remembers the urge to join the “different world” unfolding on the stage.

Coming To the UK

After graduating from film school in the Philippines, Joaquin became a director and worked in the advertising world for nine years. Once every three years, he returned to the theatre, taking on roles to reconnect with his passion for performance.

In 2017, Joaquin told his wife that he wanted to move abroad to train and act full-time. “She was so supportive,” the actor shares. “She was right behind me.”

Joaquin came to the UK in 2018, choosing the country for its “history of theatre and the appreciation for theatre of all forms.”

Initially, he secured a place at a UK drama school. But then he learnt he had successfully auditioned for the Miss Saigon 2018-19 UK/international tour. His wife encouraged him to take the job, and Miss Saigon became his drama school for the year.

Advice For Non-British Actors Aspiring to Enter the UK Theatre Industry

For any performers outside the UK who aspire to break into the British theatre industry, Joaquin has two words of advice: “Do it.”

“Keep the people close that will give you good advice,” he adds. “Work on your craft, work on your skill.”

Joaquin also reminds aspiring non-British actors that “there’s space for everyone.”

“Don’t let anyone think that you are there to just fill in a body or tick a box,” he explains. “If Death Note becomes a long-running show for the next 10 years, [I] can’t wait to see who the next young Asian boy that will play Light Yagami will be … Hopefully, by that time, I’ve moved on to a different exciting role in my career.”

How Bronia Buchanan’s BBA Management Supports Joaquin’s Career

Right after finishing the Miss Saigon tour, Joaquin received an offer for his next job: another UK/international tour, this time with The King and I. While in the UK rehearsing for the show, he was also hunting for an agent. Joaquin’s vocal coach Matthew Shaw recommended Bronia Buchanan’s BBA Management.

Joaquin received offers from all the agencies he met with, but “there was something [different] about Bronia Buchanan.” He loved BBA Management’s “energy, focus, and professionalism.”

“Bronia Buchanan is extremely well-connected, and so experienced, and has a great history in the industry, and she means business,” Joaquin explains. “I love that I was taken seriously for my craft and the work that I’ve done.”

Of all the agents he met, Bronia Buchanan was the only one to propose a specific, achievable plan for Joaquin’s future. “Even from that first meeting … she already said: ‘This is where I want to take you.’”

Feedback And Support From BBA Management

Joaquin highlights BBA Management’s focus, strategy, and intelligence when helping him choose projects to move forward. “That’s what I really appreciate about BBA and Bronia Buchanan.”

“From 2019 until now, including the pandemic, I was able to find work. And I can only credit the grit and the focus that BBA Management had and the support and the belief that they had in me.”

“They’re so proud of every little step. You just feel that the whole team is working for you.”

BBA Management also provides Joaquin with “immediate and important” feedback for all his audition tapes. He says that Bronia Buchanan often reminds him to “stay match fit.”

“You don’t know when these opportunities will show up,” Joaquin explains. “And when they do show up, you’ve got to be 100% ready.”

Looking To the Future

Thanks to Death Note’s success, Joaquin will be spending October 2023 on “lots of exciting things” related to the musical. Bronia Buchanan is in “constant communication with the [show’s] producers.” Joaquin also receives regular updates from Jess, BBA Management’s musical theatre agent.

Beyond October, Joaquin has a packed schedule. He’s already fully booked for 2024, with three exciting jobs. Joaquin also teases that “something big might be happening” in spring next year.

Dream Roles

Joaquin often gets asked if there are any dream roles he’d like to play. In response, he shares a memory from 2019 after The King & I tour ended. Thanks to BBA Management’s help, Joaquin had booked his first London show (Jamie Lloyd’s Evita). He was about to start rehearsals, but the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic led to the show’s cancellation.

Joaquin was “gutted.” But the disappointment inspired him to let go of any dream roles he’d been hoping to play. Since then, he’s received opportunities he’s “never dreamed of.”

Death Note, for example, is something I didn’t realise would be this big,” Joaquin says.

However, Joaquin does dream of performing at some of his favourite venues. He mentions the Swan Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon and the Curve in Leicester. He’d love to tread the boards at London venues like the National Theatre, Almeida Theatre, and The Old Globe.

The particular show or character matters less to Joaquin than the opportunity to work with these theatres’ amazing teams.

“I think what I aspire to do is to keep growing, to keep discovering,” Joaquin concludes. “That’s more exciting as an actor as well, because who knows?”

Who knows indeed? While Light Yagami wasn’t a dream role for Joaquin, it’s turned into the highlight of his career: “I love being surprised that way.”

Want to know more? Joaquin will be alongside Adam Pascale on the Death Note panel at New York Comic Con, October 14th 2023. 

About Bronia Buchanan’s BBA Management

BBA Management is a leading entertainment agency that represents exceptional actors and creatives for stage and screen. Founded by Bronia Buchanan, the London-based agency offers each client tailor-made representation based on their individual career goals.

BBA Management’s experienced agents support a shared client list. As a result, the agency’s stage drama, musical theatre, television, film, commercial, and creative departments work together to provide clients with comprehensive personal management services.

Discover the latest news from BBA Management.

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