Being A Father on and Off Screen with Joe Nieves

by | Jul 23, 2018 | Cover Story

 You may recognize Joe Nieves from his role as the dad in Disney Channel’s “Stuck in the Middle,” and as Carl the bartender in “How I Met Your Mother.” Or you may have seen him in some of the numerous other TV shows he’s appeared in, including “NCIS,” “The Mentalist,” “NYPD Blue,” and “Bones,” to name just a handful. He’s played everything from affable guys and police officers to dangerous hoodlums, and just about every variable in between.
But in recent years his acting work and real life have become remarkably similar. He lives in Santa Clarita with his wife, Mary, who’s an actress and a teacher, and their two children, Adelaide, 4, and Rocco, 2. As fate would have it, his role as a TV dad began at about the same time that he became a father in real life, and it’s been an extremely rewarding coincidence.
“My role has helped me as a father,” he says, playing the father of seven on TV has shown him that try as you might, you can’t always be the perfect dad.
“I learned from Tom Diaz, my character, that you can’t beat yourself up if something goes wrong. Things aren’t always perfect, especially in a family of nine. The important part is to just keep trying.”
While acting can take up a fair portion of his schedule he also finds time to teach. Prior to relocating to Santa Clarita, he held acting classes for adults at his studio in Los Angeles, and now teaches acting to kids at Vibe Performing Arts in Santa Clarita. In addition to acting, the studio features classes in voice, musical instruments, dance and magic. He notes that children can benefit in a number of ways from his classes.
“The most important part of coaching kids, whether it’s acting, math team or sports is that we should try to help make them good people,” he says. “Most importantly, we should help build people with good character, good team players who are brave and thoughtful — people who aren’t afraid to think for themselves.”
A Brooklyn, N.Y., native, he came to Los Angeles right after college in 1996. Earlier on, he dreamed of being a pro football player, but switched gears after taking some theater arts courses in college. He got his first big break acting in several episodes of “NYPD Blue,” and other TV work soon followed, including roles on “The X Files,” “CSI” and “Six Feet Under.”
“Once you get that first big part, people know they can count on you,” he says. “It’s like a big wall gets broken down.”
His work in feature films includes roles in Sofia Coppola’s “Bling Ring,” “Shrink,” “Electric Slide” and “West End,” a crime drama in which he got to sink his teeth into playing “a pretty sadistic bad guy.”
It’s often said that fortune smiles on those who are in the right place at the right time, and that proved true for this actor. His role as Carl on “How I Met Your Mother” came about almost by accident. Originally cast in the pilot episode to play a policeman, he showed up on set only to learn that his part had been cut. But the director, Pamela Fryman, thought he’d be perfect for a recurring role as the bartender, and he landed the role as Carl.
Chalk it up to his work ethic. The son of a retired New York firefighter, he never shied away from a boots-straps type job. “I decided to take the co-star role,” he said. “Someone else with my credits might have said, no, I’ll hold out for something bigger. But it ended up being something a lot nicer.”
Since moving to Santa Clarita last September his commute to the studio in Culver City has gotten longer, but a copious number of audio books help ease the two-hour trip to work. And overall, the experience has been undeniably fulfilling in many ways.
“One of the best things about being an actor is that you get to continually grow, as an actor and as a human being,” he says. When he landed the role on “Stuck in the Middle” four years ago he’d been playing a lot of bad guys and cops, and it was a welcome change of pace.
“I was glad to get out of the world of cops and criminals for a while and just be a dad on TV and at home,” he says. “It couldn’t have been a more perfect job.”