JO PRATTA IS THE VOICE BEHIND THE FAMOUS AND INFAMOUS
Versatility often works to one’s benefit. Consider Brazilian born Jo Pratta. An accomplished actress, award-winning singer (Jo received a Global Music Award in 2016), and multi-linguist, Jo has found a way to combine many of her talents in the numerous voice-over roles she has performed for Netflix and network productions. Most often dubbing from English and Spanish into Portuguese, Pratta has been afforded the opportunity to prove her abilities and entered into yet another skill set as a voice-over actress. This work has led the actress/singer to a deeper understanding of both acting and how to use her singing abilities to greater success in a number of opportunities. For the Netflix production Celia, la serie, Pratta portrayed a young Celia Cruz, the iconic singer who revolutionized and transformed women’s status in Salsa music. Flexing the other side of her creative talent, Jo created the voice of a villainess in the tele novella Taxi, Amores Cruzados. For an actress like Pratta, this is the equivalent of balancing your art film with a TV ratings juggernaut. A constantly evolving career, from singer to actress to voice-over actress, one wonders what we will see Jo doing next.
Voxx Studios had a very demanding role which they needed to fill. The production Celia la serie was obviously a great production but they needed it to be dubbed into Portuguese. That in itself was not so demanding. However, finding an actress who could deliver the lines with their true meaning and emotion and do so in a manner that accurately and respectfully communicates the voice of one of the most iconic singers in the world, Celia Cruz, required someone very special. While Pratta may not have been seeking out voice-over work, the opportunity to portray someone like Cruz was not to be missed. Celia, la serie is the story of Latin music legend and internationally renowned singer Celia Cruz. She dared to challenge the status quo in a time when salsa music was exclusively a white-male territory. In the series, we get to know the beginnings of her passion for singing in Cuba in the 1950s and her recognition as the most celebrated singer of the popular musical group La Sonora Matancera. After leaving the island alongside her husband Pedro Knight, her artistic career conquered markets in other languages, and she positioned herself as the most renowned singer in salsa music.
Pratta admits that it was an incredible experience for her. In addition to the stunning image and performance of Jeimy Osorio (the actress portraying Cruz onscreen) there was the intensity of delivering a vocal performance as one of the most globally famous singers. Jo states, “Celia was by far the most difficult, because she was not only my night and day for longer than any other character I’ve portrayed but also the character with the most arcs. I went on an emotional rollercoaster ride with Celia for over five months, and it took a substantial toll on my personal life. The character was so close to my heart that when the script told me she felt pain I literally felt pain as well. I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world, mind you. Celia taught me more about myself than I ever thought imaginable.”
Celia, la serie is not simply the success story of a young woman who achieves her dreams of being an accomplished and famous singer, it is also the story of a woman who does this amidst one of the most turbulent eras of her country’s history. Celia lived during a very tumultuous period in Cuban history, and she suffered a great deal at the beginning of the revolution. That, combined with some family drama, created some highly emotional scenes that always required extra concentration and preparation, in order to achieve a result best in line with the reality of the situation she lived. Jo’s involvement in the series was during Cruz’s life as a young woman during this period in Cuba (about fifty of the total seventy episodes) and thus lent itself to intensely emotional and dramatic scenes. As a singer, Pratta could appreciate Celia Cruz’s exceptional talent and understood the bravery in her life. As an award-winning singer herself, Jo can relate to the desire and appreciation of receiving acknowledgement for your artistic abilities, but she reveals, “I would never compare myself to
the legend that is Celia Cruz, but having received the award at the same time that I was inhabiting her voice made my job just a little bit easier. After all, art is probably the most powerful and effective way to convey a message, regardless of the language in which it is sung.”
Her performance as Celia Cruz was so exceptional that upon completing Celia, la serie, Voxx immediately brought Jo to work on the tele novella Taxxi, Amores Cruzados. For this production, Pratta became the voice of Lina Ferro, the ruthless right hand of the show’s villain Mr. Moretti. Leila Vieira directed Jo in the dubbing of the telenovela Taxxi and declares, “Jo’s talent as an actor is remarkable. Her personality combined with her excellent communicative abilities enable her to portray artists from very different backgrounds and nationalities. Her creativity, resourcefulness and uplifting mood made the process of directing Taxxi quite distinctive and successful. The dubbing process requires actors to work long hours inside of a recording booth, and we all must be very concentrated on what we are doing in order for the recording to go smoothly. A breath, a beat, a reaction are all very noticeable and these details make a huge difference in the final result of a project. Jo’s professional commitment and extremely solid acting base contributed immensely to the dubbing process.”
The telenovela format is one of those guilty pleasures that many cultures love. In the same way that English speaking US has Gray’s Anatomy and Law & Order, Taxxi creates a means of escapism, perhaps even allowing the viewer a catharsis by empathizing with the somewhat “over the top” romance/intrigue/drama in the series and genre. Taxxi tells the story of the eternal love of Martin Montana. Fifteen years ago, Martin Montana lost his wife. In current day, he meets a woman who is identical to Agustina (his deceased wife). His obsession for Tania (this mysterious doppelganger) leads him to a sinister character, Mr. Moretti. What Martin ignores, is that Moretti is in fact, Dr. Aron Mattsson, his old professor and rival, who returns from the shadows to enact a perfect revenge against him. Tania is somehow unaware that is that she is in fact, Martin’s wife and that Moretti has somehow turned her. Moretti will learn that love can be an unstoppable force, impossible to control.
Pratta supplies the voice of Lina, the henchwoman fiercely loyal to Moretti. Lina is not only there for money but also because she is in love with Tania. Cold and fierce, Lina rarely smiles and is as tough as any Bond villain. The duplicitous nature of this character grants Jo many opportunities to exorcize her darker side, in a very fun way. It also required her to have a heightened awareness of the intentions and inflections pronounced in her character’s voice. Pratta notes, “In the same vein as I learned from playing Celia, portraying Lina expanded my understanding of circumstances and situational awareness. There is no doubt that Lina is the antagonist or ‘bad guy’ in this show. Portraying an antagonist, however, still requires the necessity to ask yourself the questions of, ‘Why am I saying or doing this?’ and, ‘What does my character want from the other character, which would make them say or do this?’ The answers to those questions can vary immensely but one thing doesn’t change, my character IS saying and doing this, whether I like it or not. It then becomes an issue of point-of-view again. The story is told from the point-of-view of its hero, so anyone who does the opposite of what the hero wants is going to look like a villain, right? That was what taught me to look at the story or situation from the other side of the conversation. I may be portraying the villain in the eyes of the hero, but, as the villain, I am the hero of my own story. If Lina was the main character, no matter the motivation, anyone who opposes my will or desires then becomes the villain in my story. Putting that into perspective made me a lot more sympathetic to the people I interact or disagree with in my own life. I find myself sort of automatically avoiding confrontations now. It’s very rewarding.” Jo Pratta seems to have found a way to use life experiences to portray art and then return to affect life again. Learning from the fictional and real-life characters she portrays, Jo helps us all to recognize the powerful women in the world, while having a fun time doing it.