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In Joey Dedio's 'Tio Papi,' all you need is love

Actor, writer and producer Joey Dedio moved from New York to Miami Beach four years ago with dreams similar to those of the title character of his film “Tio Papi”: the weather, the nightlife, the action.

But like his character, Ray Ray Dominguez, the childless Dedio now finds himself thinking a lot about family. Specifically, family TV. If “Tio Papi” is well received when it opens this weekend in theaters around the country, Dedio’s ongoing talks with networks about a TV spinoff may heat up.

And he is anxious to bring the production to South Florida.

“We need to go back to the old days of Florida, when Flipper ruled!” Dedio says. “Florida always represented the magic of family. Let’s get that back.”

“Tio Papi” follows the wild life of confirmed New York bachelor Ray Ray, whose plans for living the good life with a move to Miami are dashed when he abruptly becomes the legal guardian of his sister's six children. Ray Ray’s reluctant transition to father figure gives way to a heroic struggle to hold the family together. Co-stars include Kelly McGillis as an overbearing social worker, Frankie Faison and Elizabeth Rodriguez, and the theme song is from Miami resident Jon Secada.

Dedio says the idea for the film arrived when he and a friend came across a birthday party in a park in Los Angeles. A man was carrying a bunch of kids on his back who were yelling, “Tio! Tio! Tio!”

“My friend said to me, ‘He’s only smiling because they’re not his kids. He gets to leave them here,’” Dedio recalls with a laugh. “And I started thinking about that.”

Dedio, who will turn 50 on Wednesday, has had a steady career in acting since the 1980s, when he was a heartthrob with prominent roles in “The Karate Kid” and on the soap opera “Another World,” followed by several seasons in the early ’90s on the environment-friendly cartoon “Captain Planet and the Planeteers,” which featured guest voices from the likes of Martin Sheen, Whoopi Goldberg and Sting.

Most recently, he wrote and co-starred in the 2012 Susan Seidelman-directed “Musical Chairs,” a poignant romantic comedy about a group of wheelchair-bound ballroom dancers.

Dedio believes “Tio Papi,” directed by Miami native Fro Rojas and winner of a Spirit of Independents Award at last year’s Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, is filled with lessons and laughs that transcend ethnicity.

“It’s a heartwarming story about family. It just so happens the people in the family are Latino,” he says. “People have loved it, because it shows that one thing all of us have in common: love.”

Get daily updates on South Florida entertainment and things to do at, on Twitter at @BenCrandell and Instagram /BenCrandell.

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