Born in Faial.
Raised in Toronto.
Considering the industry as it was 20-25 years ago, it probably would have been a better idea for me to just change my last name and have some sort of generic name… When people don’t know who you are and they see that name, they peg you some sort of ethnicity – Paulino Nunes.
Paulino Nunes settled in Toronto with his family in 1969, when he was two years old. Having grown up feeling ambivalent about his Portuguese identity, he embraced it in the early years of his acting career and it became an important part of his personal life. Throughout his career, Nunes has worked in numerous theatrical productions, television drama series, and films, including the Oscar-nominated Brooklyn.
Paulino Nunes was born in Horta, Faial island, Azores; although his family is from Pico island. When Paulino was two years old, his uncle Francisco convinced the Nunes family to join him in Toronto, which they did in December 1969. They initially moved in with the Azevedo family – from Paulino’s mother hometown of Sta. Luzia – who lived on Montrose Avenue. But they soon rented a first floor apartment on Beatrice Street in West downtown Toronto, where most Portuguese immigrants lived. In 1975, after Francisco helped Paulino’s father find a job at the F. G. Bradley meat processing plant in Etobicoke, the Nunes family moved to that part of the city, where there were few Portuguese immigrants. Paulino’s mother worked briefly at a factory making stuffed animals, cleaning private houses, and as a babysitter.
Then known as “Paul,” he fell in love with acting at the Michael Power St. Joseph’s High School in Etobicoke, where he performed on multiple plays. He pursued his passion by enrolling in the York University theatre program, where he began reconnecting with his Portuguese name, “Paulino.” When he joined the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, he was asked to pick a name other than “Paul Nunes,” which was already taken by another member. It was at this point that he decided to officially go by “Paulino.”
For the first six or seven years after graduating, Paulino combined his acting work in theatrical plays with side jobs, like waiting tables, driving a limousine, and working at a call centre. In 1996, after watching the Portuguese band Madredeus perform in Toronto, he felt compelled to explore his roots and bought a one-way ticket to Pico, where his parents had since resettled. During that five-month stay, he connected with his cultural and family heritage, and reflected on his complex diasporic identity and its multiple belongings. A decade later, Paulino married Francesca, who got him involved with the organized side of the Portuguese community, including with the Portuguese Canadian National Congress and the Celebrating Outstanding Portuguese-Canadian Achievement (COPA) awards program.
Since 1993, Paulino has appeared in over 180 different roles in television series and films, including Brooklyn (2015), Designated Survivor (2016), The Girlfriend Experience (2016), The Boys (2019), and Shogun (2024). In the past, Paulino has been cast primarily to play Southern and Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and other “ethnic” characters. He has also played Portuguese characters on a couple of occasions, including in the CBC series Shoot the Messenger.
Hora dos Portugueses
Short description: High School Drama Award
Dimensions: L 18.5 cm x W 5 cm x H 2 cm
Creator: Michael Power St. Joseph High School
Place of origin: Toronto, Ontario
Description: Senior Award Dramatic Arts given to Paul Nunes in 1986, with the emblem of Michael Power St. Joseph High School in Etobicoke.
Short description: Genealogical research
Origin: Faial, Azores, Portugal
Description: Folder with notebook and loose pages with Paulino’s genealogical research notes, written during his time researching his family’s history in Faial island, Azores.
Short description: CBC Promotional Material
Date: c. 2006
Creator: Canadian Broadcast Corporation
Description: Promotional material for the CBC Television drama-comedy musical mini-series At The Hotel, featuring Paulino Nunes as the hotel porter.