João Franco Knows He Can Be a "Real A--hole" — But He’s Working on It

João Franco Knows He Can Be a "Real A--hole" — But He’s Working on It

The Below Deck Mediterranean bosun opens up about overcoming his ego, his harsh upbringing, and his career ambitions.

By Laura Rosenfeld
João Franco

João Franco's Instagram is better than yours. In between your typical double tap-worthy selfies taken in front of breathtaking backdrops or pics showing him cheersing with an aperol spritz in hand, there's usually a photo of the Below Deck Mediterranean bosun doing something extremely death-defying, such as skydiving, getting dangerously close to wild animals, or bungee jumping.

These days, João's feed is adorned with posts showing him swimming with sharks on various occasions, sometimes in full scuba gear, sometimes just wearing a swimsuit, mask, and fins. One recent post from a special photo shoot even shows João wearing a white tuxedo with his hand stretched out to touch a shark, like something out of a future James Bond movie.

"The photos don’t do justice to how incredible it was," João, 29, says during an interview with The Daily Dish one July afternoon in New York City. "I love it. I love adrenaline. If you do it, then you just appreciate it much more."

João isn't putting himself in harm's way just for an adrenaline rush or for the 'gram though; he's also hoping that by sharing photos of his frequent shark dives, he’ll help raise awareness about these highly-feared creatures.

"Sharks are misunderstood in two ways," he says. "They’re not pets. You can’t pet a shark and expect not to be bitten, or whatever it may be. At the same time, they’re not trying to eat you. They’re curious, and we’re in their territory, so whatever happens you need to accept it will happen if you put yourself in that situation. It’s not the shark’s fault.”

“I was an a--hole last season, and the one thing I can say is I was a real a--hole. I was real.”

João Franco

João is on a similar mission to change people’s minds about who he is in Season 4 of Below Deck Med, which is currently airing Mondays at 9/8c on Bravo. During his Below Deck Med debut in Season 3, the yachtie earned a reputation as a combative crew member, talking back to his superior Conrad Empson, as well as butting heads with chief stew Hannah Ferrier during many a crew's night out. Fans also regarded him as a bit of a player, as he seemed to toy with the emotions of Kasey Cohen and Brooke Laughton, even after he ultimately decided to begin a relationship with the latter.

Preview
Brooke Confesses Her Feelings to João

And just like sharks, João says he feels misunderstood in some ways. 

“I didn’t have a great rep at all last season. I was upset [at] the fact that I wish people knew how hard I actually worked,” João says. “If you could put yourself on a reality TV show and allow yourself to be real and allow people to judge you, you will figure out what you need to fix. That’s what I’ve done. I think the people who defend themselves, ‘Oh no, that’s not me. Oh no, that’s not what happened,’ they’re living in denial.”

But unlike the lack of culpability João may assign to this deep sea predator in what it does when it feels threatened, he is 100 percent taking responsibility for his actions last season. João isn’t denying that was the man he was last year — but he wants you to know that's not who he is today.

“I was an a--hole last season, and the one thing I can say is I was a real a--hole. I was real,” João says. “I’m glad I was, because I’d never know who I was to become if I didn’t allow that to happen.”


João is reflecting on the past and current seasons of Below Deck Med as well as what the future holds at a brasserie in midtown Manhattan in July. The French cuisine reminds him of the dishes he dined on nearly 4,000 miles away while filming Season 4 in the South of France, but the restaurant actually feels more like a quintessential New York City power lunch spot with its white tablecloths, red velvet upholstery on the chairs, and wood paneled walls.

João has kept up the new, more mature look he’s been sporting this season of Below Deck Med, complete with some stubble on his face. He’s also traded in the red polo he wears as part of his Sirocco uniform for a more fashionable black one from Burberry, whose iconic plaid pattern peeks out along the shirt’s buttons.

But João still has that boyish charm we’ve come to know and love from Below Deck Med. There’s rarely a moment during our conversation where he isn’t cracking a smile or letting out a laugh. In fact, João doesn't seem to express even a hint of becoming jaded, which is surprising, considering everything that he’s gone through, not only during his time on Below Deck Med but also his entire life.

“I do have a big ego... There’s no doubt about that."

João Franco

It’s fairly early on in the current season of Below Deck Med (only five episodes have aired on TV prior to this interview), but already, João feels pretty good about how things are going as fans watch him take on more responsibility as bosun.

“I guess this year I came with a more level head, and so far it’s going great,” he says. “Everyone makes mistakes. Overall, I think [this season is] going to be good for me, even just as a learning curve.”

Even though João clashed with Conrad in Season 3 of Below Deck Med, Captain Sandy Yawn saw his potential and was a champion of the then-deckhand early on, so his promotion to bosun in Season 4 was a bit of a no-brainer for the Below Deck Med boss. But that doesn’t mean Captain Sandy didn’t have reservations about hiring João back on as part of her crew.

“I brought João back because of his attitude. What I’m gonna watch this season is his ego,” she said in an interview during the Below Deck Med Season 4 premiere. “Is he gonna beat his chest and go, ‘I am João!’ Or, is he gonna say, ‘Captain, what do you think about this?’”

João tells The Daily Dish that he understood Captain Sandy’s concerns. 

“I do have a big ego; so does Sandy. There’s no doubt about that — it’s whether egos clash or not or whether you can work with each other. I understood where she was coming from... At the end of the day, she’s the captain, and I respect her for it,” João says. “To be honest, I’m not fazed by her comment at all. I hope overall when she sees the whole season, she understands how hard I worked.”

Among the crew members returning for Season 4 of Below Deck Med, we anticipated that João would come into the most conflict with Hannah, with whom he just couldn't seem to get along in Season 3. So imagine our surprise when we saw João and Hannah give each other a big hug and a kiss when they reunited on the Sirocco at the start of this season, almost as if all of the insults they hurled at one another in the past never happened. 

Show Highlight
Did João Franco Just Cross the Line with Hannah Ferrier?

Hannah explained how she and João were able to get to such a good place after all of that discord during an interview with The Daily Dish in New York City in June.

"It's called a poker face,” she joked. “No, we had a chat, we were at an event together and just, yeah, he kind of watched, obviously, what had happened [in Season 3 of Below Deck Med] and wasn't so impressed with himself. I think I even said it on the show, if you're willing to apologize and work on yourself and stuff, then I'm all for it."

When asked if she’s seen a change in João since last season, Hannah said, "Yeah, definitely. [He’s] not so much of a dick this year."

As João stepped into his new leadership role in Season 4 of Below Deck Med, he says he became more open to hearing what others had to say, especially compared to last season.

“I wasn’t as aware of my surroundings with people. I would talk about myself more than I’d listen to where everyone came from. I figured out [that] everyone has their own backstory; mine’s no more important and no less important than anyone else’s. We may have all gone through different things, but now we’re on the same boat, so we’re all on the same level. That’s a huge thing I needed to come back to Earth with,” he explains. “This time, I’m trying to figure out everyone and listening rather than talking. The way I see it, when you speak, you’re kind of regurgitating all that you know, but when you listen you have a chance to learn something you didn’t know. That was my biggest thing.”

The fact that this method was successful in one moment with deckhand Travis Michalzik this season made João eager to incorporate this in his leadership style moving forward.

“Travis worked something out that I was almost reluctant to take on because I didn’t want to believe that there was a better way to do it, and I had to take a step back and allow for him to try, and it worked,” he says. “I was like, ‘OK, that’s a lesson I’ve just learned.’ Now, the next time we do it, [it’ll work].”

Though João and the crew thrived in many areas in Season 4 of Below Deck Med, he says it was the most challenging charter season of his career.

“As a leader you’re trying to figure out how people work, how to motivate them, how to challenge them in a positive way, how to get them to do the best that they can do. It’s so difficult going from absolutely nothing to just getting together as a team and then trying to figure out how to work together. It was very tiring,” João says. “I tend to take on quite a lot so I took as much as I could to try and make up for other people’s lack of work, and that was very, very draining on my side.”

The biggest difference between Season 3 and Season 4 João is all about Jezabob, the yachtie’s alter ego who comes out after he’s partied a little too hard during a night out.

“I’d never seen myself act like that,” he says. “It always came from somewhere, but my reaction was always explosive.”

After Show
João Franco Reveals How Jezabob Has Gotten Him into a "Lot of Trouble" in the Past

Jezabob hasn’t completely disappeared, according to second stew Aesha Scott, who experienced some tension with him this season of Below Deck Med after João commented on her dancing while out with the crew. 

"I feel like this season he's trying to be a different guy, but at the end of the day, I don't think people really change, you know?” she told The Daily Dish during an interview in New York City in July. “I definitely think he's trying, which is awesome, but I think it's more, I don't know, you can definitely still see the old Jezabob underneath there. It rears its head every now and then.”

Neither Hannah nor Aesha were on speaking terms with João as of the bosun's September 9 appearance on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen following some drama on social media this season. João said on the talk show that Aesha had even blocked him on social media.

João says he has taken measures to ensure that Jezabob never sees the light of day again.

“I stopped drinking for quite some time after seeing the show and stuff. I feel like I’m at that point where I could almost completely stop. I enjoy it still, but it’s just a stress reliever, and I had so much bottled up then that it was my go-to. I would just be like, ‘I’m over this, it’s been tough. I don’t care about anyone else, I’m drinking,’” he shares. “I’d get absolutely obliterated and not remember anything and that was also to stop myself from getting emotional. If I got blind drunk I couldn’t feel any emotion. I’d get angry instead, or, I don’t know, I’d close. It was my way of avoiding that in-between [of] being stone sober and completely drunk, that in-between where you get emotional and express your feelings.”

Instead of suppressing his emotions like before, João has been letting these feelings — and lots of tears — out in Season 4 of Below Deck Med while talking about Brooke, his loved ones back home, or his friendship with deckhand Colin Macy-O'Toole.

“The first thing that I noticed after last season is how stubborn I was in not letting emotion get to me,” João says. “Watching the season and becoming more sensitive to my previous life has made me more emotional.”


This feeling of always needing to be strong hasn't left João since he started supporting his family and friends as a teenager back in his home country of Zimbabwe.

“So, I’ve come from a place where I had to be hard. Back home, I had at least 10 people relying on my decisions. Friends, if anything went wrong, they would look up to me and try to figure out like, ‘Tell me what our next step is.’ So, I had no chance to be emotional,” he says. “It basically built a layer over me as a form of not being sensitive because I had so much pressure looking after so many people. The last thing I could do is break. I hadn’t broken for years. The first time I’d really broken, I think, was to Brooke on the show. That was the first time. That was a turning point. And then after that, I’d gone back home and got kind of desensitized again, and then I came back to Europe. Meeting real people outside of my own country, I realized how harsh we live back home.”

"Regardless of the downfalls, I’m proud of where I’ve come from.”

João Franco

João gave Below Deck Med fans a glimpse into his rough upbringing when he opened up to Brooke about his painful past in Season 3. He recalled “the worst thing I’ve ever been through” when he was held at gunpoint as he watched his mother, Cheryl Franco, be beaten right in front of him while she was two months pregnant. After recounting this memory to Brooke, João broke down in tears on the yacht, and he also sobbed while reflecting on the moment in an interview during the episode.

“I just worry. The thing is I have been responsible for everyone, been responsible for my brother. I have a regretful feeling in my head, like I just want to be there for my sister,” João said during an interview in the episode. “I have recurring nightmares of just not being able to be responsible for them.”

João was 17 years old when he left school to enter the workforce, soon filling up his résumé with an incredibly diverse list of jobs. He worked at a bar, eventually becoming manager, served as a motor vehicle engineer for BMW, ran an events company, and worked as a lighting technician for corporate events and fashion shows.

“I mean, Zimbabwe is a very, very hard country to work in. Especially, my parents weren’t rich, they didn’t have anything, so we started from nothing,” João says. “I kept getting bored or wondering where this career is going to take me, and then skipping to the next thing.” 

Things took a lucrative turn in João’s career when he was enlisted to build recreational vehicles for tourism after they saw the impressive work he had done in modifying a vehicle for off-roading.

“In Zimbabwe, you have to hustle,” João says. “You have to make a plan whichever way you can, and that’s what we were doing.”

But when the economy in Zimbabwe crashed, João realized that he would never be able to achieve the type of success he had been dreaming about at home.

“If I wanted to make it for everyone else, I had to leave. I knew what it would take to start again from the bottom. I’d never been to Europe. I was scared,” he recalls. “So then, basically, I’d looked into doing something. A friend had mentioned yachting.”

After making sure the friends that had been living and working with him had figured out their next steps, João and his brother Karlos Franco, who is two years his junior, left Zimbabwe for Europe to begin new careers in yachting. 

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Flashback with the boys! 1❤

A post shared by João ⚓️ Franco (@joaograntfranco) on

“We had to leave with gold coins because we couldn’t take cash out of the country, so I literally had souvenir gold coins, swapped them in France for money, and then we got a job pretty quickly. We were determined and we just walked on,” João says. “It was coming from a very happy and settled life — five dogs, three cats, a lot of friends and family, everything back home, an amazing place — to living out of a backpack. It was tough, but it was make or break. Do I start again, or do I just mope around and do nothing?”

João’s most recent visit to Zimbabwe may very well end up being his last.

“I went back in January, and I was there for about a week. When I tried to leave, I couldn’t. They’d shut all communication down, they rioted. They were killing each other. Everyone was killing each other. I tried to ride to the airport to see if I could leave, and I got bricked on the way back. They threw bricks at me. Yeah, I managed to get out. I had to come back to the country for my visa, and I sorted that out and I left,” he says. “I’ve got no more ties to Zimbabwe. I’d love to go there for holiday on the outskirts, but going into the old life I’ve lived, I couldn’t. For me to be so proud of my country and then going back and realizing from a third person’s point-of-view how messed up it actually is, it’s disheartening because I feel I carry a lot of pride. Regardless of the downfalls, I’m proud of where I’ve come from.”

The fact that João’s family also no longer lives in Zimbabwe makes it less likely that he will ever step foot in his home country again. His 27-year-old brother is still working in yachting in Dubai, his mother and 13-year-old half-sister, Shae Talbert, now reside in Durban, South Africa, and his father, João Franco Sr., is living in Mozambique, where, at the time of this interview, Season 3 of Below Deck Med had been airing.

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Amazing hike in Nyanga with the family🤗

A post shared by João ⚓️ Franco (@joaograntfranco) on

“When I got on [Below Deck Med], he watched [Season 2] with Hannah, and his words were, ‘Oh, Hannah doesn’t even know what’s coming her way,’ because I told him about it. He’s like, ‘It’s so funny watching the show knowing you’re going to be on it.’ So, he’s watching last season now,” João says. “He laughs. He knows everything about me and we know each other and we know the good parts and bad parts. He watches it, and my dad, whatever I do, is always proud.”

João’s family is, again, one subject he can’t help but get emotional about whenever he posts photos of his loved ones on Instagram, which is often. In one post published on November 11, 2018 featuring a photo of João’s brother and father, he wrote, “The hardest part about this job is the sacrifice we make, being away from our families. It’s as tough as hell, but we really learn to appreciate our time with our families so much more. I can’t express in words how much I love my family... Every one of them.”

Even though João is used to living with disruption and change, he still thought keeping in touch with his family while working in a migratory industry like yachting wouldn’t be as difficult as it has turned out to be.

“When I left, I assumed I’d visit very often, and I’d go back and it would be easy. It’s not as easy as one would think,” he shares. “I speak to my brother almost every second day. I speak to my mom every second or third day, my little sister, my dad, we’re still very close in a way where I could go and rock up at the door and we’d still be where we were. We still have that bond. But it is, it’s tough.”

João continues, “So, you have to try, again, desensitize yourself if you’re working on yachts to understand you’ll see them one day. You miss out on a lot back home.”

It was João’s reverence for his loved ones and his desire to have a strong family unit of his own one day that eventually got him to take a good look at the direction his relationship with Brooke was going after last season of Below Deck Med.

“I turned such a blind eye to most of what she had done, and she knows it. There were many moments that were questionable, and I only now question it again. Whereas then I was like, ‘She would never do that. She would never do it to me.’ You know, a couple of lies here and there that I just, my mates, and I say this with respect, not even my family, no one said, ‘Yes, you should be with Brooke.’ Not one when they met her. I was like, ‘No, I want to.’ My mom didn’t like her, and my mom likes everyone. With respect, she just said, ‘You guys are not meant to be together.’ I was so blinded [by] the fact that I just wanted to be with someone,” he says. “I met [Brooke’s] family. They were amazing. Her gran is the sweetest thing, and that was really humbling and brought me back down to Earth because my family had never been, my dad’s been apart from my mom, we’ve been broken up. The family we’ve got is the family we make around us. It was nice to see a well-put-together family, very secure in themselves. I needed to see that because I needed to figure out what I wanted, too.”


One of the biggest questions Below Deck Med fans were hoping to have answered when Season 4 kicked off was whether or not João and Brooke were still a couple. Despite a tumultuous start to their relationship in Season 3, complete with a so-called love triangle involving Kasey and criticism from Hannah, João and Brooke walked off the Talisman Maiton at the end of the charter season hand-in-hand as they made their way to a romantic getaway in Florence, Italy.

Cut to the Season 3 reunion in New York City months later, and things were tense between João and Brooke after they put their relationship on hold. Then when it was revealed that João had continued to have some flirty communication with Kasey even after the charter season ended, it was unclear if or how this romance could continue.

João shared in the Below Deck Med Season 4 premiere that not only was his relationship with Brooke over, but it also ended because she had cheated on him.

"I really, really loved her,” João said during an interview in the episode. “I wanted to make it work, even so, but she didn't want to, so what can I do?"

João tells The Daily Dish that he hasn’t spoken to Brooke since the cheating revelation. He says there is “absolutely” no possibility of them becoming friends again in the future.

“I definitely stick by my guns in saying that I won’t talk to her. I think that one of the last messages I sent to her was, ‘I forgive you for what you’ve done, but I can’t talk to you again,’” he says. “I think the biggest mistake we all make is to actually allow things to linger. Even if it’s exes that are friends or that kind of stuff. Unless it’s years apart, unless it ended very mutually, there’s just no point because you will always go back to a sense of either nostalgia or a sense of [a] feeling that you had that you don’t want to feel anymore. It will affect your actions. No, I mean, she’s the only ex-girlfriend I don’t talk to.”

 

Brooke denied João’s claims that she had been unfaithful to him in a statement to PEOPLE in June.

“Although it initially hurt to hear João blamed our relationship break down on a false claim that I cheated on him, it is very true to his character and allows him some relief for his ego," she said. "In reality, there was absolutely no cross over between when I realized what kind of person I wasn’t looking for and the kind I was and I absolutely did not cheat on him."

She added, “If this theory makes him sleep easier at night, then so be it but him saying this only makes me lose even more respect for him. I know exactly the kind of person I am and I’m extremely content and secure in the facts of how everything played out... I only hope he continues to [grow] and learn what it is to be a man and a good person.”

“I am far more loyal than anyone could imagine. I’m loyal to my family, I’m loyal to my friends, I’m loyal to the girl I’m with. That’s who I am."

João Franco

João says that he “paid no concern” to Brooke’s comments to PEOPLE and thinks that “she’s defending herself.”

“She knows very well how I tried my absolute best to look after her in every single way possible. She actually could not understand why I still wanted to be with her because of a lot of things that have happened. I did, I tried everything,” he says. “I know and I feel very confident in saying she cannot take away the fact that I was a good boyfriend. I was, and I knew it.”

João has said in the past that he doesn’t believe his relationship with Brooke would have lasted, even without all of the dysfunction surrounding it.

Preview
Had João Franco Been Planning to Break Up with Brooke Laughton?

“However it happened, however it ended, it was the best for both of us. I don’t take away things that have happened because it was almost bound to happen with the whole situation we were going through,” he shares during our conversation. “We had so much pressure watching the show together and being apart when she watched it. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t stick to her word in saying she wouldn’t let it get to her because she knew the different person I was straight after the show. I’m not fazed by it at all.”

As much as João’s own fidelity came into question throughout Season 3 of Below Deck Med, he says loyalty is one of the qualities on which he prides himself most, which is something he wishes fans understood about him.

“I am far more loyal than anyone could imagine. I’m loyal to my family, I’m loyal to my friends, I’m loyal to the girl I’m with. That’s who I am. I would literally take the shirt off my back for anyone I know that needs it. I’ve always been like that,” João says. “As soon as you get to the under layers, there’s a lot more to me. My friends, if anything went wrong, I’m the first person they call.”


Hours before João was about to face Brooke at the Below Deck Med Season 3 reunion in New York City in August 2018, he decided to get a little bit of pampering done. A dentist had reached out to João and offered to bleach his teeth, which he decided to take her up on. Hey, you’ve got to look good when you’re trying to win the love of your life back, right? 

When João arrived at the dental office, a hygienist by the name of Michelle Dicu ended up performing the treatment. About six months later, she messaged him on her way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where João was based at the time. They met up, and they’ve been together ever since.

“I just wasn’t looking for it at all. This girl, I say, honest to god, she is exactly my type,” João says of his current girlfriend. “As soon as [an episode of Below Deck Med] comes up or something, I’m waiting to be judged. I’m waiting for it. She was told that I was the douche of last season, and she hasn’t watched it. She deals with high-end actors, politicians, all sorts within her work, and she doesn’t even know who they are. She doesn’t get absorbed into that kind of thing, which is amazing. I was always concerned that she would watch the season or watch something she didn’t like. She’s seen the episodes so far, she’s seen me get upset with Brooke, and she said, ‘It happens, you know?’”

João says that he and Michelle have bonded over things like the similarities between his Zimbabwean culture and her Romanian heritage, as well as their love of extreme activities. Photos of Michelle paddle boarding in Fort Lauderdale, catching and filleting her own fish on a boat in Dania Beach, Florida, and, yes, swimming with sharks in the Bahamas, all right alongside João, regularly fill up his Instagram feed.

“That’s one thing between myself and Brooke that we did not agree on. Brooke didn’t like whitewater rafting in Zimbabwe. She didn’t like any of that. It was kind of my, ‘Oh, is this going to work out or not?’” João says. “Michelle is very, very active. It’s great."

Right now, João’s relationship with Michelle is long distance while he’s working in Florida and she lives in New York City. The couple makes sure to see each other in person every third weekend as they figure out the next steps for their relationship, which could include getting a place together in Portugal, something they had planned to look into during their vacation there this summer.

“It’s kind of got to a point where we’re like, ‘OK, what are we doing?’ At the end of this year we need to figure out, I could get onto a boat in Portugal tomorrow. What can she do? What are we going to do? Do we get a place and redo it, renovate it? Whatever it is, we’re in conversation,” João says. “I know it’ll work out. We’ve given each other that timeframe just to also get to know each other because Brooke and I were like, ‘In. Let’s go.’ We didn’t know each other at all. This way, you get enough time to figure each other out and also to keep who you are. It works out.”

Having that time to get to know Michelle is how João has learned to trust again after everything that happened with Brooke. 

“It’s been the easiest and most rewarding relationship I’ve been in so far. I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ But it’s also because I’m at the right place,” he says. “As long as you trust each other, that’s the first step. When you blind trust people, then it’s perfect.”

The stability in Michelle’s own life is one of the things that João finds most attractive about his girlfriend.

“She has her s--t together. She’s been working for the same company for nine years. She has her set routine of what she does. She’s six years older than me,” he says. “I’ve never been with someone so secure, in a sense. And she’s very independent, which is fantastic.”

After more than a decade of moving around from job to job and place to place, João says that he’s ready for more of that stability himself.

“I mean, [I went] from being absolutely settled to living out of a backpack, and then I’m starting to get that feeling of ‘OK, I need ground,’” he says. “I don’t like when everyone asks where I am or where I’m from. I don’t have a place.”


João gave us a peek into the future in July when he showed us the results of using FaceApp, the viral photo transformation smartphone application, to predict what he and Colin may look like several years down the road. In his Instagram Story, João shared a still of himself and Colin with more gray hair and wrinkles but still with huge grins across their faces. “#YachtLife right?” João captioned the photo.

João Franco, Colin Macy-O'Toole Use FaceApp

The yachting industry can be so rigorous that those who dare to enter it often feel like they’ve had years taken off their lives, according to João. 

“There’s a meme like, ‘This is Frank. He’s had an amazing life in yachting.’ And then there’s this really old dude, and it’s like ‘age 25’ at the bottom,” João says. “Yachting is so stressful. They’re like, ‘How many years experience do you have? Five. And how long have you been in yachting? Two.’ It’s so much. Very intense.”

As João approaches his 30th birthday in April, he says he’s keeping an open mind when it comes to what’s next for his career in yachting and beyond. 

“I look for any opportunity that comes,” he says. “I very much felt like every time I’ve had an open ear for something and something has come my way, I’ve been open to the opportunity. Yachting is, I love it, I enjoy it, it’s very stressful, but it all depends on security. It all depends on if I get offered something amazing.”

João is already considering branching out into acting after being offered a role in a movie whose script is still in the works.

“I said, ‘Absolutely, sign me up. If it comes through, then [I’ll] do it. I’m in,’” he says. “I’m more than happy to expand in whatever way I can and try new things. I eventually get bored in one place, or in one job, at least.”

João says that he has long considered exploring a career in show business, but he never thought this was something that could become a reality until now.

“Yeah, I mean, my mom was always like, ‘Oh, go and do modeling. Oh, go and do acting.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, right.’ I was almost too embarrassed, I guess. But we had no opportunity back home. Being here and seeing there’s so many people that do it — but could I excel? Could I make it? I don’t know. I would hate to fail. I feel if I put [in] enough effort, I wouldn’t fail. But that would mean to stop all that I’m doing, risk everything, and then start a new career,” he says. “I’m open to hearing [about it], but I’ll wait for the opportunity to figure out what I want to do still. When you meet a captain who’s been on a boat for 15 years, you kind of think, ‘Is that where I want to go?’ It’s tough. It’s really tough. We’ll see. Coming from Zimbabwe, I didn’t think I’d be here. I’ve already succeeded in my own eyes.”

"I have run out of lives, there’s no doubt. A cat wished they had that many.”

João Franco

Of course, as the bosun on Below Deck Med, João has gotten a little taste of what it’s like to have admirers, getting recognized while checking into a hotel or by “every second or third person” on the streets of Fort Lauderdale, he says. However, João knows that fame also goes as quickly as it comes.

“Enjoy it while it’s there, I guess,” he says.

But not all of João’s dreams involve the spotlight. If he could do anything in the world, he would love to combine his passion for philanthropy with his love of animals. In fact, nearly two months after this conversation, João would go on to help with Hurricane Dorian relief efforts, bringing supplies and other resources to those affected by the storm in the Bahamas.

“I’m invested in wildlife,” he tells The Daily Dish in July. “I really enjoy spending time with animals and adrenaline rushing, of course.”

Which brings us back to all of those daredevil moments documented on João’s Instagram, the excitement and danger of which is impossible to adequately capture on social media. Like the time João petted a lion and then later heard about a photographer who was airlifted to a hospital for doing the exact same thing just a couple of weeks later. Or the time he was in an enclosure with a cheetah who ripped the shirt off his back before growling at him. Or when he ran out of oxygen while scuba diving surrounded by sharks.

There are risky situations like these in which João knowingly puts himself in the hopes of getting some sort of adrenaline rush. But then there are the heart-pounding moments that no one intends or foresees, such as when João was mugged and beaten by three men in Florida in late June. 

“I do put myself in experiences that go wrong,” João shares. “Everyone’s like, ‘Trust you to get bloody mugged in Florida.’ People who live here 20 years, it never happens. It’s one of those things.”

João admits that he does get scared in these situations “but not fearful.” “I don’t know how to explain it. Anything could happen, but I think I’ve run out of lives, to be honest. I have run out of lives, there’s no doubt,” he says. “A cat wished they had that many.”

Just hearing all of these stories makes you amazed — and thankful, to be honest — that João is here to tell them, which isn’t lost on him at all, by the way. And yet, something tells us that it’s only a matter of time before we see João go higher, faster, deeper, or wilder with a new extreme activity than he ever has before.

Because no matter what mistakes or failures or tragedies have happened in the past, João is somehow still able to be optimistic that next time will be better. And that will never change.

After Show
João Franco Explains How the Yacht Was "Half a Meter" from Disaster During That Docking
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