ARTURO CASTRO

From Broad City to Narcos to his own creation, Alternatino for Comedy Central, the versatile actor takes over the world.

 

photography by MIKE RUIZ
styling by JAY BARRETT
grooming by JERRY LOPEZ
location JIA LOUNGE

interview by ROBERTO BUCHELLI
introduction by JILLIAN KORKOSZ

If you’re not yet familiar with Arturo Castro, we’re certain you’ll be hearing about him soon. His recent accolades in television have earned him the honor of Comedy Central officially picking up his pilot, Alternatino With Arturo Castro, where viewers will follow his effort to navigate life in the current social climate as a modern Latino man.

With a list of credits ranging from the quirky and lovable best friend, Jaime in Broad City to the dastardly David Rodriguez in Narcos, Arturo Castro has stepped into the spotlight to showcase his dynamic depth of talent through acting. We found Arturo to be a man of substance, talking frankly about his pursuit of acting and naturally exuding a passion for the dramatics and expressionism. We had the extraordinary pleasure of sitting down with him to talk about topics like his navigation through the entertainment industry, how he deals with being in the public eye, his larger than life ambitions, and more.

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How did you decide to pursue acting?

Love. There was a girl I really liked, but she didn’t even know I existed, so I signed up to an acting program she attended. I was 12, but when I was 17 something changed. I got this Shakespearean monologue, “To Be, or Not to Be,” and at the time it made no sense to me. But my father died around the week that I got it, and it started coming to me. I understood the power of acting and storytelling. I started seeing acting as a real career. Before that I thought, well, being clapped at is nice, but it doesn’t give me anything. My intention changed, and a year later I got on a television show in Guatemala and then an acting teacher from New York told me to come study there and I did. I lived in the basement for a long time until Broad City came about.

My new show Alterlatino is about being a Latin today. I want to inject a different type of thought, and I think that comedy is a really disarming tool for that, so maybe the message would go a little further and a little faster. In the show we’re going to deal with some shit that’s hard to take, but we are going to be laughing.

What was the path to success.

You know, if there is one thing that has helped me in my career, and my life in general, is that I’ve always had this sort of blind optimism. Of course there are moments you sit there and wonder how the fuck am I going to do all this? The odds are always against you. But I always had this feeling that all I needed to do was get into the right rooms. The trick was getting into those rooms. So I used to go audition for those roles that asked for 6 ft. 4, or Russian man, or Swedish boy, anything. I knew that at the end of these 4-5 hours waiting in the cold, they would see me, and if not that job, they’d give me another one.

What was the first role?

Dishwasher Juan on The Good Wife, but it was never beneath me to play these sort of impoverished roles, and I loved everyone of them, because these are real stories. I was actually quite excited every time. I used to love this feeling when you walk into a room where people don’t know you or what you are capable of, and then you perform and suddenly this shift in perception happens like, hey, who’s this new guy? Like, wait a minute do that again, and I loved impressing people that way back then. Then I met producers from Broad City and was cast as Jamie, my first breakthrough role, which opened doors to more meaningful roles. Jamie is a very sweet guy, this sort of wide-eyed really genuinely kind person who is based on an actual person, so I had to study him. Sweetest guy in the world, but his voice is a little deeper, so I just brought it up a bit to make it funnier.

How did you get the role in Narcos?

The reason I got Narcos was because people knew me from the movie with Ang Lee, Vin Diesel and Kristen Stewart. Great drama, nobody watched it, but Netflix heard that I did it, so they thought if Ang Lee thinks he can do drama, then he can do drama.

Your character was meant to be a small role at first.

Yeah, all I am doing in the first four episodes of the season is clapping in the background. But I got really good at clapping, so at the end of episode 4 they had given me three scenes, and I thought if this is the last time they’re going to see me then I might as well go out with a bang, because I was only supposed to be in 6 episodes. So I really sort of brought everything I could to it, and then when we came back from a break and I read episodes 5 and 6, I realized I was given more lines. The character started growing. You can tell in episode 4 that I could be this evil bastard, and they just really enjoyed giving me evil lines. It also coincided that the director of these 2 episodes was the guy we worked on a student film with 9 years before, so between me and him we really created something different with the character, and people really hated him, so I guess I was doing my job right.

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Narcos brought you international success.

The moment you live that sort of magic of creation, in beautiful places, with people you admire, and you learn these skills, real life, even though it’s beautiful, it doesn’t compare to it. That’s the sad part, that outside of this world, you’re just trying to get back there again.

People who recognize me from Broad City, they have no sense of personal space; they’re like, “Hey how’s it going, can you sign my boob?” But with Narcos people are a little more like,“I love you and I hate you.” There are websites dedicated to how punchable my face is, or how thin my lips are. They make you so cautious about weird shit that you didn’t know to be cautious of. But when I started getting death threats in different languages I said, is this success? It’s surely an interesting experience playing a hated character. There’s something about being evil, that at the end of the day really takes something out of you.

Were you depressed during filming?

It was actually super fun. So you are doing this big torture scene, everyone is screaming, but somebody would crack a joke, and we all would sort of just fall down laughing. The scenes were so intense and the tension was so big, you needed something to release it. It was definitely a dark time, too, because your body doesn’t know that you’re just pretending and is trying to shake that off. I often had to disconnect from physical work or go to places where I didn’t have to be so intellectual.

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What did you gain from this experience?

I gain everything. The moment you live that sort of magic of creation, in beautiful places, with people you admire, and you learn these skills, real life, even though it’s beautiful, it doesn’t compare to it. That’s the sad part, that outside of this world, you’re just trying to get back there again. I train with Navy Seals, I learned how to shoot, how to sing, how to ride horses, I’ve been in waterfalls in Hawaii. It’s crazy to me, that you can take this dream from your garden in Guatemala and suddenly you’re there with Goldie Hawn… You have to be grateful for it.

I would also like to be a Latin version of Mark Wahlberg. He’s brilliant. He has an excellent eye for stories.

Do you have any hobbies or special skills?

I love teaching drama therapy with kids who get suspended from school, and a lot of them are one step away from jail programs. So you teach them how to deal with their emotions and decision making through acting. The theory is that once they realize how good the good decision feels, they will know what to do in real life. You work with the kids for about 3 months and you start to see them open up. I think that was my best acting school. It taught me empathy, gratitude, poetry. Just the way the kids speak, the way they behave, the way they’re honest, they’re blunt, they’re in your face about everything. They have this genuine resilience, and it makes you want to be a better person.

Who would you want to share a screen with?

Al Pacino. When I was that little kid in Guatemala, and someone showed me a copy of Scent of a Woman, I couldn’t believe it, I could not believe that an actor could be this inspiring and still be so grounded. And then I started watching The Godfather and all his other films. His work sort of tore my perception of acting apart, so if I got to work with him, it would literally be the dream come true. I would also like to be a Latin version of Mark Wahlberg. He’s brilliant. He has an excellent eye for stories. I want to tell stories, produce them, write them, perform them. I want my name to be associated with excellent quality in entertainment. It’s more than a just mentality. I was alone a lot when I was a kid, and movies changed me, they sort of shifted my genetic code. I want to do that with other people. We’re here so transiently that all you can do is make a little bit of a difference. When you pass on, what will people remember you for? Through that reality show? Maybe. But if they remembered you because you inspire them, because you educated them, now that would be something.

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What are you working on now?

I’m creating my own show now called Alterlatino, about being a Latin today. I want to inject a different type of thought, and I think that comedy is a really disarming tool for that, so maybe the message would go a little further and a little faster. In the show we’re going to deal with some shit that’s hard to take, but we are going to be laughing. What was it like to be an immigrant in the 1930s as opposed to today, and how most people who are racist towards immigrants are children of immigrants, just not immigrants themselves. That’s having a selective memory. I’m trying to create a little more empathy and dialogue through jokes. There’s a structure to comedy, there’s a symphony to it. In comedy somebody is either laughing or they are not. It takes strategy and a high level of intelligence to create something that people will immediately react to. You have to be quick to the point, it’s a battle, like an intellectual tennis. The people that I work with are incredibly smart, and it’s a pleasure, really, it’s a fun challenge.

When can we expect to see it and what’s your role?

Alterlatino was picked up by Comedy Central Network, and the first season of 10 episodes is scheduled for release in Spring 2019! We start filming in the Fall, I am the writer and executive producer, Nick Jasenovec is the director and Jay Martel is the showrunner. Exciting!