Raúl Castillo describes the negative side of the American dream in the chilling work of Víctor I. Cazares

in the eight In the years since HBO’s “Looking” put him on the map, Raúl Castillo has become one of the most talked about character actors in Hollywood. Any doubts about his on-screen charisma were dispelled this summer with Apple TV+’s dramedy “Cha Cha Real Smooth” and Netflix’s “Hustle,” in which he brought emotional texture to roles that might have seemed one-dimensional in the hands of a lesser performer. flexible. He returns to the big screen next month in Elegance Bratton’s semi-autobiographical film “The Inspection,” playing a Marine Corps drill instructor.

Despite his marquee value, Castillo still considers himself a theater dweller. Last month, he returned to the stage after a seven-year absence in the New York Theater Workshop’s production of the Victor I. Cazares drama “American (Tele) visions.” He played Octavio, the stern patriarch of an undocumented Mexican family residing in suburban Texas in the early 1990s. Collectively, the family, which includes Octavio’s wife Maria (Elia Monte-Brown), son closeted gay Alejandro (Clew) and tomboyish daughter Erica (Bianca “b” Norwood), learn that the pursuit of the American dream comes at an unspoken emotional moment. cost.

While working on “American (Tele)visions,” Cazares, who is non-binary, came to see Castillo as a mentor. In turn, Castillo said that the playwright has given him “everything he ever wanted” as a theater artist.

“I’ve been saying for a while, ‘I don’t think I’ll do a play again because no one is writing the roles that excite me and no one needs to see my Stanley Kowalski,'” Castillo said, referring to the role in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” made famous by Marlon Brando. “Victor joked that they wrote my Stanley, which I love. Just giving birth to a new play is a teenage dream come true.”

HuffPost caught up with Castillo and Cazares to discuss “American (Tele)visions” before they concluded their acclaimed run in New York last week.

Victor, the characters in “American (Tele)visions” are very representative of your intersectional identities. How much of your own experience influenced the work?

Cazares: The series has autobiographical elements, but the story is not autobiographical. I am a Mexican-American person and I grew up on the border. I came out when I was 14 or 15 years old and my parents did not react positively. We were a religious family, so his reaction was: “Let’s give Victor therapy so he stops being gay.”

But even if my parents had trouble understanding, accepting, and embracing my queer identity, they were acting out of what they felt was love. It still wasn’t great, but it was love. I am happy to say that we now have a good relationship. The people we were 15, 20 years ago, those parents are gone.

Although this family is poor, they still look good. There is a certain way poor Mexicans are portrayed, and that was not my lived experience. In any case, we have to strive more precisely for our socioeconomic status.

Raúl Castillo, Clew, Bianca “b” Norwood and Elia Monte-Brown in “American (Tele)visions” at New York Theater Workshop.

Raúl, what resonated with you the most as an actor in the series, and specifically in the role of Octavio?

Castillo: Initially I thought I was going to pass the play. Then I read the script and felt that it was absolutely beautiful. I was amazed at how moving it was, and I had never read anything like it.

[Director] Rubén Polendo had a very clear vision in terms of how he wanted to make this play a reality, in terms of how he wanted to stage it and how he wanted to conduct the process. Then Víctor talked about his inspiration for the work. These are two Mexican-American artists, and I don’t come across Mexican-American artists working at this level often, to be honest.

I remember thinking to myself, “I have to do this play.” There hasn’t been a day in the process that I haven’t reaffirmed my decision. There is not a single person in this company who is not working at the highest level and giving it their all.

“American (Tele)visions” originally premiered before the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you think there are themes in the show that land differently, deeper even, because of the two-year delay?

Cazares: Due to the pandemic we are coming out of a duel, a very intense duel and a distance that we had to have with people. Not being able to see your family and friends… that is the daily life of undocumented immigrants. They are separated from the people they left at home. So that isolation that they suffer as a result and that this family suffers in the play is more legible than it was before.

“The first night we performed the play for an audience, I was terrified.  It was an out-of-body experience,” said Castillo, left.
“The first night we performed the play for an audience, I was terrified. It was an out-of-body experience,” said Castillo, left.

Raul, the play will be performed shortly before the premiere of his new movie, “The Inspection.” As an actor, is it a challenge for you to move between media?

Castillo: I love both mediums for different reasons, and it’s exciting to be back in theater. [but] The first night we performed the play for an audience, I was terrified. It was an out-of-body experience because she hadn’t done it for a long time. Now, it feels like the most natural thing. I started in the theater, that’s where I came from.

I just saw “The Inspection” for the first time, and I was very moved by Gabrielle Union’s performance as a mother who rejects her homosexual son. Cause I’m living in this space [playing] a man who is truly devastated by the loss of his son, it was heartbreaking to watch. But the film is beautiful, and I am incredibly proud of it. I’m excited for these two stories to come to life at the same time.

Victor, what do you most hope the public will take away from “American (Tele)visions”?

I want people to change. I personally go to the theater to process. I am waiting for them to change me and I move to leave with some organ inside me displaced and perhaps in a new area of ​​my body (laughs). And I want people to see themselves in this family. Either you see yourself, or you are able to let go of some trauma.

I’m focusing on having this story [and] that more people see this undocumented Mexican family. I would love to inspire other Mexican-American kids to see themselves, to get involved, and to know that their stories are worth telling and that people want to see them. We deserve human rights, and part of that human right is to have our stories told.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity and length.

“I would love to inspire other Mexican-American children to see themselves, participate and know that their stories are worth telling and that people want to see them,” said playwright Victor I. Cazares.

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