Season three of “Narcos,” which follows the rise of the Cali Cartel, premieres on Netflix Friday. And you might recognise one of its new villains from Comedy Central’s “Broad City,” playing a very different role.
Arturo Castro, the Guatemalan actor who plays Ilana’s roommate Jaimé on “Broad City” (season four out September 13), recently spoke to Business Insider about how that role led to “Narcos” (one of his favourite shows). He also spoke about the challenge of finding roles that represent Latinos in an authentic way, which he’s trying to do with his Comedy Central pilot, “Alternatino”.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Carrie Wittmer: How has “Broad City” changed your career so far? Has it gotten you more into comedy?
Arturo Castro: I stumbled into comedy. I was always drawn to it, but my background is mostly in dramatic theatre. Abbi [Jacobson] and Ilana [Glazer] come from a long line of of improvisers, and they’re very involved in the UCB community and I got to work on a show that Amy Poehler’s involved in. I started to see comedy and understand comedy in different ways on set every day. I thought how cool it was for them [Jacobson and Glazer] to have created a career for themselves by creating their own show, and so I’m emulating that by creating my own show. So they have been my mentors throughout that process. And here we are, shooting a pilot.
Wittmer: So “Broad City” inspired you to make your own comedy series?
Castro: Definitely. If you have a voice that you don’t feel is represented very specifically, then it’s sort of your responsibility to create and amplify that voice. And I think comedy is a great way to do that. And somewhere along the way, “Narcos” and “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” happened. It’s been a crazy year.
Wittmer: Comedy is usually pretty dominated by white men. “Broad City” came in and it has two female leads and diverse characters, and now you’re off doing your own stuff. Do you feel a responsibility to have your own voice out there?
Castro: Very much so. I think there’s a certain narrative out there about what a Latino is. There’s a certain negative connotation, especially in the political realm about what it means to be Latin. And I think it’s completely wrong. It’s definitely a responsibility. I created the show [“Alternatino”] because I realised that I have friends from all over the world. And our one common denominator is what we laugh at. There’s so many shows about what makes us different, but not a lot of shows about what makes us the same. I fully intend to normalize what it means to be Latin nowadays. So yeah, there’s a huge responsibility. I also just want to make people laugh.
Wittmer: Have you struggled finding roles that were a good representation of yourself and the Latino community?
Castro: After “Broad City” the doors opened to me more. I think people just gave me a chance a little more to expand on what I wanted to do. But it’s a tricky question. I played a lot of immigrant roles when I started out. And I still would. If something’s well-written I’ll do it, and I’ll do it responsibly. For example, I was on “The Good Wife.” The character’s name is Dishwasher Juan. I swear to God. You can see it on my IMDB. I’m like, “You can’t just call him Juan?” Definitely post-“Broad City,” things have been great. I’ve been able to pick more roles that speak to me more than before I was on the show. I was a huge fan of “Narcos” for two seasons before I got on it.
Wittmer: What’s your role on “Narcos” like? Has your experience in comedy informed you as a dramatic actor?
Castro: Nothing prepared me to play a ruthless drug dealer like Jaime. [Laughs]. The rough and tumble world of New York comedy. The character’s name [on “Narcos”] is David Rodriguez. And he’s the son of one of the cartel bosses. He’s sort of like the Joffrey from “Game of Thrones” of this season. He’s trying to protect the throne. “Narcos” and “Broad City” come out at the same time, so if you’re watching both you’re going to be very confused as to who I am. My voice right now sounds completely different than either of those characters, really. I’m just going through an identity crisis, I guess. [Laughs]
Wittmer: Makes sense.
Castro: I’m joking! So I get down there, and my contract was actually extended. The showrunners and the writers liked the work they started seeing. I really have to tell you this: there’s something about comedic actors playing a character that’s intimidating that can be a disturbing in a really good way. Because if you can find humour in really dark situations, it kind of puts everybody else off their feet, you know? So I think David, my character, definitely uses his own sardonic sort of humour to make the people he wants to intimidate very uncomfortable. I was shooting that, and then I would fly back and forth to New York to shoot “Broad City.” And sometimes on the plane I had to decompress. Just remind yourself of who you are, where you’re from. It’s funny because there’d be a really dramatic scene in “Narcos” and I would be standing with my hand on my hip, just be distracted and Jaimé would sort of come out in my personality. And the director would be like, “Dude, you’re doing Jaimé.” And I was like “Sorry sorry sorry!” It was a surreal and wonderful experience.
Wittmer: What are the sets on a dramatic, big-budget set like “Narcos” compared to “Broad City?”
Castro: Huge. Oh my God. They’re so big. I’ve been on big movie sets before, but this is crazy. Definitely because of the budget that they’re working with, that goes a long way in Colombia where things are a little less expensive than if you’re shooting in the middle of New York City. On “Narcos,” we have a huge club scene. We have like 400 extras and there’s these big action sequences. I couldn’t believe it. At some point it struck me, the reality of it. When we were kids we used to play these games like cops and robbers and here we are, just bigger kids with bigger toys doing the exact same thing. Obviously on a comedic set, everyone who works on “Broad City” (not myself) is a comedic genius and has been honing their craft for years. And now I got to see it on the dramatic side.
Wittmer: You compared your character on “Narcos” to King Joffrey. Do you think people will hate your character as much as they hate Joffrey? He is the worst.
Castro: Here’s my take on that: I’m not trying to compare myself to that kid in the scope of it. But I think people will certainly disagree with my character’s choices. What I’m hoping for is that they see that every brutal act he commits is out of loyalty to his father. Basically, he just wants his father to be protected. So if you can see it from the point of view that his loyalty never wavers, you can’t disagree with his choices. With Joffrey, he just likes causing pain. My character, it’s not that he likes causing pain. He sees people either as obstacles or facilitators to what he wants to achieve. If they’re an obstacle, you just get rid of it. So it’s a very mathematical thing. I’m sure some people are gonna be like,”‘Jaimé, no! Stop it! What are you doing?!” There’s definitely some things I’m gonna have to tell my mum to skip over. But do I think people will hate him? I hope not. I hope they’re scared of him, but I hope they don’t hate him.
Wittmer: Was it hard going back and forth between Jaimé, one of the most likable characters on television to this brutal villain?
Castro: What you won’t see on “Narcos” is that most of the time when my character does something particularly ruthless, when we cut, we would really laugh out loud. Because it’s a moment of so much tension to the point where my producer was like, “Are you actually a psychopath?” I was like, “No! I’m just so excited.” It wasn’t hard in the sense of, “Oh, what are people gonna think?” But when you get back to your hotel room or your trailer or whatever, you do need to check in with yourself and be like, “It’s make believe. It’s all just make believe, let it go.” When somebody’s pretending that they’re suffering right in front of you, your body doesn’t know that. But you’re still hearing somebody scream in deep pain and you know that you’re causing it. I definitely have to shake off, as opposed to when I’m doing Jaimé, when what you hear is mostly laughter. So there’s definitely something you have to shake off at the end of the day.
Wittmer: Is playing a bad guy as much fun as playing Jaimé?
Castro: It is so fun to play a bad guy. It is so much fun. If my character walks into the room and by the time he walks out everybody in the room looks like they want to kill him, I’ve done my job right. Being the mean girl of “Narcos” was really fun. I took my inspiration from Lindsay Lohan, as I do everything.
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