By Jack Rico
Perhaps the most popular and talented Mexican actress in cinema right now is Kate del Castillo. Her versatility to do theater, television and movies, in Spanish or English, has positioned her for a bright future in Hollywood.
Her latest movie is “K-11” from novice director Jules Stewart, Kristen Stewart’s mother. del Castillo plays Mousey, a transgender inmate who is volatile and territorial. I had a chance to converse with Kate for 20 minutes about the broad spectrum of her career, but also deep-dive into questions of where does this K-11 role ranks in her career, her encounter with Twilight’s Kristen Stewart, how Hollywood perceives her, her discomfort with comfort and if that “La Reina del Sur” novela is ever going to be made into a real theatrical movie by Universal Pictures.
ShowBizCafe.com (SBC): Thanks Kate for your time. Why did you want to play this role?
Kate del Castillo (KC): Oh my God, for so many reasons. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. These are the roles that as actors and actresses we kill for, these opportunities [don’t come] often. It’s also amazing that the director, Jules, that she casted a woman. The easy way to go is just to cast a man and that’s it. I am very thankful for her thinking outside the box and giving me the opportunity so that for me is awesome. This is the kind of role that gets attention and that you can really play and have fun.
SBC: How did you happen to get on Jules Stewart’s radar?
KC: You are going to have to ask her because I still don’t know who is the angel that I have to thank. I don’t know, I think she saw a picture of this show I was shooting in Colombia called “The Queen of the South” (La Reina del Sur) and I play a bad ass drug dealer [who] becomes the biggest drug dealer in Spain, so she saw that picture, I don’t know, that is what she is telling me I’m not sure about it. She decided to call me — she saw my other movies, she saw “Trade” and she saw “Julia,” — and she asked me to meet with her and I was so nervous because I read the script and I thought: “this is amazing, but I just don’t understand where I fit in this particular script.” When she told me she was blown away and I met with her and we fell in love with each other and that is the way it happened.
SBC: This role seems to be a demanding and mentally tough role to get your arms around. What kind of exploration did you have to go through to “become” a transgender?
KC: It’s really hard to answer that question because actors, I don’t know what happens it’s just a switch that we just move, of course with a lot of research. Not everyone can open up and tell you what they’ve gone through, but I was very lucky to find a couple of transgender people who helped me out a lot. That on one side, on the other side I did research on the web, I read so many books – the time that I had also, we are always going to want more time to prepare as actors – I did whatever I could.
I am a woman who’s been always kind of a tomboy, so for me, it’s funny, but the hardest part was to get in touch with my feminine side! Sometimes transgender persons, guys who are becoming women, they are very feminine, very very feminine, so that was the hardest thing for me.
SBC: About this character, you have said you are looking to grow as an actress. What kind of growth do you eventually want to be able to achieve that will ultimately satisfy you? What is your ultimate goal as an actress?
KC: I don’t think I have a specific goal; I just want to work on interesting projects like “K-11.” I don’t know if it’s going to have a big audience, I don’t know if it’s going to be a breakthrough, but for me it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. That’s what I’m looking for and that’s going to make me grow as an actress, it challenges me. I have to have risks in my career, I don’t want to be in my comfort zone, that’s why I left Mexico and I left my comfort zone which was very comfortable in many ways, much more economically speaking. I left all of those things because I wasn’t happy. I wanted to grow as an actor, and have fun, and play with things, and be challenged and work harder.
SBC: Would you say that this is the best role you have ever had?
KC: Without a doubt, this is the best role I have ever had. Because it is something that I would have never thought of, it opened my mind so much and I grew as an actor, I grew as a woman, I grew intellectually, I learned so much and I am very ashamed to say that I was so ignorant about the whole transgender [world]. I heard about it, but I never really dug into it, it’s huge and it’s so sad sometimes because these people go through so many things and so many changes and so much bullying, so all these things made for me the perfect opportunity to grow in so many ways. I feel very thankful with Jules and the opportunity of playing a transgender and with all the people who helped me out.
I don’t what is going to happen with the movie, I don’t know what is going to look like editing wise because you know, they can change everything, I just did my best and it’s not on my hands then what’s going to happen with the entire movie, maybe nobody is going to watch I, but for me I did my best and that is what I take home.
SBC: How do you think the Spanish community will react to this role because I don’t think they have ever seen you in anything like this, ever.
KC: I think my fan base knows that I love change even physically, I like to do different kind of roles – I played a human trafficker — I think they are expecting something different and challenging from me. On the other hand, Mexicans, I’m Mexican so I can only talk for Mexicans, we are very catholic and we are very, you know, I don’t even know what my parents are going to say. I think they’re going to be blown away.
But I think it’s probably going to give a lot to talk about and it’s definitely going to be controversial I have no doubt about it. The buzz is already there. I think, they know I’m an actress, they know I’ve been an actress since I was 9 and my father is a huge actor and they know I take this very seriously, it’s my life.
SBC: Did you get to work with Kristen Stewart? I heard she was in the movie and if you did, did you share any scenes with her?
KC: No, she was not in the movie. I think she did some voices only but I definitely met with her and she is amazing, she is a sweetheart, she was really nice with me, but I played many things with her brother Cam. Jules and her whole family are amazing; I wish [Kristen] would have played a role in the movie because she is a great, amazing young actress.
SBC: Let’s switch over to the Spanish universe of your career and a dilemma about the format of “La Reina del Sur”. To my surprise, according to your people, “La Reina del Sur” is not a telenovela, but a miniseries. Viewers say it is a telenovela, but your camp doesn’t. Where does the truth lie?
KC: It is a telenovela because it is on Telemundo and that’s what they do. It’s a show that goes on every day, but the difference from a regular telenovela is the budget was much bigger, something that they never do in telenovelas. This was based on a best seller so every single day they moved so fast. In regular telenovelas you can miss out two weeks and you turn it on again and it’s still the same thing. This was based on a best seller; there couldn’t be a second part because there is no book. The writer is a novel writer who is amazing, Arturo Perez Reverte. Everything was different from a regular telenovela, plus it was only 60 episodes which are nothing like telenovelas [which can go up to] 300 episodes. So that is why it was different also because of theme, the entire theme was this woman, this lady who smokes pot, she snorts coke, she sleeps with married men, she has sex with anyone [she wants to], she is a drunk, she’s bad spoken and people love her, they love Teresa Mendoza, which is already so unlike telenovelas.
SBC: “La Reina del Sur” was a huge success and it actually crossed over and a lot of English language people also got to know you through that. Was there a thought about bring you back to do a sequel? And were there any thoughts about you doing a movie version with a theatrical release of something this successful?
KC: I was pursuing this character for a long time, I don’t know 10, 15 years when I heard about it, I read the book and said: “Oh my God, this is a dream come true for any actress.” This is such an amazing role, an amazing character so I said: “I have to do this!” But nothing happened, they sold the rights to Hollywood and then I think it was Salma Hayek, then Jennifer Lopez, then Eva Mendez and I totally forgot about the whole thing and suddenly it came back, well not back because it was never mine, but it came to me out of the blue from Telemundo and I said: “Are you kidding me? No, Telemundo is not doing this, I’m sorry but Telemundo can’t have the rights. They probably want to do something similar.” Then I [found out] that Perez Reverte was in and I said: “Oh My God, I have to do it.” Perez Reverte’s only condition was, for me to give Teresa Mendoza the green light and I said: “Oh my God, I can’t believe it, he loved me.”
They [Telemundo] wanted me to do a sequel, but I didn’t want to because I think it was such a success. You have to keep it that way. There is no second part to the book and I just thought it was the perfect thing to remember the whole thing as a great success.
SBC: It’s interesting that you say that because all parties involved would do the sequel simply for: A. the ratings, what network wouldn’t do it B. the big payoff, whatever you got paid for the first one it would double for the sequel. Almost everyone would have taken that deal. So why did you not sellout? Why is quality so imperative in your decision making?
KC: That’s a great question and you know, I think it’s just life and age. I’m not here for the money and trust me, I mean I still have to pay the bills and I like to live like a queen, but I rather sell quesadillas than go into a [role] that I’m not going to be challenged by or it’s going to be of bad quality. We actually struggled so much to do “La Reina del Sur” because we didn’t know what kind of project it was going to be, I didn’t know what kind of taste they would have. So I said: “Oh my God, what are we going to do, shall we do it or not?” It was great pay I cannot complain, so we [went for it] and we got lucky. And now, I don’t need a sequel. It is just not appealing to me anymore.
SBC: What about “La Reina del Sur” a movie version, a theatrical release distributed by Universal Pictures. Do you want to do that, are your agents working to make it happen, is there a script in the hands of a studio right now?
KC: Yes, I know they sold the rights in English to do either a TV series in English or a movie. I don’t know what they want and if they want it, but I spoke already to the guys that have the rights and of course I want to do it. I want to be the one and only Teresa Mendoza, that’s interesting to me. What is not interesting is that if it’s going to be in English, if it’s going to be written by whomever, then all the good stuff, all the Mexicanisms with the Spaniards and the Mexicans is going to be lost and that’s part of what of what makes “La Reina del Sur” and Teresa so much fun.
SBC: You have three movies being released 2013 and 2014 – “Sherman Way,” “No Good Deed,” and “The Miracle of Spanish Harlem.” Tell me about “Sherman way” Adriana Barraza, Gorge Lopez, is that wrapped up, is that ready to go and what was your role in that movie?
KC: Well no, to be honest, that’s still there we haven’t shot that, they are just negotiating. But I think I’m going to start soon, probably in a month. It’s an assembled cast and it’s amazing, with these amazing actors, I think it’s great.
“No Good Deed,” that was great experience because it was originally for a Caucasian girl so I loved it that they gave me the opportunity and they didn’t care about ethnicity. It’s only a guest role with Idris Elba. I play Idris Elba’s ex-girlfriend and no I can’t say [anymore] but it’s very intense.
“The Miracle of Spanish Harlem” was shot in New York and it was very interesting. It was a great movie. It’s like a family movie, like a Christmas movie something like that. It was really nice, it was also a great ensemble cast and I had a great time.