In the first part of this interview series with Arturo Castro, we discuss Alternatino, Walter Mercado, and using namaste in real life. Here in part two, we talk religious family, typical Mondays, and being told you’re not good-looking enough to make it in showbiz (it’s not true, Arturo!):
Hip Latina: I fell off watching Broad City but I want to get back on because it makes me feel like life is full of possibilities. Also I want to be best friends with Abbi and Ilana.
Arturo Castro: What I love about Broad City is there’s all these themes that on television are normally a big deal, but for us, aren’t. It’s really true to what New York is. Just a bunch of us meshed together and you find your friends and no matter what sexual orientation or color of your skin, you roll with it and nobody thinks twice. Like Ilana’s sexuality fluctuates throughout the show and it’s not a big deal.
HL: I love it.
So I’m a writer and I come from a pretty religious, conservative family but I myself am not. I want to make my parents proud and I want them to know what I’m doing and read my stuff—but then there’s always that slight conflict of, like, “Well, I wish you wouldn’t curse,” or, “I wish you wouldn’t write about this subject matter.” Have you ever faced that?
AC: There’s definitely a big religious component in my family. But my immediate family—they’ve been really open-minded in a society that doesn’t tend to be very open-minded.
In Guatemala, we don’t have Comedy Central so I used to hold these screenings at a friend of mine’s bar. When they saw “Hurricane Wanda,” it was my religious aunts and everybody. Later, they were like, “It was great! Uh—so she pooped in a shoe?” [laughs]
But even the religious factors of my family have always been like, “This is a really sweet guy you’re playing, this is really cool.”
HL: Do you have sisters?
AC: Three sisters, and my mom. I was always surrounded by really powerful, wonderful women. What I learned from them was that the power of kindness and empathy is really what sets an artist apart.
Everyone’s going through their own shit, everybody has a reason for doing what they do. I can’t play a character that I feel is one-dimensional, so you always have to find layers.
One of my favorite books is Lolita. It’s a completely taboo topic, obviously, pedophilia. But I liked what Nabokov did, which was to kind of take this amoral approach to things, like, “I’m not saying that anything is right or wrong, I’m just examining.”
AC: I grew up with therapists. My mom is a psychologist, my father was a psychiatrist, my sister’s a psychologist. So whenever we had discussions growing up, it wasn’t about people’s actions but what was behind them. I’d come over like, [pretend crying] “Oh my god he picked on me,” and they’d be like, “Why did that happen?” “Because he’s got an Oedipus complex?” [sniffles]
HL: So tell me—a typical Monday before Broad City took off and after.
AC: My eyes would shoot open at 5am.
HL: Excited? Scared?
AC: Just determined. Leaving Guatemala, getting rid of my accent. I was meant to tell stories but it was really hard to get the chance to. In order to get to the bigger rooms, there was so much BS. I remember one agent was like, “You’re just not really good-looking enough to be on TV, dude.” I wrote him an email like, “Listen, my mom thinks I’m the most handsome man in the world.”
HL: [laughs] Amen.
AC: Guess whose email I got as soon Broad City started coming out.
But anyway a typical day was submission, submission, about four auditions, booking one, getting a commercial, going to the gym, working with the kids—I was doing the drama therapy as well, but also this prevailing sense of like, something’s gotta give.
HL: How were you supporting yourself?
AC: I did everything, but always in film or theater. I took a waiting job for two weeks and was like, “This is not for me.” The way I had to approach it was, “There is no plan B.” Because there was never a plan B.
I was fine living in a basement. I was fine choosing between a metro card and a meal. But because I knew that all I had to do was get into the right room.
There’s so many people trying to do what we do. Being a writer, being an actor. The only way you’re gonna stand out is by being so much braver than anybody else, by cutting the safety net behind you.
And after Broad City? The door opened for me, and then I got in the room.