Call Answered: Raul Castillo Interview: HBO's Looking and Jose Rivera's Adoration of the Old Woman

Raul CastilloFrom HBO's Looking, "Call Me Adam" chats with actor and writer Raul Castillo about starring on the hit HBO show as "Richie," working with Jonathan Groff, and his current run in Jose Rivera's Adoration of the Old Woman at INTAR Theatre in New York City. According to press notes, Adoration of the Old Woman tells the story of an ancient woman. A haunted bed. An angry teen. A sexy ghost. Political turmoil. Will Puerto Rico really become the 51st state or will it fight for its freedom? And all the coquis are dying. Adoration of the Old Woman has been extended through April 19! Click here for tickets!

1. Who or what inspired you to become an actor? No one thing. There have been so many influential people in my life and experiences I've had coupled with my own innate sense of wonder and curiosity, I think, and a need for artistic expression. Maybe it's being a middle child. Maybe it was my upbringing in the South Texas punk rock scene. Maybe it was John Farr, my high school Drama teacher, a complicated and thrilling teacher. Maybe it was the playwright Tanya Saracho, my teenage girlfriend and now one of my best friends who coincidentally is a staff writer on Looking. Maybe it was Carlito's Way. Maybe it's Tennessee Williams. Maybe it was Miguel Piñero, Anthony Quinn, James Dean, Matt Dillon, John Leguizamo, every rock singer and bass player I imitated in my room in front of my mirror religiously throughout my teenage years, perfecting and crafting performances. I could go on forever.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? That list could also go on forever. There are so many filmmakers and theater artists out there doing their thing, whose work I love. I wouldn't know where to start and then I would know how to end.

3. What attracted you to Adoration of the Old Woman? A couple of things. First, it gave me another opportunity to work with Jose Rivera. This is our fourth collaboration. I love his characters and the worlds he concocts, they are always a thrill for any actor to interpret and inhabit. The dialogue the play initiates regarding Puerto Rican statehood and U.S. involvement in the Island and it's affairs, I felt was an important one. And Jose finds a beautiful way to express this very complicated issue, through humor and passion. It's an exciting play to perform. In addition, it is a pleasure to be back at Intar, a company dedicated to producing new Latino voices. I got my start with the company, my first acting job in New York City, back in 2003. I love what Lou Moreno, their Artistic Director, is doing there! He asked me to come in and read for our director Patricia McGregor. "Ismael," my character, seemed like the right fit. He's very different from "Richie," my character on Looking.  But like "Richie," he's a lot of fun to play.

Raul Castillo as "Ismael" in Jose Rivera's "Adoration of the Old Woman," Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg4. What do you identify most with about your character "Ismael"? His love for this old, crazy woman, the character of "Doña Belen," played by the amazing Socorro Santiago. Also, his pride and his sense of loyalty. He feels strongly about his beliefs and backs them up, elegantly and forcefully, when pushed into a corner.

5. What has been the best part about doing a show with INTAR? Getting back on stage. INTAR has great, enthusiastic audiences. Lou has done a great job of fostering a community that's growing all the time. It's a great place to be. There's a lot of young people doing lots of cool stuff there. And it's all very much tied to a past and a legacy of giving voice to important Latino stories. A lot of Latino theater artists have been directly influenced by work that has come out of INTAR, I certainly was. It's great to be back!

6. What excites you about working with this cast? The range of experiences, both work and life, that they all bring. There's a lot of love in the room and everyone's working really hard and dedicated to telling this story. And they're all bringing it to the stage. I learn a lot from them, I feel lucky to go to the theater every night.

Raul Castillo as "Richie" in HBO's "Looking"7. In addition to Adoration of the Old Woman, you just finished the first season of HBO's Looking. What made you want to audition for the role of "Richie" and how did you prepare for the role once you were cast? I worked on the short film Lorimer with Michael Lannan, which he made essentially as a prototype for Looking. He reached out to me through a mutual friend and sent me the script. I read it and thought it was very elegantly written, the characters seemed very real and natural, and so I said "yes" and worked on "Richie" then. I still had to audition for the pilot once HBO picked it up. But I loved the pilot script and once I saw Andrew Haigh's movie Weekend I was even more thrilled. His characters seem to just walk in from the street. I didn't feel like I had to do much to prepare, necessarily. Just stay true to the story and the moment. Figure out "Richie's" life and his history and what I feel motivates him, etc.

Jonathan Groff ("Patrick") and Raul Castillo ("Richie") in a scene from HBO's "Looking"8. What do you like about working with Jonathan Groff? He's an ideal scene partner. Hard working, true, real, honest and very present. I feel like he's the kind of actor who knows if I've missed a moment but doesn't judge me for it. He always brings his best, makes me want to do the same. I think if you asked any person on our cast or crew, they'd tell you the same. He's a great friend and a guy I care a lot about. It's fantastic bringing this story to life with him. Also, he's very funny and fun to be around. That doesn't hurt.

9. What do you get from your theatrical endeavors that you do not get from your film/television work? Telling a story moment to moment. You can't go back and shoot it again. The was the moment. That's how it will live in the minds of this night's audience. Throwing control out the window and really living and breathing in the moment. It's frightening every time, but I love it.

Raul Castillo and Socorro Santiago in Jose Rivera's "Adoration of the Old Woman", Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg10. What's the best advice you've ever received? My dad's always said this Martin Luther King quote. He tells his own version of it, in Spanish. But it stuck with me from when I was a kid. Whatever you do, whether it's mop floors or run a bank, you do the best you can.

11. How do you feel you've grown as a person from being an actor? Hard to say but I'm sure it has exposed me to experiences and culture that have formed a great part of who I am. Hopefully it's made me more empathetic. That's what we strive for, I think, or should be. I hope I continue to grow and get to experience more and more. I love storytelling, it teaches us so much about life.


12. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Invisibility.

13. Favorite way to stay in shape? Eating healthy, unprocessed and nutricious foods.

14. Boxers or Briefs? Boxer briefs.

Raul CastilloMore on Raul:

Raul Castillo can currently be seen in the HBO series Looking in the role of "Richie." He is a proud member of LAByrinth Theater Company. Theater credits include Fish Men (Goodman), A Lifetime Burning (Primary Stages), Contigo (Signature), and Jose Rivera's School of the Americas (Public Theater/Labyrinth), Flowers (E.S.T.) and Reference's to Salvador Dalí Make Me Hot (Abroad).

Born and raised on the Texas-Mexico border and based in New York City, Raul studied theater at Boston University's School for the Arts before making a name for himself on both stage and screen as an actor and writer. He made his feature film debut in Amexicano, which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in 2007. Variety's Ronnie Scheib referred to his performance as "pitch-perfect." Raul followed that up with a string of roles in independent films, including Cold Weather, Don't Let Me Drown, My Best Day, The Girl, and Bless Me, Ultima, in addition to garnering an honorable mention for performance at AFI Fest 2012 for the Student Academy Award-winning short film Narcocorrido. Television credits include Blue Bloods, Law and Order, and Nurse Jackie.

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