Talking it out with Broad City’s Arturo Castro

If you saw Arturo Castro on the street in Brooklyn, you might think he looks vaguely familiar: Do I know that guy? Is he my friend’s roommate? Is he my dealer? Is he famous? Honestly, he’s a little bit of each.

arturo3_1000Photograph by Livia Coulias Blanc.

Most well known for playing Jaime, the hilariously lovable, weed-dealing, onesie-wearing roommate to Ilana on the hit comedy Broad City, Castro is constantly being stopped on the street with that Don’t I know you? glance. It’s partly due to the relatable nature of the show, created by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, but what’s so approachable about Castro is his kind and goofy demeanor, both on and off the screen.

Though Broad City made him recognizable, Castro’s career has recently gone into overdrive. With a number upcoming films, including Sun Belt Express and a new picture staring Susan Sarandon, Castro is also producing and acting in his web series 2040which was recently named one the the top 5 to watch by IFC. We talked to the rising star about his start on Guatemalan television, the new season of Broad City, and how important it is to have a sense of humor in the world of television.


You’re from Guatemala, how did you start getting into acting?

I was probably about 12 years old and the reason I got into acting was because there was this girl… I was a chubby kid and there was this girl I like who got into acting classes after school so I did too. And once I did it I realized I liked acting more than I liked her!

When I 16 I met this Juilliard teacher and I did a monolog for her, and she told me I had to go to New York. It took me a few years… when I was 18 they gave me this television show, basically a weekend morning thing, but I got to interview some cool people. Like Shakira and…Shakira. That was really the only cool person.

And then I went to law school for a year but I didn’t think I would be happy doing that the rest of my life, so I auditioned for the School of Dramatic arts in New York and moved here when I was 19.  It was a big thing, I had an strong accent.

Did you take classes to change that?

I did take accent reduction classes. I was really trying hard to get rid of it but it wouldn’t budge, and then I went to Guatemala to shoot an American movie and when I got back, it was gone. It’s funny because I used to talk with a thick accent and a stutter when I was speaking english, and now, the parts I get always have accents! I could have saved a lot of money…

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You have an accent for your role on Broad City, too. How did you get hooked up with the show?

I auditioned for Broad City in this tiny casting studio, it was very unassuming, like I wouldn’t be surprised if the casting director had a flip phone. I didn’t know what it was, it was for the pilot, and it went well. So the next day I got an email that i was going to a callback in the Comedy Central offices, and it was hard not to be nervous. Abbi and Ilana where there and it was almost as if I had met them before, they were so easy going.

The character of Jaime is based on a lot of people, but the accent is separate. What I did take from the real Jaime, who is one of Abbi’s best friends, is that he is very, very sweet. I love the guy, thanks to him being born I guess I have a career!

Do people recognize you on the street?

Sometimes it takes people a double take, I think they recognize me but then I talk and I don’t have an accent so it throws them off. One guy came up to me in Bryant Park, he was like: “Hey bro I love your work in Broad City. It’s weird you don’t have an an accent…do you not sell weed either?”

What did he think, I was selling weed at a park and someone said “Put those dimples on camera!”?

But really thats what’s great about the show, that every character seems like someone you could know, or do know!

Yea! I guess because the show is the way it is, I’ve never experienced such an outpouring of love from an audience. They don’t treat us like something precious, they think we are approachable because we all are! We come into their lives as friends, and it’s really the best way to get a start. We have a dream job where we can make people laugh and smile for a living, what are we going to be? Douches?

Also, I’m really honored to play a gay character. I’m not gay but I try not to play him ironically. I’m honored, first of all because everyone who has given me my start in theater or sponsored my Visa, are gay. But also because if you come from a small place, like I did in Latin America, where it’s a very close society, and you are gay and maybe feel you have a hard time relating to anyone on TV, and suddenly you see this Latin dude, who looks like you, who is having a great time in NYC, maybe it makes you feel better. I like being able to be that for someone.

I also work with kids teaching drama therapy,  showing kids in tough neighborhoods how to deal with their emotions through acting. And a lot of these kids are tougher, but they love the show and they love the character. It’s been interesting to see how they have reacted to it. People identify with the character because he is a really sweet guy, the gay and Latino part comes later.

In addition to acting and teaching you are also producing a new web series called 2040.

2040 came about because of what Broad City was able to achieve. We are at a point where you don’t have to wait for someone to point at you and say yes, you can make your own work. I brought the funniest people I know together and decided to make a web series: a mockumentary about a production company trying to make a romantic comedy. The great part is that we genuinely make ourselves laugh. The straw that broke the camel’s back was this guy sent me his IndieGogo campaign raising money for him and his girlfriend to move to Quebec. That was it. Just Give me money so I can move to Quebec, thanks! So that’s how the idea came about, and it’s been great so far.

All you really need to produce is an unshakable will, and people that believe in you. It’s been a collective experience and it’s really great. We hope people watch the show because they feel close with the characters, that you want to hang out with them.

What is you WILD Wish?

To get to a point in my career where just by being in a project  the project gets made. I think there are so many great projects that never get the chance to be made so I want to be able to make them happen. Also to have a unicorn give me Nutella.

Make sure you check out Arturo on Broad City‘s second season, out this January, and see all of 2040, here!

text by: Kate Messinger

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