On June 6, actor Enrique Castillo was honored with the 2010 Reel Rasquache Pioneer Award at the 7th Annual Reel Rasquache Art & Film Festival in Pasadena, CA for his contribution to the U.S. independent film industry.
Castillo, 60, who is best known for his role as Montana in the 1993 film “Bound by Honor” (AKA “Blood in Blood Out”), moved to Los Angeles in 1978 after working for over a decade with Luis Valdez and his Teatro Campesino.
Over the last 30 years, Castillo has appeared in a number of TV shows and feature films including “My Family,” “El Norte,” “Nixon” and “Déjà vu.” Starting Aug. 16, he can be seen in the sixth season of the hit Showtime TV series “Weeds” as Cesar, a drug-dealing henchman, who has been a recurring character on the show since Season 4.
What do you think the awards panel saw in your 20-year TV and film career to name you this year’s Pioneer Awards recipient?
I think most of them would be familiar with the work I have done in the past. Particularly, you could say the film “Blood in Blood Out” is one of the roles people remember me from. Of course, now with “Weeds,” there are a lot of fans of that TV show. I’m sure they took a look at the candidates and said, “Well, he’s the one with the grayest beard and the most lines in his face. We should give him this before he kicks off.”
Over the course of your career, what has been the most important thing you’ve wanted to convey in your work?
Well, there’s a misconception about the types of roles I’ve played in my career. Some people think I’m known for playing only thugs and criminals. If you look at my body of work those characters represent less than one percent of the total roles I’ve played. Yes, I’m most recognized for playing Montana in “Blood in Blood Out” and now for Cesar in “Weeds,” but I would challenge anyone to look back at my career and say that has been the pattern. I’ve played more doctors, lawyers, fathers, and heroes than anything else. That’s not by accident. That is by design.
What was the reason behind that career choice?
Many of us who are Latino have always been displeased with the way Hollywood has portrayed our culture. Many of us have military people in our family. Many of us have doctors and lawyers and we’d like to see those stories told. I’m no different. I’d rather play those kinds of characters. I have children and back then I didn’t want them to go to school during their formative years and have to explain why their daddy was the drug dealer or the rapist or the criminal. It was a tough choice but one that helps me sleep a lot easier. That’s not to say I begrudge any of my colleagues for making different choices. Some of them have made great careers out of it. That was my choice and I’m very comfortable with it.
But you played Montana in “Blood in Blood Out” and he was a criminal. What is the difference?
To me I saw Montana as a loving father who made a tragic choice. He’s a human being with a moral center. That’s what I look for in all the characters I play.
Is that how you view your character Cesar in “Weeds?”
The way I see Cesar is that he’s very loyal to his boss because he was a friend to his father. He’s a husband and has two kids. He has a moral center. That gives him humanity that sets him apart from just being a regular thug role.
What film in your career are you most proud of?
“El Norte.” It broke a lot of ground in terms of how people viewed a particular segment of our experience – the hardworking immigrant who will do anything to survive. It was in three languages. It included a cast with no stars. We were all Latinos working to make a film about Latinos and were very supportive of one another.
What has your overall experience been working on a show as popular as “Weeds?”
Well, my character started as a possible recurring role, which meant if the response was good then maybe he would appear in other episodes. Now, I’m into my third season and the response has been very positive. I’ve had the chance to work with a lot of talented Latino actors. It’s been an incredible experience.