It’s not every actor who can go from playing a gay hairdresser on one show and then an off-the-charts violent villain on another.
Raul Castillo made it look easy last week when he abandoned the laid back, vulnerable demeanor he brings to the character of Richie on the beloved HBO gay-centric drama, “Looking” and took on the role of villain Eduardo Flamingo on the “Bitter Pill to Swallow” episode of Fox’s “Gotham.”
Flamingo not only made the life of Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) hell with a drag-out fight (that Gordon won) but the villain also performed one horrendous – and lethal – act that ended the short career of a young female cop. (You have to watch to find out but, wow, it was shocking but kept in line with the mythology of the manic Flamingo from the DC Comics).
While Castillo’s episode of “Gotham” aired last Monday, he was busy in San Francisco shooting the finale of “Looking” and I ventured up there to talk to him about both roles.
(Note: the bulk of my “Looking” interviews with Castillo and co-stars Jonathan Groff, Frankie J. Alvarez, Murray Bartlett, Lauren Weedman, Daniel Franzese and creator Michael Lannan and director Andrew Haigh will appear closer to the airdate for the feature-length special, tentatively set for Spring 2016 on HBO).
Tell me about playing Eduardo Flamingo, which was such a different role on a very different set but I have to say you just went for it! It was insane.
Raul Castillo: It was so fun. It was exciting because it’s so different than, not just Richie, but it’s just different than anything that I’ve ever done on screen and “Gotham” is a different kind of beast and it moves in a different way. This character is so dark and he’s so ferocious. I was really just excited to dive into that, to have fun with that and it was so much fun. It was so much fun.
There’s something creepy about somebody who’s getting the s**t kicked out of them and they just start laughing with blood coming out of their mouth. [Castillo laughs] How long did it take you to do that fight scene with Ben?
RC: [The “Gotham”] fight team is awesome. We had great stunt doubles and a great choreographer who came in and taught us the fight, I think it was three days before and then you’ve got to quickly put it together but it was downtown in City Hall in New York in the middle of the night. It was pretty chilly but it was also so fun. It felt like being a kid. That kind of stuff I haven’t done a lot on-screen and doing it just reminded me of being a kid playing in that way, and it’s so theatrical.
And that show, I watched a lot of it to prepare myself for it and I watched what the other actors were doing, especially the other villains and kind of got an idea of the tone and that cast is incredible. They have such great people on the show and the villains are fantastic so I knew that I had to live up to a certain kind of standard. It was really helpful to watch the show and observe the other villains and understand the world that I was coming into.
If you saw Cameron Monaghan earlier this season [as Jerome Valeska, who many thought was The Joker until the character’s death], I feel like he set the bar because he was so over the top but in the right way.
RC: He’s fantastic.
Any chance you're coming back to "Gotham?" I was happy they didn't kill Eduardo off.
RC: Not that I know of yet, but I hope so.
You're in jail, so it'd be easy. He can break out on his own.
And now you're shooting your last week on "Looking." Was it easy for you to get back into Richie's shoes?
RC: Yeah, I think so. I think for me, the scenes with Jonathan are…maybe easy is not the right word but almost fluid. I’m able to drop in with him and there is an ease to our camaraderie and our relationship. I think that I don’t have to reach for it. It’s there immediately and I feel so lucky to have a scene partner like him because you don’t often get that.
It's not going to be easy to walk away from this character, probably more than anything I've ever done in my career because it exposed me to the world and to the industry in the way that it did. It gave me this sort of artistic family that I'm always longing for whether it's in the theater world, on film or television. I just love to be part of groups of like-minded artists that are all striving for the same thing and luckily I think there's been a great synchronization in this company of people who want this same thing, and that's a rarity.
What else do you have going on?
RC: “Special Correspondence” (with Ricky Gervais for Netflix) is coming out next spring, right around the time I think “Looking’s” going to come out so that should be interesting that they’re out at the same time.
You can watch Castillo’s “Gotham” episode here. The winter finale of “Gotham” airs tonight at 8pm on Fox. The “Looking” finale airs this Spring. Catch up on episodes on XFINITY.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.