Raúl Castillo is an American actor and playwright who is known for his acting in the American television series Looking (2014), and films like Cold Weather (2010), We the Animals (2018), and Army of the Dead (2021).
Raúl Castillo was born on Tuesday, August 30, 1977 (age 43 years; as of 2020), in McAllen, Texas, US.
His parents migrated from Reynosa in Mexico to McAllen in Texas before his birth. McAllen is a city close to the US-Mexican border, which accommodates almost 90 percent of Mexican-Americans. Living so close to the US-Mexican border, his parents often made visits to their family members in Reynosa due to which he grew up in a very bicultural environment. According to him, when he visited Mexico, he identified himself as American, and when he traveled around the United States, he identified himself as Mexican.
I was too American for Mexico, but too Mexican for the U.S.”
He did his middle schooling at Our Lady of Sorrows School in McAllen, and high schooling at McAllen High School. At the age of fourteen, he began acting and turned to the theater to make friends and because the theater was well-liked in his hometown school. He was also indulged with the drama department of his high school. After completing his schooling, he went to the College of Fine Arts at Boston University and graduated with a major in theatre in 1999. The New York Times While studying at Boston University, he began producing his own plays and decided to become a playwright, despite being good at performing.
Height (approx.): 5′ 11″
Hair Color: Black
Eye Color: Black
Family, Ethnicity & Relationships
Parents & Siblings
Raúl Castillo’s father’s name is Raúl H. Castillo Sr., and his mother’s name is Adela “Adelita” Rodríguez de Castillo. He has an elder brother named Tony Castillo. He also has a sister, an accountant who is married to chef and restaurateur Omar Rodriguez.
He is in a relationship with a costume designer named Alexis Forte.
In 2000, he started his career as a theater artist with the play ‘Santos & Santos’ in the role of ‘Tomas’ at Nushank Theater Collective. He was not sure about acting before Santos & Santos happened, but after the play, he decided to pursue acting. After moving to New York, he began working as a writer for the LAByrinth Theater Company. After working as a writer for a while, he played ‘First Army Ranger’ in the 2006 LAByrinth Theater Company’s production of José Rivera’s play ‘School of the Americas’ at New York’s The Public Theater. He was well praised for his performance in the Ensemble Studio Theatre’s 2008 production of José Rivera’s play ‘Flowers’ in which he played ‘Beto.’ He performed in the plays like References to Salvador Dalí Make Me Hot (2009), Fish Men (2012), Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (2012), Contigo (2013), Adoration of the Old Woman (2014), and Death and the Maiden (2014), with the theater companies like ABroad Studio Company, Goodman Theatre, Lark Theater, Signature Theatre Company, INTAR Theater, and Victory Gardens Theater.
In 2005, he made his film debut with the short ‘Immaculate Perception’ in the role of ‘José.’ He then appeared in the short films Tadpoles (2005) and The Negative (2007). In 2007, he played ‘Ignacio’ in the American film ‘Amexicano,’ making his feature film debut.
In 2011, he was cast in the main role of ‘Carlos’ in the American film ‘Cold Weather’ and was applauded for his performance by critics and movie reviewers.
He made his British and Canadian film debut with ‘Special Correspondents’ (2016) in the role of ‘Domingo.’
He also acted in the American films Paraiso Travel (2008), My Best Day (2012), Bless Me, Ultima (2012), Sweets (2015), Permission (2017), El Chicano (2019), Little Fish (2020), and Army of the Dead (2021). He made appearances in the short films Gareeb Nawaz’s Taxi (2010), Narcocorrido (2011), Kiss Me (2012), Limbo (2016), The Four Walls of Olivia Pell (2017), and Sloan Hearts Neckface (2020).
In 2009, he made his television debut in the role of ‘Joseph’ in the episode ‘Nose Bleed’ of the American series ‘Nurse Jackie.’ He went on to act in the series Law & Order Law & Order (2009), All My Children (2009), and Damages (2010). He played the lead role of ‘Henry Howell’ in the action-comedy TV series ‘The Trainee.’ He is most popular for his role of a gay man named ‘Ricardo “Richie” Donado Ventura’ in the television series ‘Looking’ (2014).
He also appeared in the American series East WillyB (2011), Blue Bloods (2013), Looking (2014), Gotham (2015), Riverdale (2017), and Seven Seconds (2018).
As a Playwright
While pursuing his graduation, he began producing plays, which he thought was the most important thing that he had learnt at Boston University. He used to showcase his plays in student-run playwright’s festivals, and believed writing to be his ultimate career. Most of his early plays were based on the issue of sociopolitical and racial tensions on the border of Mexico and the United States. One of such plays was a trio of one-act plays titled ‘Border Stories,’ which focused on the life on the U.S.-Mexican border in Reynosa. After Castillo moved to New York, he became a writer at LAByrinth Theater Company and remained a writer for the company. In 2009, as part of LAByrinth’s works in development, his play ‘Knives and Other Sharp Objects’ debuted in The Public Theater and received moderate reviews; the play is based on issues of class, race, and assimilation in South Texas.
In 2015, his play ‘Between You, Me, and the Lampshade’ (which was developed at the Atlantic Theater Company) premiered at Teatro Vista in Chicago and was later performed at Richard Christiansen Theater at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre.
Awards & Achievements
- CinEuphoria Awards for Best Ensemble – International Competition for We the Animals in 2021
- Savannah Film Festival – Entertainment Weekly Breakout Awards in 2018
- National Association of Latino Independent Producers – Lupe Award for Breakout Performance in the TV series Looking in 2014
- AFI Honorable Mention in Performance for the short film ‘Narcocorrido’ in 2012
- Ashland Independent Film Festival – Special Mention for My Best Day in 2012
- NAMIC Vision Awards for Best Performance – Comedy for Looking
- Food: Tacos, Chapulin Tacos
- Dessert: Crème caramel
- Restaurant(s): Taqueria Rios in San Juan, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana in Washington
- Playwright(s): Miguel Piñero, Sam Shepard
- Author: Rudolfo Anaya
- Actor(s): John Leguizamo, Al Pacino, Anthony Quinn, Matt Dillon
- Film(s): The Outsiders (1983), Carlito’s Way (1994)
- Singer: Jimmy Dean
- While growing up, he was a chubby kid, which is why he was nicknamed Gordo (fat in Spanish. The Imagista According to him,
Since I was little, I was a chubby baby and Mexicans give nicknames to everyone and I got Gordo, which means the fat one. My brother is the skinny one and my sister is the girl! It is actually a term of endearment in Spanish which is funny because fat in English has such a negative connotation.”
- He grew up bicultural but has always felt more American. Whenever Castillo and his siblings visited Mexico, they were considered ‘gringos’ (a foreigner from the perspective of Spanish and Latin speaking people in Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries in Latin America). He identifies himself as a Mexican-American.
- When he was in third grade, he watched his brother play ‘Tin Woodman’ in his school’s production of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ which influenced him to pursue acting. The next year, he went to audition for a role in his school’s play about ‘a mouse and a clock.’ He failed the auditions because he could not stop giggling, and ended up getting a non-speaking role of a guard in the play.
- His brother was also a guitarist and a hardworking musician who spent hours perfecting scales. Seeing his brother’s dedication towards music, he was influenced to follow the same for acting.
- When he was in grade six at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School, he met Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas (Mutemath bass guitarist) and became friends with him. Talking about Roy in an interview, Castillo said,
One of my closest friends is Roy Mitchell-Cardenas and he plays bass for a band called Mute Math. We met in the 6th grade. We started a band together and before I got into theater, I played bass in a couple of punk rock bands with him. Roy and I started off together, he played drums then, and I, bass. To this day whenever his band plays in my home base of New York, we get together, hang out and I go see his shows. The last time he was in town he played at Madison Square Garden with Alanis Morissette and that was very nice to see. Our career paths have kind-of taken off together, so yes that friendship is pretty strong.”
- In high school, Castillo, Roy, and their other two friends (Nick Trevino and Robert Vleck) began an underground punk-rock band called IPM (short for Influential Phecal Material). Castillo used to play bass guitar in the band and was put on the back burner. When he started his band, he wanted to become a rock musician. By the end of his high school, he became more interested in theater, which led him to be kicked out of his band. Talking about it in an interview, he said,
I was in high school, in my second band, I played with my brother actually and I was starting to get more serious about theater. I was a Junior in high school and I knew that I wanted to apply to theater schools and get out and see the world. I was in a drivers education class at the time and the radio was on and they were mentioning local shows and they mentioned my band but I have no idea we were playing that gig…turns out they kicked me out of the band because they knew I was getting serious about theater.”
- The very first acting role that he played was in his high school’s production of Paul Zindel’s play’ The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild.’ In his high school, he also performed in his school’s production of ‘I Remember Mama.’
- While studying at McAllen High School, at the age of 14, he became friends with Tanya Saracho, an alumna of McAllen High and the story editor for Looking (2014). Tanya was a big influence on Castillo’s shift to the theatre as she introduced him to various playwrights and dramas. Talking about Tanya in an interview, he said,
Another good friend of mine is Tanya Saracho, a Chicago playwright. I’ve known her since the age of fourteen, we met in high school, went to college together and to date we remain really good friends.”
- His interest in performing arts was changed completely after he watched the 1993 film ‘Carlito’s Way.’ He was influenced by the performances of actors like John Leguizamo, John Ortiz, Viggo Mortensen, and Luis Guzmán in the film. He was mainly influenced by John Leguizami, not as an actor but playwright, and memorized several of Leguizamo’s plays such as Spic-O-Rama, Mambo Mouth, and Freak.
- He also drew inspiration from various Hispanic artists in the media. He was highly influenced by Miguel Piñero, a Puerto Rican playwright whom he found while going through a yellowed anthology of work from New York’s art theater Nuyorican Poets Cafe for a monologue competition. He also found inspiration in the actors such as Al Pacino and Anthony Quinn.
- After graduating from the Boston University, he went to Austin and began acting in short films and helped in starting a theater company on the way. At the same time, he worked at a coffee shop in Austin called Spider House, who were also owners of a video store. As an employee there, he got free access to videos, watched a ton of movies, and was impressed by a lot of directors. After watching movies, he decided to be an actor on television and in films. Talking about it in an interview, he said,
I just fell in love with directors in the same way that I fell in love with playwrights. Once I did my first short film as an actor and I figured out that I could do it, I knew I wanted to do more of it and I knew I wanted to find directors who had a vision and who I could collaborate with to express a singular vision. Television has a lot of cooks in the kitchen. It is a lot of people and I know film could be that way too but I don’t think television can ever have what film and theater have in that sense. There are a lot of opinions that go into it. To be honest, most of the television I have done was with filmmakers.”
- After staying in Austin, he decided to shift his base and move to Los Angeles. He soon changed his plans after he was stuck in a rush-hour traffic jam in Houston and realized that he would not be able to deal with daily traffic in LA. He decided to go to New York instead and moved there in 2002.
- He is also a guest teacher for an acting school called Heidi Marshall Studio in New York City.
- In an interview, he has discussed his plans to pursue direction. According to him,
I think there is a lot I have to learn. I think down the line, yes. I would like to get more experience. I see people like America Ferrera and Gina Rodriguez turning into directors and it is something that leaves me in awe. I am in awe of these ladies turning to directing and I am very inspired by them. Right now I am enjoying being an actor!”
- According to him, he wishes to play a musician in the future as that’s his dream role. He said,
I would love to play a singer, or any kind of musician. I would train to do that role, I would love to play someone that’s going to teach me. I never know what I want until I see it in front of me. There are so many characters out there that I am sure would excite me. For me, its got to be new and fresh, its got to challenge me in all the right ways. A lot of people got exposed to me as an actor through the HBO show Looking which was different from my character on We The Animals which is exciting for me. I just want to continue portraying a variety or roles.”