BWW Interview: Kate del Castillo Talks THE WAY SHE SPOKE, LA REINA DEL SUR and More
Kate del Castillo is an iconic actor who has embodied a long list of incredible characters, but is perhaps best known to audiences worldwide as Teresa Mendoza in the Telemundo telenovela "La Reina del Sur". Del Castillo made a splash with New York audiences last summer when she made her Off-Broadway debut in the Audible Theater production of Isaac Gomez's "the way she spoke" (now available to listen to on Audible). The play, led entirely by del Castillo, detailed the haunting accounts of the murders of thousands of women in Juarez, Mexico. The performance earned her Drama Desk, Drama League, and Lucille Lortel Award nominations, making her the first Mexican actress to be nominated for three prestigious theatre awards in New York. In addition to her incredible turns on screen and on stage, del Castillo is also a passionate activist and philanthropist, and was appointed Ambassador for the Mexican Commission on Human Rights to combat human trafficking in 2009 in Mexico City.
We caught up with Kate del Castillo about her experience in "the way she spoke", what "La Reina del Sur" means to her, her passion for activism and more.
You made your New York stage debut Off-Broadway last summer in Isaac Gomez's "the way she spoke". What was that experience like for you?
It's the highlight of my career. As a woman, I'm an activist against women's violence, so for me it means a lot. As an actor, what a great opportunity to be on stage, Off-Broadway, playing 14 different characters, talking about my country, in another language. It was a no-brainer for me. But, of course, as wonderful as it sounds, it was very challenging, and it was a lot of work. The whole issue that we were addressing there is very painful still.
How did you prepare to play 14 characters?
I think because I'm a woman, and because I'm Mexican, I do understand what they're going through because I was there. Not in [Ciudad] Juárez, but I was living in Mexico when everything was going on. It's still going on. I've seen these people cry, I've seen these people lose their children to femicide. So, for me, it's something really personal. And [Director] Jo Bonney, this is all Jo Bonney's work, because I was like, "How am I going to do these characters?" In the beginning we didn't know if I was going to change clothes, if I was going to use high heels or a hat to differentiate each character, and then in the end we realized that we didn't need anything. It was only a table and two chairs. The text is so powerful that you don't need anything else. She helped me a lot, she's a genius director, and a loving director, which I appreciate so much. Especially with something like this, the process of theater, it's really painful and it's very lonely, now imagine, with it being about femicide and it being a monologue... it was pretty challenging.
You earned Drama League, Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel nominations for your performance in "the way she spoke". What does that mean to you?
For me that's amazing, I couldn't believe it! Especially in this moment, where we're quarantining and sometimes we have good days, sometimes we have bad days... I went through a lot when I was working on it, so for me, it's like a pat on the back, that they recognized my work. For me it's amazing, it means the world to me.
"the way she spoke" was recorded and released recently on Audible, how does it make you feel knowing that so many more people are now able to experience this play?
I know! And they didn't record it from the actual show, I went to a studio and recorded it there. Which is pretty challenging because you're not seeing my body change with each character. I think people liked it because it was one of the ten most [listened to] shows on Audible last year. So, I'm very happy that people can still know about this. At the Minetta Lane Theatre, most of [the audience] were Americans actually, and they didn't know that this was true. They thought it was fiction. So, it was pretty amazing to see how they reacted, and how powerful the text is. I could hear the audience cry and breathe. It was something.
Your career on screen has been iconic, talk to me about "La Reina del Sur".
It was going to be a movie a long time ago, it's based on a novel by this amazing Spanish author [Arturo Pérez-Reverte]. And I had read the book and was like, "Oh my God, this is the perfect character, I want to do it!" And then I knew that it was going to be a movie, so I went looking for who was going to do it, and a lot of actresses wanted to do it. I think Madonna wanted to do it, Salma Hayek, of course, Eva Mendez was going to do it at a certain point, and [I thought], "They'll never look at me." And it was going to be in English, so I just left it alone. Then they never did the movie, and suddenly they called me, from Telemundo, offering me the character! I was like, "No, this is not for real!" And Telemundo back then was very small. And they said, "Yes, we have Arturo Pérez-Reverte's rights." And I was like, "Oh my God, I would do it even if it's for free." It did amazingly. Regardless of language it was number 1 here in the United States. We were against ABC, CBS, NBC, and it was number 1. Now in the second season it was number 1 again, it's crazy! After ten years. And I love the character, the character is such an icon, because she's so flawed. And that's why they love her.
You are an activist, a philanthropist, I would love for you to tell me about the work that you are passionate about.
I have a foundation called Los Ángeles en México. With the big earthquake three years ago [the 2017 Puebla earthquake], we started building houses for a lot of people down in Mexico in the worst areas. [Additionally] What I do is, because I come from a violent first marriage, I wrote a book about it, and ever since, I've been involved in human rights, I was an ambassador against human trafficking for human rights in Mexico. I go to schools to encourage young people to know their value. Anything that has to do with violence against women I've been trying to help in any way. Also, I do things for PETA, which I love.
What have you got in the pipeline work-wise? What would you like to work on in the future?
I've got a development deal with Endemol Shine North America, and my production company called Cholawood Productions is working now with them. We have our offices there and we're developing a lot of stuff, scripted, non-scripted, feature films, documentaries, and we haven't stopped. Every single day I have meetings with them, meetings with platforms, pitching things, so I've been working a lot, at least as a producer. And as soon as we can shoot, I'm going to start shooting a show for Peacock, which is the new platform for NBC. So, I'm happy, I want to go back. I started a tour, kind of stand-up comedy with sketches with two other actresses. We talk about my situation with EL CHAPO and Sean Penn, and I make fun of that situation, and I talk about fear, about immigration, about all of these things in a very funny, politically incorrect way. But I couldn't continue it, they cancelled the shows because of COVID-19, so I want to return to do that!
Listen to "the way she spoke" on Audible here: https://www.audible.com/pd/the-way-she-spoke-Audiobook/B07VCLVXRN
From This Author Chloe Rabinowitz
Chloe Rabinowitz is a Philly native with a lifelong passion for writing and theater in equal measure. Chloe has been a published theater critic and
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