Actor JanLuis Castellano­s has 13 Reasons to be thankful and feel like a Latinx superhero (just don’t call him ‘normal’).

- Interview by Cristina Areu, Photos by Bobby Quillard

I remembreme­mber when I wanted to be an actor. I was just home, drifting through my days not knowing what I wanted to do. I was in college, and I felt normal. And for some reason, it felt so uncomforta­ble beingng normal.

T This is not a statement CATALINA Staff just writes lightly or sparingly, so we mean it when we say: finally meeting JanLuis CasteCaste­llanos was and is worth the wait! If someone asks you: “Hey, would you like meet the newest addition to one of Netflix’s most popular and groundbrea­king series13 ReasonsWhy, JanLuis Castellano­s?” Don’t hesitate! Say “Yes!” ... and wait. That’s what we did, and none of us will ever be the same. That’s why we uploaded the meeting to our CATALINA Stars: Young and Famous with Cristina Areu podcast ... and bring you the highlights here. You are invited to share in this happy, momentous occasion as well. (Let’s be honest, CATALINA readers are just the most amazing readers in the country. All countries.) About JanLuis: the Dominican actor is also known to millions as Topher on Marvel’s Sci-fi hit Runaways, on Hulu. Now, with another huge role making his star shine even brighter, podcaster and journalist Cristina just had to ask: “How?! How did a former English-as-a-Second-Language student from New Jersey make it so big in such a competitiv­e world?” We quickly finds out that, for this shooting Latinx star, it’s about listening to your Abuelita ... and more! So much more! Enjoy. your time with JanLuis ... He’s totally worth it.

Cristina Areu: You’re on an amazing show as a bad guy in the Runaways. What have you learned about working on a Marvel show?

JanLuis: The first thing I definitely knew, working one of those shows that (well as it goes for any show) – that it really takes a village. As an actor, there is so much that you don’t know until you’re actually put in position to learn about certain things. Like green screens and special effects … finding that medium of how the performanc­e should be like according to those special effects. It was really good for me as a “starter pack” into the acting world. … I wouldn’t say he’s a bad guy though, come on, I think he was pretty nice! He has a heart.

CA: Do you look for cool parts like this to play?

JL: I am looking for anything that comes my way, and I try to bring as much truth as I can to the camera, into the characters, and try to bring whichever one I can to life – in the art form of acting. It’s really trying to bring truth behind the words and trying to bring a three-dimensiona­l, breathing, living, eating, and sleeping character to life. At this point, going from Marvel’s Runaways to my next project, 13 Reasons Why, I want to find something I can really sink my teeth into.

CA: In an interview, you winked about your new character, Diego. Are you the new bad guy on 13ReasonsW­hy?

JL: I look scary, but I’m not. Diego is like many kids in high school who is blind-sided by all these emotions that we tend to build up as we go through those four years of high school. Sometimes we don’t know if we’re making a decision that’s right or wrong – we usually base our emotions on how we feel and what’s in our hearts. Diego might deal with some anger issues, but I think that just makes him human – not necessaril­y bad. And because of his high-end emotions, the anger can get in the way sometimes in his decision-making.

CA: What are you like in person? Are you like Diego?

JL: No I wouldn’t say I’m like Diego. I’m pretty chill – I don’t even like to go out much. I like to just hang out at home. I’m a family guy. I love dogs. I’m at a dog park right now. I like to relax and watch a lot of movies and read books and work out. Now more than ever, I’ve been focusing more on my craft. It allows me to spend more time alone and more self-awareness time to see what other areas that I can improve in my life so I can bring to the screens to become a better actor. Especially with everything going on right now, I feel like it’s changed my routine to focus more than ever before.

CA: This show is so controvers­ial. What do you think about being a part of it?

JL: I think it’s another opportunit­y for me to raise awareness on the politics. “Controvers­ial” is a tricky word. It’s a funny one because I think there’s just a lot of conversati­on around the show. It touches on some really truthful topics. Although it is a fictional series, I know people can relate to it. I remember when I first got cast, that was a question that kept jumping into my head. “What are people going to think about me joining the show?” To me, it was more just like, “You know what? Man I got the job, I understand it is what it is, let me continue to move forward.” I love the show. I’m a big fan. I took it as an opportunit­y for me to continue to improve my acting and take it to the next level. It was so fun too because when I got to the set, it’s the complete opposite of what you see on the screens. You get to the set, there’s so much light everywhere, it’s so joyful, everyone’s so nice to each other: people just walking around and asking each other how your day is going like, “Whoa, I’m doing great, thanks for asking … who are you?” So it’s really nice, and it’s the best job I’ve ever had so far.

CA: Were you nervous?

JL: That’s an understate­ment. I can’t even find the words for my nerves. I was having my fanboy moments: I wanted to act normal and act cool. But everyone was just so sweet, and they made me feel at home and made me feel comfortabl­e and spent a lot of time together developing our character. So that was fun getting to know them on a deeper level.

CA: I saw a Selena Gomez video about 13ReasonsW­hy. Is she the producer?

JL: Yes, she is an executive producer on the show. I had just missed

her. I almost met her at a table read it was the last table read … she had left five minutes before I got there for a sitting. I was like, “Oof, it’s okay, she knows who I am, that’s good enough for me.”

CA: Is it true that you learned English in the U.S.A.?

JL: Yes, I learned to speak English in the U.S.A. because I came to the United States at a very young age. Spanish was my first language. I grew up in the Dominican Republic. I was raised by my abuelita. She’s been very nice to me ... she’s actually with me at the park now. She’s on the phone talking with all her friends from the Dominican Republic right now ... It’s been amazing having my family around. And the beautiful thing is that my father is young, my mother is young, my grandmothe­r is young. To me that’s a beautiful thing because I have such a big family, so for all of us to be young and have all this energy together is a wonderful thing.

CA: Does your abuelita give you any advice?

JL: Yes, the advice that she gives me is one of those ... it comes rarely, but when it comes, you have to hold on to it. In this industry sometimes we get caught up in all the noise, and then you come home and you’re eating, and my grandmothe­r says, “JanLuis, I’m going to tell you something …” It really humbles you. It really brings you back to your roots. My grandma always preached: “Saying less is always more.” And she always encouraged me to be a wise thinker. I remember she would sit me down and talk to me in Spanish. She would always tell me to “focus on yourself, and make sure that you stay wise, don’t look for any trouble …” You just take little by little over time. It accumulate­s to this massive thing. It becomes the train of your thoughts. Being humble is really important to me. The biggest thing to me is keeping the roots alive, and making sure that my family – all these people – are proud of me, that way I can provide a better future for them. To me, that’s the goal. I can’t do for my family what I want to do just yet. My dad ... would say, “JL, you know what I notice about you when you talk about acting? Your passion.” And that’s the one thing he taught me: “Passion, passion, passion.” You should always have passion. Everything you do – passion. And then everything will come to life. He even told me, “… even if you don’t know what you’re doing, if you are passionate it will come true.” So sometimes when people ask me how do I do it (and sometimes I don’t even know the answer), in my head I don’t know what I did, I just know I’ve been passionate. To be staring in the final season, it’s a blissful thought.

CA: Are you the only Latino cast member on the show?

JL: No, Christian Navarro who plays Tony Padilla – we bonded on set. We would talk about our roots. Our characters, both being Latin, they had some similariti­es which were really cool to talk about between scenes. He was always one of those guys that would come up to me and say, “Man that was really good.” And the beautiful thing I really love about Christian is that he has this nobleness about him ... honorable man. He talks to you in a very encouragin­g way. We were actually just messaging each other the other day.

CA: What’s your passion project?

JL: I have multiple passion projects and dreams. This [movie] called Babylon. With Damien Chazelle. That would be a dream cast to be a part of ... who knows? Now I’m just talking passion projects and dreams.

CA: Is it OK for me to watch 13ReasonsW­hy?

JL: Yes! Binge all of 13Rea

sonsWhy; watch all of it. I feel like it’s one of those shows where if you feel sensitive to the topic, or if you might have dealt with some of the issues in the past (or if you’re underage), definitely watch it with an adult. You know, to have a better viewing experience, and so you can have fun and watch it.

CA: Where else can we find you?

JL: The best place to find me is on Instagram @JanLuisCas­tellanos. ■ Listen Now! ■ Find out more about JanLuis Castellano­s, in his own words, on CATALINA Stars: Young & Famous with Cristina Areu podcast. If you’re ■ reading us digitally on PressReade­r, click here!

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