Kate del Castillo began her acting career 30 years ago in Mexican telenovelas such as Muchachitas. She made her Hollywood debut in a starring role in 2007, but her stature as an international celebrity skyrocketed in 2011 with La Reina del Sur (Southern queen). She played Teresa Mendoza, a Mexican woman who becomes the most powerful drug trafficker in southern Spain. Telemundo’s “Super Series” broke audience records, with the season finale of the debut surpassing all US television networks, regardless of language. Season 2 premiered eight years later, in 2019, completing its run as the No. 1 in its time slot, regardless of language.
In 2015, del Castillo brokered an interview between actor Sean Penn and infamous drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, for which she was investigated by the Mexican government.
In this interview, Kate talks about Hollywood portrayal, her side of the Sean Penn – El Chapo controversy and what to expect in this third season of La Reina del Sur, which will debut Tuesday, October 18 at 9pm ET / PT on Telemundo.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Warner Bros. Discovery canceled Bad girl, with Afro-Latina Leslie Grace. James Franco has been cast to play Fidel Castro in an upcoming film. John Leguizamo was particularly outspoken about the lack of fair representation in Hollywood, citing the many historical examples of white actors playing Latin parts. What is your opinion?
Kate del Castillo: It’s been 20 years since I got here and we’re not going anywhere. We are not chosen yet. I still don’t see many people who look like me and speak like me.
Hispanics make up 19% of the US population, but only three percent of the main acting roles and one percent of directors.
Kate del Castillo: To be honest, it’s heartbreaking for me. I’ve been here for a long time and I’m trying to get to a point where I don’t have to explain: who I am and the difference between me and Eva Longoria or Jennifer Lopez or Eva Mendes. It is not comparable to be better than others. It’s just that I bring something different. Stop objectifying or sexualizing ourselves, which is also difficult because as actresses we want to work. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between a character who is sexualized and a character who is simply sexy. It’s a fine line. But we still have so much to learn and I’m getting tired.
Changing direction, is there anything you would have done differently, now that you’ve experienced it, during the controversy over the interview with El Chapo and Sean Penn?
Kate del Castillo: I felt so stupid being played by this character, [Sean] Penn, I wish I was wiser that way, not so naive. But I would have done everything the same because I had my good reasons for doing it. I’m a struggling actor in the US and I wanted to bring an amazing story, and why not? Someone would have given it to me, just like many other actors and producers have done before. Certainly there was something [about this controversy] which had to do with the fact that I was Mexican and a woman.
I wish things were different and I take responsibility for every single decision I have made. But there were so many other things that weren’t in my hands, and I didn’t even realize it, because they put me out. They didn’t let me know a lot of things that were going on around the whole thing. Now that I’m alive and my parents and family are doing well, I say it’s been a great adventure.
It helped you get out of the stereotype of the beautiful actress without much depth.
Kate del Castillo: Probably, but it wasn’t the best way to do it. Let’s try making margaritas with lemons. On the other hand, I know I will be stigmatized for the rest of my life, but that’s okay. That moment doesn’t define who I am. I had a career before and am still working, thank God.
Let’s move on to the third season of La Reina del Sur. What can we expect?
Kate del Castillo: Teresa Mendoza is the warrior we all knew she was, but empowered in so many ways. She is being released from prison after four years of imprisonment. She is crazy and very smart. What have you done in these four years? You train, not only physically, but mentally as well. So this is the Teresa Mendoza you have to expect. She wants to see her son of hers. She wants revenge … and freedom, of course. All of this is so that she can go away with her son and live freely for once in her life.
What else can you tell us?
Kate del Castillo: We will go to Latin America, which is great for people who have never been there to see it there majesty of every single position. We are showing a Latin America that is wonderful. We went to Machu Picchu, Peru. We went to Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. We went to Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, so many places.
And now, La Reina, no longer sells drugs. She had to do a few things with a drug dealer in Season 2, but she’s out of business. Thank God, because I think we’re all fed up with narco-series. This season has become like a political thriller, or a political action thriller, let’s say. They are like 60 small films: this is how they were shot beautifully, this is how the production values are in this third.
Filming must have been an adventure.
Kate del Castillo: In this third we speak every single language. It is so inclusive. We speak Italian and Russian, also the dialects of Bolivia, Amaya and Quechua, and in Colombia, Arawakan. We have not falsified anything. All the actors are from the local country, so we are very attached to reality. We are very proud of it.
You are doing what we talked about in the beginning. You are selecting people in the community for roles in the community. This is what everyone has to do, especially mainstream Hollywood.
Kate del Castillo: Absolutely, they have to start differentiating a Colombian from a Mexican from a Venezuelan. You can have so many different accents. It’s so beautiful. We are not just Mexicans.
You mentioned Teresa Mendoza’s transformation. Can you give us details? Do you have to do a lot of combat training?
Kate del Castillo: I did, and it was all my fault. It was so stupid because no one asked me, neither the director, nor the producer. Since Teresa has been in prison for so many years on her own, my goal was not only to make her lose weight, but also to get ripped. She is ready and you will see her fight.
I wanted it to look different, to see real change. I regretted it so much afterwards. Within the second month I wanted to kill myself, but it was worth it. When I saw the first seven episodes, I thought it would be good for fans to see Teresa Mendoza more. . . Mendoza que nunca.
Listen to the full episode of The Revolución Podcast with actor Kate del Castillo and co-hosts Kathryn Garcia Castro, Diego Lastra, Linda Lane González and Court Stroud, on Apple podcast, Spotify, Google, Amazon
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