Raúl Castillo is an American actor and playwright. He is most famous for his performance in the television series Looking (2014), and films 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 zodiac sign is Virgo.
Before he was born, his parents migrated from Reynosa in Tamaulipas, Mexico, to McAllen, home to 90 percent Mexican-Americans. Raúl lived close to the US-Mexican border due to which his parents often visited their family members living in Reynosa, which he describes as living ‘very much bicultural.’ According to him, he identified himself as American when he visited Mexico, but Mexican when he traveled across the United States.
I was too American for Mexico, but too Mexican for the U.S.”
He did his schooling at Our Lady of Sorrows School in McAllen and McAllen High School. He started acting when he was fourteen years old. During his time at McAllen High, he turned to the theater to make friends because the theater was popular in his hometown. He was deeply involved in his high school drama department. In 1999, he graduated with a major in theater from the College of Fine Arts, Boston University. The New York Times At the university, he started producing his own work and viewed himself as more of a writer than an actor, despite his performing abilities. In 2002, he moved to New York City. He was initially planning to go to Los Angeles but chose New York after he was stuck in a rush-hour traffic jam in Houston and realized he could not deal with daily traffic if he moves to LA.
Height (approx.): 5′ 11″
Eye Color: Black
Hair Color: Black
Family, Ethnicity & Relationships
Parents & Siblings
Raúl Castillo was born to Raúl H. Castillo Sr. and Adela “Adelita” Rodríguez de Castillo. He has an older brother named Tony Castillo. His sister is an accountant and is married to chef and restaurateur Omar Rodriguez.
Castillo is in a relationship with Alexis Forte, a costume designer.
In 2000, he made his stage debut with ‘Santos & Santos’ as ‘Tomas’ at Nushank Theater Collective. After performing in the play, he became sure that he was also made for acting. After moving to New York, he joined LAByrinth Theater Company as a writer. In 2006, he performed in LAByrinth Theater Company’s production of José Rivera’s play ‘School of the Americas’ as ‘First Army Ranger’ at New York’s The Public Theater. He portrayed ‘Beto’ in the Ensemble Studio Theatre’s 2008 production of José Rivera’s ‘Flowers,’ which was described as one of the best performances. He has acted 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), at theaters 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’ as ‘José.’ He then acted in the short films Tadpoles (2005) and The Negative (2007) before making his feature film debut with ‘Amexicano’ (2007) as ‘Ignacio.’
In 2011, he starred in ‘Cold Weather’ as ‘Carlos,’ a role that earned him praise from critics and movie reviewers.
He made his British and Canadian debut with the British-Canadian-American film ‘Special Correspondents’ (2016) as ‘Domingo.’
He has 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 has also acted 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 with ‘Nurse Jackie’ in the episode ‘Nose Bleed’ as ‘Joseph.’ He then acted in the series Law & Order Law & Order (2009), All My Children (2009), and Damages (2010). He was cast in the lead role of ‘Henry Howell’ in the action-comedy web series ‘The Trainee’ (2011). He is most famous for his portrayal of a gay man named ‘Ricardo “Richie” Donado Ventura’ in the television series ‘Looking’ (2014).
He has also acted in the television series East WillyB (2011), Blue Bloods (2013), Gotham (2015), Riverdale (2017), and Seven Seconds (2018).
As a Playwright
While pursuing his graduation, he felt that the most important skill that he had developed while studying at Boston University was learning how to produce his own work. He considered himself a playwright more than an actor and wrote plays for student-run playwright’s festivals. Most of his early plays were focused on sociopolitical and racial tensions on the border of Mexico and the United States. One of his plays produced at the student festival was ‘Border Stories,’ a trio of one-act plays chronicling the life on the U.S.-Mexican border in Reynosa. After moving to New York, he joined the LAByrinth Theater Company as a writer and remains a resident writer for LAByrinth. His play ‘Knives and Other Sharp Objects’ debuted in The Public Theater as part of LAByrinth’s works in development in 2009 and talks about class, race, and assimilation in South Texas.
The play received moderate reviews. His play ‘Between You, Me, and the Lampshade’ was created at the Atlantic Theater Company and premiered in 2015 at Teatro Vista in Chicago and was later staged at Richard Christiansen Theater at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre.
Awards & Achievements
- AFI Honorable Mention in Performance for the short film ‘Narcocorrido’ in 2012
- Ashland Independent Film Festival – Special Mention for My Best Day in 2012
- National Association of Latino Independent Producers – Lupe Award for Breakout Performance in the TV series Looking in 2014
- NAMIC Vision Awards for Best Performance – Comedy for Looking
- Savannah Film Festival – Entertainment Weekly Breakout Awards in 2018
- CinEuphoria Awards for Best Ensemble – International Competition for We the Animals in 2021
- Food: Tacos, Chapulin Tacos
- Dessert: Crème caramel
- Restaurant(s): Taqueria Rios in San Juan, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana in Washington
- Actor(s): John Leguizamo, Al Pacino, Anthony Quinn, Matt Dillon
- Film(s): The Outsiders (1983), Carlito’s Way (1994)
- Author: Rudolfo Anaya
- Singer: Jimmy Dean
- Playwright(s): Miguel Piñero, Sam Shepard
- As a child, his nickname was Gordo (fat in Spanish) because he was chubby. 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.”
- Despite having a bicultural upbringing, he said that he had always felt American while growing up. He further stated that he and his siblings were considered ‘gringos’ (a foreigner from the perspective of Spanish and Latin speaking people in Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries in Latin America) when they visited Mexico. He identifies himself as a Mexican-American.
- When he was in grade three, he attended his brother’s school production of the play ‘The Wizard of Oz’ in which his brother was cast as ‘Tin Woodman.’ After seeing his brother perform, he became interested in acting. His older brother also played guitar and was a hardworking musician according to him. Watching his brother’s dedication towards music as he played scales for hours, he was inspired to dedicate himself the same way to acting.
- The next year, he auditioned for his school’s play ‘about a mouse and a clock,’ but was unable to get through due to his excessive giggling; he was cast in a non-speaking role as a guard in the play as a result.
- In his grade six at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School, he met and became friends with Mutemath bass guitarist Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas. 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.”
- Together with Roy and other two friends Nick Trevino and Robert Vleck, he started an underground punk-rock band called IPM (short for Influential Phecal Material) in high school. While Roy played drums in the band, Castillo played bass guitar. The time at the beginning of his band, he made his mind to become a rock musician. According to him, he was put on the back burner in the band. By the end of his high school, he had started to get serious about theater due to which he was 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.”
- In his high school, he played his first acting role in the school’s production of Paul Zindel’s play’ The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild.’ He also performed in his high school production of ‘I Remember Mama.’
- At the age of fourteen, he met and befriended Tanya Saracho, an alumna of McAllen High and the story editor for Looking (2014). Castillo was heavily influenced by Tanya who introduced him to playwrights and dramas. Talking about Tanya, 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.”
- According to Castillo, the 1993 film ‘Carlito’s Way’ changed his interests completely. The performances of John Leguizamo, John Ortiz, Viggo Mortensen, and Luis Guzmán influenced him. He even memorized several of Leguizamo’s plays such as Spic-O-Rama, Mambo Mouth, and Freak.
- Castillo also found inspiration from several Hispanic artists in the media, including Miguel Piñero, who he discovered when he was looking across a yellowed anthology of work from Nuyorican Poets Cafe, an art theater in New York City, for a monologue competition. The actors such as Al Pacino and Anthony Quinn also influenced him a lot.
- After studying at Boston University, he went to Austin, where he acted in short films and also helped start a theater company. He worked at a coffee shop in Austin called Spider House, which also owned a video store. As an employee there, he could rent as many videos as you wanted. He watched a ton of movies and was impressed by directors. That’s when 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.”
- He is also a guest teacher at Heidi Marshall Studio, an acting school in New York City.
- In an interview, he has discussed his interest in direction. Castillo finds himself inspired by actors turning into directors. 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, his dream role would be to play a musician. 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.”