Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming, and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these notable performances to help hone your craft.
For bite-sized 25: Arturo Castro plays Diego, a bubbly Mexican drug cartel member who kidnaps a couple of aspiring house-flippers, forcing them to repay a debt in rather comical fashion in Flipped. (This “Movie in Chapters” debuted on Quibi: April 6, 2020.)
The Movie (in Chapters):
Considering the long-awaited debut of Quibi, the “quick-bite” streaming service app recently unveiled to the public, it can take a little searching to find something you want to devour whole.
But once you get into it, there’s some appetizing fare to be found in these under-10 minute bites, conceived and shot with the three-inch smartphone screen in mind.
Flipped is one of these “movies,” doing a satirical take on home renovation shows. Written for the super-small screen by Damon Jones and Steve Mallory for EPs Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (Funny or Die), Flipped is funny, fast-paced and works surprisingly well in this format.
The series is about two self-described home improvement “experts,” Cricket and Jann Melfi (Kaitlin Olson and Will Forte respectively) who are gunning to get a show on an HGTV-like network after both get fired from their day jobs. It’s when the couple decides to produce a sizzle reel of them renovating a foreclosed-upon home when Flipped really gets going. Why? Because they get caught by Mexican cartel member Diego (played hilariously by Castro) – whose house they unknowingly renovated after finding a half-million dollars Diego was stashing in the wall.
The depths of Diego’s awe are best summed up after he discovers his new home reno – complete with an automated wine bottle opener and Swiss HVAC system. “I should be so fucking mad at you right now, but the cajones that it takes to pull something like this off? My mind is blown right now. I’m going to be telling this story at parties. It’s going to outlive you two… by a lot.”
That’s when Cricket and Jann’s dreams of being TV’s next great design duo go a bit sideways. Instead of being killed in cold blood, they essentially become prisoners in ankle bracelets, indebted to Diego, who just loves their design sensibility. So much so, that he offers their services to other high-ranking members of the cartel, namely the boss Rumualdo (Andy Garcia).
From there, the comedy takes interesting turns I won’t ruin here. But know this: the way Castro’s Diego shuttles between cute and cutthroat cartel member is highly amusing – and highlights the brilliance of this gifted performer. In doing so, Castro adds a new layer to the classic cartel member depiction as the unpredictable overlord of Jann and Cricket’s fate. An abductor, yes… but one who’s also responsible for making them the “it” designers of a ruthless drug cartel.
Long before he was touting Cricket and Jann’s design savvy in Flipped, the talented 34-year-old Castro sharpened his comedy chops on two noteworthy Comedy Central shows.
The first is Broad City (2014-2019), the fan favorite with a standing 99% on the Rotten Tomatometer. The Guatemalan-born Castro played Jaime, Ilana’s gay drug-dealing housemate for all five seasons – proving to be a standout on a series that played well with millennials.
The other project is Alternatino with Arturo Castro (2019), a sketch comedy series that was actually a reprisal of the ‘Alternatino’ web series Castro did for Comedy Central in 2015.
Alternatino shows off Castro’s special set of skills in smart, timely sketches covering all things Latinx. He plays no less than 40 characters on the show (think Tracy Ulman). If you’d like to get a taste, some of these sketches can be viewed on YouTube such as The World’s Worst Translator (7M+ views) and the life-imitates-art Telemundo App sketch, from the original web series.
But Castro isn’t just about bringing the funny.
One of his great abilities as an actor is his ability to show a bit of dramatic range, something Diego from Flipped does quite well. To that end, you may have seen him in season three of Narcos as the son of a cartel kingpin or even Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.
But his breakthrough came several years after meeting Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, after moving to NYC in 2005 from Guatemala – where he was a member of Spanish hip-hop boy band and hosted a TRL-type show called Conexion.
Before landing in Broad City, Castro did a handful of short films along with small roles in TV and film as well. There was some dramatic theater and commercials in there too according to this interview with Vulture. Says Castro, “I thought I was rich because I got $2,500 to play a taste bud in a commercial. I was like so stoked and I was the main taste bud – it was a really magical experience.”
Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.