At a Tribeca Film Festival party in 2018, Raúl Castillo met filmmaker Elegance Bratton and gave him his number. However, he never responded to Bratton’s subsequent messages.
“I got a little too distracted by saying yes to too many things,” Castillo, 45, said in a video interview in Brooklyn last month. “I was learning what it means to make yourself too accessible.”
Three years later, Castillo was sent the script for “The Inspection,” a film based on Bratton’s experiences as a young gay man who chose to join the Marine Corps after being kicked out of his home by his disapproving mother. in its ranks it exposes him to beatings, bullying and severe homophobia.
Castillo read it in one sitting and loved it. But feeling embarrassed for not responding earlier, she didn’t contact Bratton, but instead made and sent a tape.
“I was hoping you were still interested in me for the part,” she said. “Luckily it was.”
Castillo takes on the role of Rosales, a drill instructor who realizes the potential of oppressed soldier Ellis French (Jeremy Pope) – as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are in full swing and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” principle remains in effect. Rosales’ ruthless supervisor is determined to help nearly everyone succeed, including Sergeant. The Laws (Bokeem Woodbine) prepared him for failure.
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It was a role Castillo felt in his bones, who grew up in Texas near the Mexican border and was the first in his family to go to college. He was on the other side as a student with discipline problems at Boston University, where a black professor came to the rescue.
“He took me under his wing and showed me some love when I needed it most,” Castillo said. “He recognized and saw me at a time when I felt unknown and never seen.”
Previously one of the stars of the HBO television series “Looking,” Castillo had a busy 2022, starring in the films “Hustle” and “Cha Cha Real Smooth” in addition to “The Inspection.” He answered three questions about Rosales and what drew her to such complex characters. These are edited excerpts from the speech.
How do you think Rosales is challenging gender norms?
Rosales is a very loyal sailor. He respects his superiors until they are forced to question their authority. He takes his job seriously enough to endanger his home life. He got into this difficult situation where he had to choose. But I think in hiring Ellis French she sees an opportunity to develop someone who is at a crossroads in her life. I think he sees real potential in him and makes it a kind of personal project.
When I read the script, I was fascinated by their relationship and this nuanced portrayal of masculinity. The French are used to these transactional relationships with other men. And it is Rosales’ first relationship with another man that is not transactional in nature but real. I thought it was done so well on the page that if we could show it on screen, we would have a really interesting story.
I think masculinity is ambivalent. We try to draw these hard lines about what it means to be a man, and I find it very illogical. I like characters that blur the line. And that was my approach to Rosales. He had a dilemma.
As a human being, I have always lived in these areas. I come from a really matchy and very patriarchal environment and I didn’t necessarily refer to these traditional notions of masculinity. Growing up, I was teased a lot, and I feel like there’s a lot to identify with in the character and this indecision.
What do you see as the source of your strength?
What appealed to me about Rosales was this familiar relationship between two men of color in this institution and the fact that Rosales saw potential in French and was affectionate towards her.
It is sensitive to a true sense of justice and power dynamics. He is someone who is after an oppressed. As a child of immigrants, I’ve always been very sensitive to the least powerful people in the room, and I feel like I’m trying to keep an eye on these people.
That really struck me in this story. I think Rosales has a similar relationship with power. I think he respects the power he has. But I don’t think he believes in abusing it. This is where the friction between Rosales and Laws stems. They see power in completely different ways.
Why should people watch “The Inspection”?
It’s the kind of story we need right now. The “inspection” has the potential to provide healing and purification to people who have perhaps gone through similar situations or whose family members have gone through such conditions as French. Many of the themes in the movie are very universal. “The Inspection” takes the traditional form of a boot camp movie and makes it incredibly entertaining. The movie has a heavy, dramatic side, but it’s also incredibly funny. It defies expectations of what a military movie could be.
We have never seen such a character. We have certainly never seen such a layered and humane brown man. Elegance has given me a wonderful gift and a wonderful character that we don’t see often, the way these two men find and learn from each other. I think it’s a very fresh perspective on masculinity, and I think that’s why it resonates with people.