LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Comedy Central's new sketch series "Alternatino With Arturo Castro" is bold in its approach, calling out stereotypes about the Latino community. The star and creator of the series, Arturo Castro, even makes a point of it in the pronunciation of his name.
ARTURO CASTRO: They love rolling the Rs in Arrturo (ph).
CASTRO: I'm like, I have never said my name like that once in my life.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You may know Arturo Castro from his role in "Broad City." He also played a drug lord in Netflix's "Narcos." In this sketch series, he plays a handful of characters from a crazy drunk bachelorette to a depressed robot and even a fictionalized version of himself, as a single guy in New York who just happens to be from Guatemala. The title "Alternatino" is a play on the Spanish word for alternate, and that's how Castro says he sees himself - an alternate version of a Latino.
CASTRO: Everybody just assumes I should be really good at salsa dancing and spicy food. And I just have a weak stomach and weak ankles, (laughter) so it doesn't work.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to confess I can't salsa dance at all.
CASTRO: You can't either.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: No, no.
CASTRO: Oh, so you see my plight. That's the only reason why I wrote a show - so I could get choreographers to make me look like I know how to dance. Yeah, the show is a love letter sort of to my upbringing, so I just wanted to put some of those things together and give them a spin from somebody that's - that moved here 14 years ago. And I'm hoping it will connect.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right, because you moved from Guatemala when you were 19.
CASTRO: Yep, 19 about to turn 20. Yeah.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. And in this, you set up a lot of tropes about Latinos. I want to listen to a little bit of a sketch called "The Date."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ALTERNATINO WITH ARTURO CASTRO")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) What was it like growing up in Guatemala. I mean, that must've been crazy, yeah?
CASTRO: (As character) I don't know about crazy. Well, I lived in the suburbs. We had a little yard with a dog.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Did you have a big family? Were there, like, a lot of you just squished in under one roof?
CASTRO: (As character) Oh, my God, yes. I have three sisters, you know? And we all had to share four bedrooms. And my parents had the master bedroom, so it was a little snug. Yeah.
CASTRO: It was snug. We couldn't have guests over, man.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: But it's getting at something true - right? - which is that a lot of people consider Latinos in one particular way, you know? - that there's one story.
CASTRO: Yeah. And they always - I guess when you come from a developing nation, people really want to push the poverty angle on you of, like, you know, tell me what it was like growing up in the streets of Guatemala. I'm like, well, I don't know. Like, I used to ride over them on my bicycle. There were some potholes. It wasn't all easy, you know? But it feels like we always have a twist. There's always a twist to a Latino character when I see one, you know?
CASTRO: We're mostly sidekick positions, you know?
CASTRO: And it's over, like - our ethnicity or immigration status is, like, a big part of the narrative of our characters, you know? And I just wanted to see this guy that, like - that wasn't, like, copy or trying because of overcoming being Latin. He was just - happens to be Latin, and there's, like, a lot that comes with it, I guess, you know?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: One of the things that you have managed to do in this series is also send up the entertainment industry itself, which, I think, is really interesting because it's sort of like biting the hand that feeds you. And your career has been built on, you know, playing a drug lord, for example, playing into some of these tropes...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...That you're sending up in your sketch.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why did you want to include it?
CASTRO: Because I had to acknowledge it. And to be honest, I've never done something I'm ashamed of, like played a character I'm ashamed of, even when I played, like, Dishwasher Juan in - that was my first role. The character's name was Dishwasher Juan on "The Good Wife." But I feel like with "Narcos" - I justified to myself, it's a historical tale. It was sort of a warning shot across the bow to anybody that wants to get into the drug business. Nobody winds up well, you know? There's no story about a happy ever after for a drug dealer. But, yeah, I wanted to acknowledge it to just let my audience know that I'm aware of it and that I'm willing to laugh about it. And I'm willing to - yeah, I'm willing to play with those tropes again, you know?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: This series, though, doesn't shy away from this political moment.
CASTRO: Sure. About 10% of the whole show is political. But it would be irresponsible to have a platform and not talk about certain things that affect people that look like me, you know?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is that what you felt? - because being a Latino with a platform, you felt like you had to speak to...
CASTRO: Address some of these subjects, yeah.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: In the moment.
CASTRO: Yeah, I think - listen. I could never have anticipated that we'd be living through this political time when I started this in 2015, but it's happening. And we're here. And so it would be ill advised for me to ignore it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. You said in an interview that you hoped to inspire this Latin renaissance of thought and unity.
CASTRO: Right. I was completely drunk when I said that. I'm so sorry.
CASTRO: I'm so poetic with my - then I get - no, no. Yeah, I mean it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You were on ayahuasca.
CASTRO: I was on ayahuasca. I mean it. I think the Latin community doesn't realize the power that they wield, that we wield. You know, 24% of all movie tickets are bought by us. And we're 14 to 18% of the population. And that's - we hold such political capital. But I believe that the older guard was like, just keep your head down. Do the work. Don't make - don't cause any waves. But I think the newer generation is starting to wake up to the fact that we have way more similarities than we do things that separate us. And so if we can become at least a small version of a united front, we can make actual change not just in this country but in the world. And I would love to have a hand in that for sure.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Arturo Castro, also known as Arrturo Castro...
CASTRO: Arrturo Castro, (speaking Spanish). I don't know why. Every time I have a microphone in front of me, I want to do that. Like, (speaking Spanish).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I have to stop myself from doing it all the time.
CASTRO: I know. It's so crazy.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Arturo Castor is the creator and star of the new sketch series on Comedy Central "Alternatino With Arturo Castro."
Thank you very much.
CASTRO: Thank you so much.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CIELOBRUJO")
MIRAME: (Singing) Tres, dos, uno.
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