‘The Inspection’ Star Raúl Castillo on Playing Gay Characters: ‘Queer Artists Have Always Looked Out for Me’

Source: IndieWire
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Raúl Castillo isn’t looking for permission to play queer characters despite his sexuality.

The cis straight male actor landed his breakout role in the gay TV series “Looking” before portraying a married but possibly closeted Marine in Elegance Bratton’s “The Inspection.” However, in the near-decade between the two projects, Castillo noted how the cultural conversation regarding straight actors playing queer characters has changed.

“When I did ‘Looking,’ it was 2013 when we shot the pilot and the first season. I was playing a gay man in that show. The conversation almost 10 years ago was very different than about straight actors in these roles,” Castillo said during a SAG-AFTRA Foundation Conversation moderated by IndieWire’s Eric Kohn. “I had a conversation with Elegance when we were talking about doing press for the film. I did some media training with A24 pertaining to this film and to prepare me for the upcoming work, and it was a world where we were going to talk about this character like he was a hard-line, straight man. If you watch the movie, it leaves it open to interpretation, which I love.”

Castillo continued, “Elegance called me after the media training, and he was like, ‘Listen, you don’t owe anyone an answer of like, “This guy is straight.” And I appreciated him relieving me of that because I was cognizant in recent years of not wanting to take up space as a cis straight man. But I appreciated Elegance sort of relieving me of any pressure to get any sort of definitive answer about the character.”

Castillo drew on his own upbringing and nonconforming approach to performative masculinity.

“I come from a small town in South Texas. I’m first-generation American. I grew up in a really conservative environment and a really patriarchal machismo environment, and I was a sensitive boy, always,” the “Army of the Dead” alum said. “I was considered a crybaby. I was never a typical macho man, I guess.”

Castillo continued, “I’ve been thinking a lot about it in terms of this film, in some ways, I think I was put on this earth to challenge notions of masculinity. I think there’s a reason that queer artists have looked out for me as a person throughout my career, even before ‘Looking,’ throughout my life. It’s no wonder that Elegance sort of found me and put me in his film.”

“The Inspection” premiered at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, with Jeremy Pope leading the feature as a gay man who joins the Marines during the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era. Gabrielle Union and Bokeem Woodbine also star.

“This is a story that could provide healing and catharsis for society right now,” Castillo said. “This is a story that we need.”

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