The scene takes place in bleak jail barrack bathroom, lit by bare light bulbs. In character as “Mouse,” a Chicano transsexual convict, Kate del Castillo soaps herself up from head to toe – and if there’s one thing the audiences will notice right away, it’s the fact that del Castillo is sporting thong underwear with a very noticeable bulge.
“It’s very challenging to take on this kind of role,” explains del Castillo of her tattooed character in the prison thriller “K-11,” now playing in select theaters nationwide and available on VOD. “But to play a man, in a role that could have been played by a man? It’s really rare to have an opportunity like that and I went into it with everything I had.”
And did she ever, rocking numerous fake tattoos (“I forgot to take them off and had them on when I went to the supermarket once – bad idea!” says del Castillo) and strapping on cojones to get into character.
“I loved wearing them and it was essential for me to embrace it,” Castillo, laughing at the memory of wearing the prosthetic during five-week shoot in Los Angeles, California. “I needed to feel the masculinity that comes with walking differently.”
While Castillo has become a high-profile celebrity in her native Mexico for taking on roles of strong, female characters in novelas, taking on the role of a transsexual felon in “K-11” – directed by actress Kristen Stewart’s mother, Jules – was a decision, the actress admits, that threatened to jeopardize her hard-earned reputation.
“This was a risky role to take, but that’s what I loved. I know immediately that if I’m afraid, I have to move forward and take that chance,” says del Castillo, whose character is the self-described “queen” of her penitentiary unit. “The risk and the fun is why I’m an actress and have been since I was nine years old. I’m not afraid of being seen as anti-feminine.”
Castillo says that she found herself surprised at the sympathy she began to feel for her character, who uses her gangbanger tendencies to rule the group of male convicts, with criminal charges range from rape to murder.
“You can feel sorry for her and you can hate her because she’s that b*tch,” says del Castillo, who spent up to five hours each day in the makeup chair as she was transformed into a drag queen. “I learned a lot of about the transgender community during my research for my role and I learned how much they’ve been misunderstood and mistreated. We don’t give transgendered people the seriousness they deserve and learning about that world helped me understand where my character was coming from.”
With that in mind, del Castillo says that playing “Mouse” was easily one of the highlights of her very successful career to date.
“This was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” says del Castillo, whose next English-language project is the thriller “No Good Deed” co-starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson. With roles like “Mouse” behind her, del Castillo says she’s more determined than ever to show the world what Latinas are capable of.
“It’s about portraying how powerful women can be,” remarks the 40-year-old, speaking from the Miami set of her new webnovela “Arranque de Pasión, La Historia de Ela.”
“We have everything now. We can tend to the home and be a good wife, but there’s an added plus: we can be superwomen.”