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Arturo Castro: After 'Broad City,' Going 'Alternatino'

Ophira Eisenberg chats with Arturo Castro on <em>Ask Me Another</em> at the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York.
Mike Katzif / NPR
Ophira Eisenberg chats with Arturo Castro on Ask Me Another at the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York.

Long before Arturo Castro starred in his own sketch comedy show, before he gained attention for memorable supporting roles in Broad Cityand Narcos, he was a member of a hip-hop Spanish cover song boy band in Guatemala. As he explained in an interview with Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR's Ask Me Another at the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York, the group's name was chosen in a hurried moment of necessity. When the the three-person band was booked to perform on a local telethon, they were asked what they were called. Castro said their manager "had this moment of inspiration, like 'Well nobody knows you, so, The Unknowns!' It's not a huge confidence boost before you go on stage."

Their manager also encouraged Castro and his bandmates to change their image. "We were dressed in FUBU. We thought we were really rough," he recalled, adding they were coaxed to show off a softer side by adding a Spanish rendition of Peter Frampton's "Baby, I Love Your Way," to their setlist. "We lost all street cred immediately," Castro said. "I can't go back to Guatemala now," he laughed.

Castro eventually moved to New York City to become an actor in 2005. "I just really wanted to learn the craft," he explained. "Of course I wanted to make it, but I never had a clear plan of, you know, movie star!" He also held down some odd jobs to pay the bills while he pursued acting. "I tried to be a waiter for two weeks and I sucked at it," he said. "The service industry is awesome... I'm really clumsy and I'm really bad at getting yelled at."

Castro's big break came on Comedy Central's Broad City, where for spent five seasons, he portrayed Jaime — friend and roommate of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer's characters. Castro elaborated upon how he found inspiration for the role of Jaime by thinking about the wide-eyed version of himself that he embodied upon first moving to the United States. He said that he would think to himself, "Oh my God, New York is amazing! I used to get really excited and my words wouldn't come at the same time as my brain was thinking."

After Broad City finished its run, Castro premiered his own program on Comedy Central: Alternatino with Arturo Castro, a sketch show about the experience of being a Latino millennial where he plays most of the roles. "I really wanted the challenge to see if I could play 42 characters in one season." The show premiered with overall positive reviews and praise for Castro's commitment to putting together a racially diverse writer's room.

For his Ask Me Another challenge, Arturo Castro played a game about another one of his interests, chess.

Heard on Topher Grace And Arturo Castro: Cereal Stans.

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