JanLuis Castellanos speaks about his life, career & “13 Reasons Why”

JanLuisCastellanos 011920 332RTMini 683x1024 - JanLuis Castellanos speaks about his life, career & "13 Reasons Why"
JanLuis Castellanos
[Photographer: Bobby Quillard & Groomer: Arlene Willis]

Actor and model JanLuis Castellanos is making his mark on Hollywood. Set to star as a series regular opposite Dylan Minnette in the upcoming fourth and final season of Netflix’s YA drama “13 Reasons Why,” JanLuis will play Diego Torres, a charismatic, aggressive, and fiercely loyal leader of a divided football team struggling to understand the loss of one of their own. But as Diego grapples with his own grief and confusion, his violent temper masking a hurting heart, he finds himself falling for one of Liberty High’s most complicated women—leaving him caught between past and present, wondering who he can trust.

JanLuis is also set to star in “Don’t Look Deeper,” a sci-fi drama series from Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman’s short-form video platform Quibi. Co-written by “Lost” co-creator Jeffrey Lieber, who also serves as showrunner, and Charlie McDonnell, “Don’t Look Deeper” is set in Merced, California, “fifteen minutes into the future.” It centers on a high school senior who can’t seem to shake the feeling that something about her just isn’t right. And that something is… she’s not human… not one of us. This revelation of what she really is, where she comes from, and who has started looking for her, sets in motion a series of events that suddenly puts her entire life in jeopardy.

Last year, JanLuis starred in HULU’s hit original series “Marvel’s Runaways”. Based on Brian K Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s comic book series and executive produced by series co-showrunners/writers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (“The O.C.” and “Gossip Girl”) along with Marvel’s Head of Television Jeph Loeb (“Marvel’s Jessica Jones”, “Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger”), “Marvel’s Runaways” follows six youngsters who must unite against a common enemy: their parents, who happen to be notorious supervillains in an organization called P.R.I.D.E. Based on the fan-favorite character from the Runaways comic series, JanLuis brought to life ‘Topher,’ a not-to-be-trusted vampire with a dark secret who is schooling the ‘Runaways’ on a whole new level of street game. A tough and complicated kid, he is the ultimate survivor and a crafty runaway himself who knows how to read the room and win friends when he needs to.

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JanLuis Castellanos
[Photographer: Bobby Quillard & Groomer: Arlene Willis]

Bilingual JanLuis grew up in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic with his grandmother until the age of nine when he moved to New Jersey to live with his mother, step-father and younger siblings. Growing up with a natural talent for athletics, JanLuis balanced high school as a state champion wrestler while finding a passion in choir and theatre, starring in musicals “West Side Story” and “Jersey Boys”. It was modeling after college however, that brought JanLuis to Los Angeles, scoring campaigns with popular brands such as Adidas, Abercrombie & Fitch, and even a National Network Commercial for Coppertone USA.

A self-proclaimed book worm and fitness junkie, when he’s not on-set or taking class at the ‘New Collective’ in LA, JanLuis spends his free time reading and working out twice a day. He hopes to be a role model for kids and prove that it doesn’t matter where you came from, if you put in the hard work you can do or be anything you want in life.

Welcome to TV Series Hub, being fairly new in the industry yet already landing big roles, how did everything start for you?

Yes! Thank you for having me. To be honest with you, I don’t even know how I got started. (*Laughs*) I feel like there have been so many moments in my life that have played a major role in getting me to where I am today. As you mentioned, I am fairly new in the industry, so I’m still trying to figure it out. I came out to Los Angeles with $56 to my name and spent my first three days with no shelter on Beverly Blvd until a modeling agency took me in. Then everything slowly but surely started falling into place along with all the trials and errors that have taken place at the start of my career. There are these rare times in life when one has to take a leap of faith. For me, considering everything I had gone through prior to that moment, was my leap of faith. Some may think it happened overnight— I just think I’ve sacrificed enough and because of that, I truly believe acting found me. Not the other way around.

Since high school, you have been heavily involved in extracurricular activities, both in sports and arts, having been a state champion wrestler while also being part of a choir and theatre. What was it like being versatile? Did that spark the “acting bug” for you?

Growing up I felt like I had the sense of being a renaissance man. I would always try new things and I’d catch on pretty quick. I loved dancing, skateboarding and drawing before I fell in love with all sports and then I joined the choir which led me to do theater. It felt good to perform, like really, really good. So, yeah, there’s an “acting bug” I guess you can say. Then again, I never thought of it as a possibility until the thought of it was brought back into my life. It was real fun being versatile, I would go from an intense practice to rehearsals for whatever play I was in at the time. I loved the rush and being part of two completely different worlds.

Interestingly you are a bookworm and a fitness junkie, during difficult times of the Coronavirus (Covid-19), how does it help you keep your mental health intact?

Oh, yes! Thank you for asking me this because I think it’s very important for all of us to keep our mental health intact throughout these strange times. I have definitely been focusing a lot more on my fitness goals and a major reason is mental health. We are going through a tough time full of uncertainty right now and it’s affecting many of us all kinds of different ways. With COVID-19 being a pandemic that’s jeopardizing our health and others around us at an alarming rate, I think there’s no better time than now to focus on our physical and mental health. Reading books is also very important. You know you have found a great book when it’s hard to put down and I just love that feeling. It allows time to pass by, filled with knowledge and it helps a lot of us escape reality in numerous ways. Depending on the read, of course.

Coming from the Dominican Republic, do you feel any pressure being a role model for youngsters from there? What has been your goal or message that you’re spreading to everyone around you?

I wouldn’t call it pressure— If anything, I’m more eager than ever before to become the role model I envision to be. Truthfully, I want to do so many things but right now I’m definitely focused on taking my craft to the next level and whatever helps get there. I want help and inspire others in any way that I can, however, I know I must continue to work on myself first. I feel that it will lead me to setting goals for myself and taking action towards those goals no matter how small the steps may be, it’s all part of the process and it’s important. In simpler terms, I just wanna be a good human, spread kindness and treat others the way I’d like to be treated. The moment and the people I love is really all I need.

marvels runaways netflix - JanLuis Castellanos speaks about his life, career & "13 Reasons Why"
Marvel’s Runaways [Credit: Netflix]

Moving on to your career, many viewers will recognize you from “Marvel’s Runaways”, how did you land that role? What has been your most memorable experience from the show?

Oh, man! There’s actually a pretty good story on how I got the role. I was near giving up prior to landing this one. I was aware I hadn’t been in the LA for long so I didn’t expect much from it but I sure hoped to book something, anything really. I just didn’t have the resources to stay another week. Anyhow, I auditioned and I knew it was a Marvel role so in my head I said to myself, “There’s no way I could book this. They are looking for someone with credits.” I didn’t even have a headshot. (haha) It was a real tough feeling, I was full of doubt and because of that I couldn’t sleep so, one really early morning, around 5 AM, I went for a run in Runyon Canyon. Funny enough, when I got to the top of the hill, I had bumped into the casting director’s assistant who recognized immediately. After chatting for a few mins, I found out about my callback. It turns out that production was waiting on a rewrite. If that’s not a sign then I don’t know what is! I went in for the callback, got cast the same day and began working the next day. Ever since then, doubt has never entered my mind. The casting process itself was a memorable experience but so was my first day on set when I was introduced to the cast and shot my first scene. My last day on set was just as memorable because I felt I had really started to sink into the role. The first job is always the most memorable, at least for me because it’s where it all starts.

How did the big news come about when you landed the role in Netflix’s fourth and final season of “13 Reasons Why” as “Diego Torres.”

Netflix has been very good to me, along with many others. I didn’t say anything, not even to my parents. I feel everything has been happening so fast, some wouldn’t understand. I couldn’t wait to break the news to people but It was so dear to my heart that I kept it to myself for as long as I could. With the help of my team and Netflix, the news is out there and I’m now waiting on the premiere.

What were you feeling like when you got the news?

I was in Wyoming for a commercial I was filming when I got the news. I was pulled out of that job and flew to the Bay Area, where they film the show. It’s hard to explain and put into words, but I guess it didn’t really hit me until I started filming. I got to know everyone on set and once I felt comfortable, I had a euphoric feeling the entire time. I feel that it still hasn’t hit me and it probably won’t until I watch myself on the screen.

How would you describe your character?

I think he’s a great guy. A bit rough around the edges but I think his intentions within the story are correct. He’s charming, loyal, charismatic, tough, and one thing I love about him is that he is very rooted. He knows what he wants and he goes after it, no matter the obstacle. I think he and I relate very much in general. He falls for one of the most complicated women at Liberty High School and getting caught up with the past and present, he questions who he can trust. I think we see a lot of layers unfold as the story deepens.

How do you get into your character? What are the similarities and differences between both of you?

There are so many aspects that go into creating a character, it’s hard to choose one specific way to approach it but I would say research. All characters are different, however, you want to really understand what that character is fighting for and the truth behind the words. Once I have those answers I ask myself questions like, “Where was he born? How does he walk and why? Does he have an accent?” – amongst other attributes. It’s a never ending process because you’re always learning. Right now, I’m taking my characters as they come and I’m sure more challenges are on the horizon for me.

During its premiere, “13 Reasons Why” brought a lot of controversies to light, as a viewer of the show yourself, what were your thoughts on the previous seasons?

I thought they were pretty intense all around to be honest. It’s a show that covers a lot, especially in a young adult’s life and what one may go through in high school. We don’t know everyone’s personal story, at times it can even be hard to share, so a show like “13 Reasons Why” can easily hit a soft spot and become widely controversial. I say it’s great storytelling, the best cast and crew I’ve been a part of thus far, and it’s a series that has spread awareness on a lot of topics that we, as a community, may need to pay more attention to. We need to make sure we spread kindness and be there for one another when given the chance to listen or talk. Be sure to check on your friends and always do the right thing.

Elsewhere, you will be starring in “Don’t Look Deeper” on Quibi. What is the show about? Why should fans watch it?

“Don’t Look Deeper” is set in Merced, California, “fifteen minutes into the future.” It centers around a high school girl who can’t seem to shake a feeling that something about her isn’t right and it turns out she’s not human. Once she figures this out, a series of events puts her entire life in jeopardy. I think fans should watch because it deals with a whole different side of high school drama.

What is your role on the show?

I play Levi, a charming high school senior with a true artist’s soul. Since he’s used to having things fall into place but then he experiences a turn of events after being accepted into an Art program and he has to fix mistakes he’s screwed up.

Delving into your personal life a bit, who has been your rock and support so far? How important is it to have such people in your life?

My family and loved ones are always my rock, my why, my support. I know I’ll do anything in my power to be there when they need me and I know they’ll do the same for me. If you are fortunate enough to have such people in your life, just make sure you send a daily reminder of how appreciative you are of them. Whether that’s, mom, dad, or a girlfriend.

JanLuisCastellanos 011920 298RTMini 683x1024 - JanLuis Castellanos speaks about his life, career & "13 Reasons Why"
JanLuis Castellanos
[Photographer: Bobby Quillard & Groomer: Arlene Willis]

Have you had any funny or memorable fan experience?

It’s still crazy to think I even have fans. I went to the grocery store and got recognized once. I was spotted buying all the green juice from the store. Now I just buy ice cream! It’s memorable because it was my first time. My best memorable experience was when it happened in front of some of my loved ones. It was a good feeling and a real self esteemed booster.

What has been your biggest lesson so far in your career?

Patience and to always focus on the craft of acting.

What shows do you binge when you are free? What other hobbies do you have?

I love watching shows like ‘Money Heist’ and ‘Euphoria’. Whenever I need a good laugh, ‘Friends’ never fails to do the trick.

Before ending this interview, any teasers you can give away for “13 Reasons Why?”

Diego— He means well, I promise. 😉

Any final words?

Yes, My condolences go to all the families that have been affected by COVID-19. We are going through a very tough and rare time right now. However, with a little faith and proper quarantine we can all pull through this. My praise goes to the healthcare workers that are risking their lives in the fight against this pandemic.