CALEXICO- Distinguished actor, author, and social activist, Enrique Castillo returned to his native Calexico roots on Wednesday, where a discussion followed by a Q&A was held at the San Diego State IV-Campus library about his Imperial Valley based novel, “The Dead of Summer.”
Castillo commenced his presentation by touching briefly on his novel’s inspiration and history.
“I had seen a lot of films that had been shot in the Imperial Valley, but they were never about the Imperial Valley and they never really dealt with a lot of other elements in the Valley. It’s such a magical place. Growing up I worked in the fields, knew a lot of people in a lot of locations and always kept it in my mind that it would be nice to do a film, or something that had to deal with the Imperial Valley,” declared Castillo.
“The Dead of Summer” started out as a screenplay, originally intended to be shot in the Imperial Valley. In the process of omitting characters due to limited space Castillo figured a novel would be a more suitable forum to unfold his story’s detailed character development.
“So, I googled… ‘how to write a novel’. The website that caught my attention was ‘how to write a novel in 100 days’. Seven years later- here it is, five years working on the novel and two years putting the screenplay together.” The audience chuckled at Castillo’s unexpected punch line.
“There is much more detail that goes into writing a novel in terms of description, that you can’t do in film. Film is a visual medium like talking pictures, where a novel is more descriptive,” explained Castillo about differentiating between screenwriting and literary approaches.
After the book reading, the public turned its interest toward Castillo’s personal success story and his road to Hollywood by way of Calexico.
Admitting that he didn’t really begin to understand acting as a craft until taking classes at the university level, Castillo did credit his Calexico High School teacher, Mrs. Guzman, for being instrumental in taking a special interest in him. She was impressed by his understanding of a Shakespearian tragedy after a written quiz on Hamlet. From that moment on, Guzman made sure Castillo completed his university applications.
“In high school my senior year, we were sitting at an assembly in the gym and there was the introduction of a young man that was a student at UC Berkeley. The moment that young man walked out onto the floor of that gym, I knew it was possible. I had worked with him in the fields. So he was living proof that I could do it too,” shared Castillo.
After high school Castillo left Calexico to work in Gardena, California, but didn’t like it so he returned home to coincidentally find an acceptance letter to UC Berkeley.
“Your professors, your parents, and your law enforcement – these are the real heroes. I’m just a fantasy. I was a farm worker, I’ve never been arrested, I don’t do drugs, and have a shot of tequila maybe once every ten years. If I can live out my fantasy, so could you,” Castillo said, clarifying his position as a celebrity and role-model.