The Academy Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month
From September 15th to October 15th America celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month in order to commend “the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.” Starting as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 under the Johnson Administration, it was later expanded to the 30-day period of today by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. The Actors Society would like to celebrate by showcasing a few of our alumni!
Arturo Castro (Class of 2007)
Arturo Castro (Class of 2007) is a Guatemalan actor who has made a name for himself in contemporary television, particularly with the popularity of his sketch show, “Alternatino,” which features him playing a wide range of broad comedy characters that play off of misconceptions and stereotypes that surround Latinos. Castro doesn't mind playing into these stereotypes "as long as [there's] a purpose with a teachable moment."
He didn’t always look to television for success. The words of Shakespeare captured his heart at a young age, and he found solace in Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. “It was comforting to know that people had been suffering for years,” said Castro, remarking that the speech, after his own father's passing, gave him an outlet.
His acting philosophy is rooted in a sense of deep passion for the work. Through ups and downs in his career, his ability to bounce back has always come from one important lesson: stop making it about yourself. This was a particularly important moment for Castro, and he references this philosophy as essential to finding success in what he does. Alongside this, he always brings it back to The Academy. In an interview last year, he said “Whatever I’ve learned is because of [The Academy].”
Most recently, you can find Castro starring in “Mr. Corman” as Victor, alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The series streams exclusively on Apple TV+. Castro was excited to take on this role because it was a chance to play a character that happened to be Latino instead of being based on the fact that he is Latino. Next up on Castro's plate is the feature film "The Menu," it is a comedy horror film that is currently in production.
Jessica Pimentel (Class of 1999)
Jessica Pimentel (Class of 1999) is not only a brilliant actress who starred in Netflix’s acclaimed series “Orange Is the New Black,” but also works with numerous bands as a singer and vocalist. Of these, Pimentel refers to the group Alekhine’s Gun as being the closest to her heart—her “baby”—as she puts it. She made a point of it to stay busy during the pandemic by working on and releasing music at a steady pace.
Her acting work isn’t left behind because of her music; the two play into one another. The journey to getting on “Orange Is the New Black” follows a path many young actors can learn from—the hardship of working in entertainment. Prior to the audition for “Orange Is the New Black,” Pimentel was down on her luck, in an interview she reminisced, “I called my manager and I said, ’This has got to be the last audition of the year but, because I went in there with that attitude—I didn’t care—I let go of all my nerves, and from that attitude, Maria was born. I got the job the next day and was on set the next week.” Being of Dominican descent, Pimentel and the other Latina actresses worked hard with the writers of the show "to make sure the terminology, slang, dialect, and expressions they used matched up to where they were from." "Orange Is the New Black" was one of Netflix's most popular originals, at one point heralding 105 million views. You can still stream the hit show on Netflix.
Since the show's finale, Pimentel has stayed busy with her band and appearing in several independent films, which includes the award-winning "Giving Birth to a Butterfly," released this year. Make sure to keep an eye out for her in the upcoming Hulu series "Olga Dies Dreaming."
Vico Ortiz (Class of 2011)
Vico Ortiz (Class of 2011) is a rising actor who has lived multiple lives. As a teenager, before they moved to Los Angeles to study at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Ortiz traveled the world on Puerto Rico’s National Fencing Team as their saber fencer. Also, since graduating from The Academy, they have delved into the world of drag, creating the dynamic drag king “Vico Suave” who can be seen in Starz’s “Vida.”
Their breakout role in “Transparent” has led them to pursue a new mission through performing; “to showcase diversity in the Latinx culture on Stage, TV, and film.” Through their characters on-screen they, "want young queers and people to relate no matter their background, their sexual orientation or gender identity.” An advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, they have committed support to The Dru Project and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
Ortiz has landed roles on such notable television shows as “Lucifer,” “Children’s Hospital,” “Ray Donovan,” “Criminal Minds,” “9-1-1,” and “American Horror Story.” They can be seen most recently on “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” and Amazon Prime Video’s “S.O.Z: Solados o Zombies.” Also, make sure to keep an eye out for Ortiz in the upcoming HBO Max show “The Sex Lives of College Girls.”
Of course, this is only a glimpse into The Actors Society’s network of Hispanic alumni and so, we would like to wish all of our former students of Hispanic descent a very happy Hispanic Heritage Month!