STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM
A Conversation with Broad City’s Jaime, TV’s Most Lovable Drug Dealer
Arturo Castro, who plays Ilana’s loveable roommate and drug dealer Jaime on ‘Broad City,’ doesn’t have an accent. He isn’t gay. And no, he won’t sell you weed.
Broad City is back—indefinitely.
The show’s second season premiere was preempted by a vote of confidence from Comedy Central executives Wednesday, who have decided to bring the “dope-ass” broads back for a third. The decision is a spoiler of sorts, one of the best variety—implying that viewers will not only love Season 2, but leave wanting more.
If the first three episodes are any indication, they’re right. The show’s two creators/stars, 27-year-old Ilana Glazer and 30-year-old Abbi Jacobson, went bold in Season 1, twerking through the final episode singing “started from the bottom now we’re here” at a bank.
In Season 2 they go harder with guest stars ranging from Seth Rogen to Janeane Garofalo and plots that send them hunting for an air conditioner one second and a pastel green dildo the next. At the core of it all is the friendship between Glazer and Jacobson that moves flawlessly from butt hair advice to birthing plans.
It’s this magical connection that has 29-year-old Arturo Castro, who plays Glazer’s loveable roommate turned drug dealer Jaime, pinching himself. Born in Guatemala, he’d been living in New York for almost 10 years before meeting the dynamic duo, who nearly cast him on the spot.
Jumping from serious to silly on a dime, he abandons his near perfect American accent at random and turns into an over-caffeinated Latino TV anchor or a jaded teenager from the Bronx. Castro profusely thanks “the girls” for finding him, devotes his free time to underprivileged kids, and binge-watches Frasier for fun.
Castro has an unmistakably charming appeal, one that Glazer and Jacobson liked right away.
What was life like for you, pre-Broad City?
Well, I grew up in Guatemala, where I had my own TV show there for a little bit, this Saturday morning top five music videos thing. So I was this guy for the longest time [cheesy Latino TV announcer voice]: “HEY, how you guys?” I got to interview some cool people but that was about as much as I could do there creatively.
What prompted you to move?
There was this teacher from Julliard, she said you should go to New York and study acting. So I auditioned for this American Academy of Dramatic Arts and got in, then went to Vassar to round out my degree, and I’ve been here ever since!
You have such strong chemistry with Ilana and Abbi on screen. How early on in the audition process did you meet them?
I auditioned in this little casting office that was super small and unassuming, so I had no idea what it was about. Then a couple days later they told me that I had to go to this callback at the Comedy Central offices. It’s this very big glass office that’s kind of intimidating and I walked in and Lucia Aniello [writer and director for the show] said, “Thanks for coming” and I said, “I didn’t have a choice, they forced me!” and I think we all had a laugh about that.
At one point did you realize it was something you wanted to do?
With Abbi and Ilana, once I met them, it was almost like we’d known each other forever, you know? I did the audition and usually they have notes to change something, but instead Ilana was like, “I want to see you do it again, but just because I want to see you do it again—that was awesome.” So I felt pretty good about that.
That sounds like the best-case scenario.
It was a great audition experience. It was a very lucky break—and I tell Abbi and Ilana this all the time, the moment they said yes to me, the rest of the world starting paying attention, so I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay that.
Was this love at first sight?
It was so love at first sight. I was obsessed with Abbi and Ilana! I just wanted to stay in the room. [Pauses] But, you know, security—whatever. [Laughs]
So let’s talk about Jaime. He’s a twentysomething, fashionable gay guy who deals marijuana on the side. Ilana has described him as an extension of her own character. Is that how you treat him in the show?
I believe Jaime is based on one of Ilana’s best friends, and one of Abbi’s best friends, who is actually named Jaime. The actual Jaime does have an accent, but I don’t just imitate them. These two guys are so sweet and Jaime in particular has this wide-eyed, “Everything is so beautiful, papi!” type of thing so I just grabbed that, and transitioned what I think the character would sound like.
Right. I have to admit, it’s a little shocking to talk to you at first. The accent just seems to fit you!
Well, when I first got to New York, I had a thick accent, similar to Jaime’s. And the ironic part is that now most of the roles I do require an accent, so people would have saved me a lot of time and money—if I’d known. It wasn’t so much that it was a thick accent, it’s just that I spoke so fast with an accent, that no one could understand me, so it was a very pleasant experience trying to explain my name to a bunch of Americans those first couple years.
Ok, so the accent is one difference. But also unlike Jaime, you have a girlfriend, correct?
Yeah, I’m not gay. But if you want to get existential about it, the cool part is that if you look like me and you come from a place like Guatemala, you watch TV and you don’t see a lot of people that look like you. So when you see this kid—and he’s gay, and he’s Latino, and he’s in New York having a great time, then maybe they’ll figure that it’s not going to be so bad after-all.
You use it as an opportunity.
I don’t play him ironically; I know that it’s a great gift that’s been given to me. I’m really happy that I have it. I hope that one kid somewhere is like “Oh cool, I get to go to New York and wear these awesome outfits.”
Do you get recognized a lot now?
Actually, I was just in Guatemala and I got recognized for Broad City! It was kind of cool, someone who had watched it from the Internet. He came up to me and said, ‘Dude, Broad City, no way!’ and I was so excited. I think I was more excited to meet him than he was to meet me.
So people are surprised to hear your voice.
They’re surprised that I don’t have an accent and a lot of people are surprised that I don’t sell weed. This guy came up to me in Bryant Park and he was like: “Dude, you don’t have an accent?” and then, “So you don’t sell weed either?” He was really disappointed and walked away. [Laughs]
How do you feel about Season 2?
I’m so pumped—I think we’ve taken it to a whole other level. Especially for Jaime, the girls have been awesome enough that there’s one episode of this season that the girls have really focused on my character so that’s really, I don’t know, I’m really grateful that I got to read it and we got to play around with it.
Even though you’re different from Jaime, seems like you have a similar kind of glass-half-full, sunny disposition.
It’s hard not to, you know? Sometimes when people see me they think that I’m one of their friends that they already know. I think the reason for it is because Ilana, Abbi, and I are really good friends. What we trying to bring to the characters is that we’re actually having a really good time playing together. So yes, part of my personality is that.
You mentioned last time we talked that Ilana and Abbi haven’t changed since their show took off.
No, it’s great to see. Since the beginning when we were shooting the pilot, this is obviously their brainchild. If anything I believe we’re all just really flattered and happy that we get to do it. I don’t see the girls ever changing; they’re just really, genuinely good people. Except never mention the color blue in front of Abbi.
[Laughs] Just kidding! Haha. No, they’ll never freak out. They’re super sweet and easy going. [Pause] Can you imagine: someone freaking out just from seeing the color blue? That would be crazy!
Did you have a favorite scene this season?
I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but at one point this season you’ll see Jaime do something with his outfit that is very, very interesting—so walking around with this funky outfit we had to shoot this scene in Williamsburg and it was a yogurt shop and I was wearing this really, really silly outfit.
I bet people were loving it.
Yeah, I had to walk into it, so people weren’t aware that we were shooting and were confused. It’s the second season so some people knew, but I think some people were a little freaked out about like, “What’s this man doing dressed like this in the middle of Brooklyn?”
Do you guys shoot there a lot?
A lot of it takes place a lot of my scenes this time in particular were in Brooklyn. Our sound stages are in Greenpoint. I was just in something recently with Denis Leary, which was right near Broad City and I was like “This is so meta,” and he was like “I’ve never heard of it,” so I said “You will know one day.” [Laughs]
So outside of BC, what are you up to?
I produced my own webseries called 2040 and I’m also about to start shooting my own sketch show called Alternativo. It’s going to be for an online platform but the tagline is: “There’s Latino in all of us.”
Yes, it’s going to be quite funny! I grew up in Guatemala but I’ve been here 10 years so I’ve gotten to know the sense of humor—and they’re very similar. There are too many shows about what makes us different, and I want to make a show about what makes us the same—what we laugh at.
Are the roles you play typically similar to Jaime?
Yes and no, I guess you bring whatever you are to most of your characters especially in comedy I try to bring this sweetness that I’ve learned with Jaime that bring with myself in real life but yeah I try to keep my work varied and thankfully I’ve been able to do some roles that are very different.
So what are some others you’re playing in the future?
Well, I just finished a film with Susan Sarandon, which was dope!
I couldn’t even speak around her. I was really star struck until we started shooting.
Who do you play?
I play a bad guy in this, without an accent. I’m a kidnapper, basically, who Susan Sarandon’s character is sort of chasing throughout the film. It was interesting because I was shooting BC at the same time so it was Jaime one day then the next day going over to be this raging lunatic of a kidnapper guy. But the guy is also a kidnapper with a heart so there was a nice duality to play with.
So does your family in Guatemala get involved in watching these things?
My mom fell in love with Jaime when she watched Broad City. But after this one, my mom called me and says, [in Spanish accent] “Ok but next time that you play a kidnapper you tell me because I don’t know if I approve.” I’m like, Mom first of all why are you speaking English?” [Laughs]. Now every time I see her she says: “You know, you shouldn’t kidnap people!” It’s so hard for her to differentiate her little boy.
It’s understandable. But you guys all seem really down to earth and centered.
We all do believe in Bikram yoga. [Pause] Just kidding…I’ve never done Bikram. And I’m actually not from Guatemala I’m from New Jersey. [Pause] Just kidding again!