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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Kikey Castillo Interviews Blanca Valdez, Casting Director of "East Los High"

KC:  Hi Blanca, thank you so much for being on my blog Livin’ la Vida LA!  Did you know that you and Carlos are my ginny pigs :)?   You two are my first interviews on my blog!   

BV:  Wow what an honor!  Thank you so much how can I refuse a talented actor as yourself especially with a blogger name like Livin’ la Vida LA!

KC:  Awe thanks, you're always so kind.   Ok, Blanca so I want to get all the juicy casting details about "East Los High."  But First, let’s start with how you got involved casting this project?  

BV:   I got involved in casting this amazing project because first of all Carlos Portugal our director and one of the writers of "East Los High" and I have worked together on many great projects in the past.  It started many years ago when I cast his Telemundo sitcom “Viva Vegas.”  We hit it off immediately and we have been friends ever since.  From the moment I read “East Los High” I loved it and wanted to be a part of it.

KC:   It's a lot about relationships in this industry as you can attest to.  So, this show has many characters on the series... what was your reaction when you realized you had to cast so many parts?  

BV:   I thought “fabulous”  bring it on, I love the challenge!  There isn’t anything more exciting than being able to offer actors work and especially great roles they can develop.

KC:   So all in all, how many actors got cast on the show?

BV:   I believe we cast over 75 actors.

KC:   That's amazing!  And almost all the teen leads were unknowns; did you feel it was a big risk casting them in leading roles?  

BV:   Absolutely not.  I felt very strongly about the actors ability to act...and after many months of casting and many callbacks...Carlos was able to select the cast.  The hard part was selecting one actor for each role because there were many amazing actors!  I’m a strong believer of giving new talent an opportunity to develop a role so that they’re able to show their range.

KC:   Blanca, you're a casting angel to us actors :)  Now, allow us to be a fly on the wall and walk us through the audition process from first audition to booking the role.

BV:   First of all there were many, many auditions, but the ones selected for callbacks had to read with some of the other actors to see if they had chemistry.  From there we built the cast, then we booked.

KC:   I’m sure you saw plenty of talented actors - who blew you away at the audition and why?  

BV:   Yes we did see a lot of talented actors and the ones that gave me chills and made me feel something were the ones that totally blew me away!!  There are too many to name...but I also know that even if they didn't get booked on this project they are the future “Michael Penas" or "Michelle Rodriguez.”

KC:   That brings me to my next question, is it true that sometimes the best actor for the part doesn’t always get the role?

BV:   Yes, very true.  A lot depends on chemistry with the rest of the actors and how everyone clicks into the puzzle of creating a cast.

KC:   Did you personally have a favorite character when reading the script that you were excited to cast?  

BV:   I found the writing to be amazing and especially in their portrayal of Latino actors in Los Angeles ...although there is a lot of drama and intrigue with an educational message within...everyone was so true to their characters.  Some you love, some you hate, some you feel so sorry for them.  That’s when you know they’re amazing actors bringing the pages to life!  So, I loved them all! 

KC:   As a veteran casting director of commercials, telenovelas and movies what made this project different than all your other projects to cast?

BV:   It was different because it dealt with serious issues that are going amongst teen Latinos and it’s the first TV series written by Latinos with an all Latino cast.

KC:   How was it working with Carlos Portugal, the co-creator, did he provide a lot of input on casting choices?

BV:   Carlos is someone who’s with me every step of the way and he and I discussed talent throughout the casting process.  He wanted the best talent for his cast and we accomplished exactly what he was looking for.

KC:   You have a busy casting office (as I have often witnessed) always buzzing with actors, producers and agencies for major brands; what’s the feedback been like on the show?

BV:   Amazing!  Awesome!  I love it!  When’s the next one!

KC:   Yay, for the show, great feedback!  In my blog's opening I mention that this show IS mainstream entertainment, do you feel your show is mainstream?

BV:   Absolutely!  that’s the best part about the’s a TV series for everyone to represents the American Latinos that are born and raised in this country.

KC:   What’s next for Blanca Valdez?

BV:   There are a few film projects in the works and a project that I’ll be producing and also I'm casting hosts for Mun2.   (Submission info below)  

KC:   Thank you so much Blanca, always such a pleasure talking to you and auditioning for you!!  Wonderful job casting "East Los High" I was Hooked (with a capital "H").  Anything else you’d like to leave us with?

BV:   Thank you so much great talking to you too!  Many thanks and also for supporting and
watching "East Los High"...the more support we get the more projects we can create!

Mun2 Host Casting Opportunity
Los Angeles, Miami and New York and prospective candidates will need to submit an application and highlight reel via by August 2 at noon PST

To apply go to:
Job #11027BR : On-Air Talent - Los Angeles, CA
Job #11028BR : On-Air Talent - New York, NY
Job #11029BR : On-Air Talent – Hialeah, FL

Kikey Castillo Interviews Carlos Portugal, Co-Creator of "East Los High"

KC:  Hi Carlos, thank you so much for being my guinea pig, you and Blanca, are my first interviews on Livin’ la Vida LA!   And I’m very happy you two are my firsts!

CP:  Me too.  I haven’t been anyone’s first in a very long time.   

KC:  Ha!  I already know this is gonna be a fun interview.  Ok, now down to the nitty gritty.  Tell me, how do you describe "East Los High" to your friends who have yet to see the show?

CP:  That’s easy.  "East Los High” is sort of telenovela meets an American teen show like “Gossip Girl” meets a gritty Mexican movie like “Amores Perros.”  

KC:  I love that description.  So, what was your role(s) on the show?

CP:  Co-creator, Head Writer, Producer and Director.  I ran personal errands for the staff, swept the floors and went on numerous Starbucks runs for various crew members.   

KC:  What about the editing of the 24 episodes, did you have a lot of input there? 

CP:  I always work extremely closely with the editor during post.  I was very fortunate to work with a great editor named Donna Mathewson.  Editing is, by far, my favorite part of production.  By the time you get to post, all the heavy lifting is done.  It all becomes about creating a pretty pictures and eating lots of junk food.

KC:  Wow, sounds like you had your hands in a little bit of everything.  Is that what they call “Creative Control”?
CP:  That’s right.  For me it’s all about control.  Just like Janet Jackson.

KC:  "...Miss Jackson if you're nasty", I couldn't resist.  So how did you come about the project yourself?

CP:  I was hired by this wonderful non-profit organization, Population Media Center (PMC.)  They produce entertainment/educational shows around the world.  This project was their first USA production.

KC:  What is a great on set story you can share with us?

CP:  I worked with more than seventy Latino actors.  During our 67 day shoot, not one single Latino was late on set.  I think that’s like the equivalent to Moses parting the Red Seas.  

KC:  A miracle indeed!  When the project was completed, did you plan for it to air on Hulu? 

CP:  No.  After meeting with various networks, Hulu made us the best offer and we accept it.

KC:  What’s the feedback been like on the show?

CP:  95% has been fantastic.  Lots of “binge-watching.”  Seems that most people want to know about Season 2.

KC:  Heck yeah we do, but I'll get to that in a second.  How has it been going for the show on HULU?  I hear things are rosy!

CP:  Yes.  I heart Hulu.  They are an amazing group of people.  "East Los High" has been the #1  show on Hulu Latino since its premiere on June 3rd.   It's also on the top 5 Hulu shows. 

KC:  So getting back to season 2, will there be one?  Or a spin-off perhaps?

CP:  Yes.  But I can’t say much about that.  Which is very difficult, you know how much us Latinos love to chismear.  But I can tell you that I’m considering doing a prequel called “East Los Kinder” -- you know, back when they were babies.

KC:  Come on chismear away!  Ok, I won't press to much...yet.  So, do you feel you have in some way helped open the doors for other shows like "East Los High"?

CP:  I would love to say “yes,” but I’m not sure.  Only time will tell.  Ask me again in 3 years.  

KC:  What would you say is your crowning achievement on "East Los High"?

CP:  Being able to get up at 4:30am every morning in order to get to the set on time.  I hate waking up when the alarm goes off and it’s still dark outside.

KC:  The actors had to audition to get the roles they got, how did you “cast” your writers, producers and casting director? 

CP:  The writers were easy to “cast.”  I meet with writers and ask them to write a couple of pages of script.  I can tell right away who’s got the right sensibility for show.  Producers were people I knew or that came highly recommended.  Casting Director?  I’ve known Blanca for over ten years.  A lot of the show’s success goes to her.  She found all the actors.

KC:  How involved were you in the casting process with Blanca? 

CP:  Very.  But Blanca always meets when them first.  I trust Blanca explicitly.  She’s got an incredible eye for talent.

KC:  In my blog opening I mentioned that this show IS mainstream entertainment, do you feel your show is mainstream?

CP:  Well… let’ see…  “East Los High” has sex, romance, music, dancing, envy, jealousy, violence, bitchy girls, hot guys…  Yeah, I think it qualifies as mainstream.

KC:  What’s next for you? 

CP:  I’m going to the Sundance Cinemas (the old Sunset 5) to watch “Only God Forgives,” starring Ryan Gossling.  Ryan and I getting married next month – he just doesn’t know it yet.  

KC:  Oh you got that all wrong, he's marrying me :)   Thank You So Much Carlos for allowing me to interview you (you made me laugh) and of course thanks for your wonderful show!   I think my blog readers now know that it took “A Village” to raise this baby.   Anything else you’d like to leave us with?

CP:  Yes.  I love our baby.  And every single person who was part of making it such a great show.

Carlos Portugal
Carlos Portugal is an executive producer, writer and director, who began his career at KQED, San Francisco’s PBS station.  He has worked for ABC, NBC, Lifetime, Telemundo, Fox Latin American Channel and Fox Kids.  Portugal made his directorial film debut with the feature “East Side Story,” he also worked for three seasons as a staff writer on Tyler Perry’s “Meet the Browns” and “House of Payne” for TBS Network. 

Recently, Portugal co-wrote and directed his second feature film, “Pop Star,” a teen musical which premiered on Lifetime on June 2013.   


"East Los High" a HUGE hit on HULU!

Have you seen it yet???  OK, I'll admit, I was slow on the trigger to tune in.  You see, I was eager to support the show because it's Latino written, directed, acted and produced.  And typically, Latino shows and movies need a lot of love to succeed in mainstream today.  Also, I was excited to see many of my friends who got cast on "East Los High." 

But I just couldn't pull myself away from watching my mainstream shows on my Hulu queue.  Then one Sunday, tired of my mainstream shows on my Hulu queue, I pulled the trigger and watched the first episode of "East Los High."  Uhmmm, where did my Sunday go?  I binged watched like 6 episodes!!! Can you say Hooked!  I couldn't get enough of the show!  And trust me, you will get hooked, don't be fooled by the title "East Los High."   

You see, although I'm a Latina, I did not go to East Los High or even grown up in East LA, more like Hermiston High in a rural cowboy town of other than my Latin heritage, I too thought, "can I relate to a show about East LA teens?"  DON'T be fooled my fellow blog readers, let me ask you, do you like the TV shows "Scandal", "Nashville", "Chicago Fire"?  Well here's a doozy, this show is right in that league, with it's storylines, acting and juicy cliff hangers.  So GOOD!  What I realize now, is that this show IS MAINSTREAM entertainment...can you say egg on my face. 

So after being sufficiently hooked consuming as many episodes as I could in my free time (24 episodes...phew!) I attended NHMC's MediaCon where the co-creator, Carlos Portugal, was speaking on a panel about "East Los High"...My lucky day!!  After the panel, I immediately went up to Carlos, and embarrassingly so, gushed to him about my enthusiasm for the show and that I would like to blog about it to help him get viewers to tune in.  Needless to say, he does not need my help garnering attention, this show is doing just fine, actually more than fine on Hulu garnering super high ratings and breaking records.  But he was gracious enough to agree - thank you Carlos :)   Click here for my interview with Carlos Portugal.

Kikey Castillo and Carlos Portugal at NHMC's MediaCon 

Another key player in "East Los High," who not only is my friend but a phenomenal casting director is Blanca Valdez, who cast the entire series.  As an actress, I wanted to know the low down and dirty on the casting process.  Hold a sec, are you thinking what I thinking???  "Hey, why wasn't I on this show?"  Don't worry, I did ask her...she's my friend after all :)  Needless to say, I think Kikey Castillo will be on Blanca's shortlist from now on - love ya Blanca!   Click here for my interview with Blanca Valdez. 

Blanca Valdez and Kikey Castillo at "8 Ways to Say I Love My Life!" play at Casa 0101 

Still want more?  How about an interview with the writers of "East Los High" - written by Elia Esparza of Hola LA! and Latin Heat Entertainment: 'East Los High' Opens Doors for Latino Writers

Watch on Hulu at:

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