Interview: DIABLERO’s Rigoberto Castañeda on Creepy Sets, His Favorite Character, and What’s Next

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Great news! It’s official that the crew behind Diablero Season 1 are working on a new season, although no release date has been given. So while we are waiting on that news, we took the opportunity to speak to one of the directors of the hit show, Rigoberto Castañeda.

We discuss his attraction to the Diablero series, his newest film Unsourced, and how a Pepsi commercial transformed him into the horror director we know today.

Check out the interview below.

Dread Central: I know that you’ve been involved in horrors, dramas and documentaries, but it always seems that horror is a passion of yours. So, why the horror genre?

Rigoberto Castañeda: Well, since I was a little boy, it was something that attracted me. I believe that a lot of kids feel this attraction. But at the same time, when you are innocent, you are trying to reject all of these dark emotions of yourself. At the end, if you accept it, something great may happen.

I see it as when you go to a theme park. It’s like the feeling of a rollercoaster at the beginning. You are really afraid of it. You are thinking if you should do it or not. Then, you are up there and you are screaming. But after the scream comes a laugh. So there is a release. I feel that horror films are like that. It’s a release of the soul, of feelings, and of emotions. Obviously, it is a release for the people in the theater or even at their home theaters, but also for the ones that are making the films. For us, it is also a relief for your soul.

I was lucky enough to meet Guillermo Del Toro once. I was telling him how much of a nice guy he is. He said, “You know what? All the people I know that do horror and are committed to horror, have really cool and soft personalities.” It’s amazing because if you are in touch with that, maybe you become more sensitive to humanity.

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DC: I agree. Majority of the people that I’ve met in this industry are super nice. Not what you’d expect at all. And, that is awesome that you got a chance to meet Del Toro.

RC: Yeah. He is like the father of all of us that are trying to make horror in Mexico. He is kind of a mentor for a lot of guys here. He’s very open to meet and to give a few words of advice to anyone who tries to reach him. Really cool guy.

DC: How did you get into filmmaking?

RC: It was weird. I was out for college around sixteen or something like that. I was doing mathematics, geometry, and stuff like that. I was also very good at drawing, so I decided to go to the classes for that. It was like three or six months before I said, “Nope. This is not for me.” I went out of it and was basically doing nothing.

Then, an aunt of mine was working at a commercial production company. She told me to come because they had a spot for someone assisting casting and making casting tapes. When I was there, I worked on Pepsi commercials that were photographed by Emmanuel Lubezki before he went to Hollywood. I was amazed by it. It was amazing to be on a set, to be around all this movement about making moving images. I fell in love with it.

A friend of mine that was the assistant director said, “If you love this, why not study film?”

I said, “Is it possible to study film?” It was a bit crazy. I didn’t know that you could go and study directing or writing film at school. That’s the moment I went to film school. It’s very difficult to enter the Mexican film school called CCC, Centro de Capitacion Cinematografica. And I got in. There are people who do the exam like three or four times, but I got in the first time I took the exam. I was really lucky.

DC: Whoa! That’s pretty cool! I do have to ask this because I will kick myself if I don’t. Since you are a fan of horror, do you have some favorite movies?

RC: I think the one that is going to be up there for the rest of my life is The Shining. The Shining to me is something that I need to see once every few months. I don’t know how many times I have seen it already. Maybe like fifty times. It’s crazy. After that are the great classics like Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and Psycho. There are a lot of classics in my heart.

Then, there are new films that I am starting to like and embrace. I love a lot of James Wan’s movies. I think that he is amazing at making horror. He does some really cool action in movies like Aquaman and Fast and Furious. He has some really cool ideas making action. But with horror films, it’s amazing what he does.

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DC: I agree. You know how you don’t get scared by certain things because you’ve seen it so much. Well, with Insidious, that scared me.

RC: Yes. I totally agree. He’s really great with suspense. He builds up the horror really well. Also, the jump scares are amazing. I want to be like him when I grow up.

DC: Well, I think you are doing some insanely incredible things as well. I recently completed Diablero, and I was extremely hooked. I finished it in two days. It would’ve been one day if I didn’t have to work. The show has so much. It’s fantasy. It’s sci-fi. It’s horror. It’s action. It’s everything you need. First, congratulations on being a part of something so super amazing that I can’t contain myself. Second, what attracted you to the show?

RC: Well, I believe it was from the first time they called me. They told me there was a show based on this book, that at the same time was based on a comic book that I know really well and that I love. It’s a guy named Edgar Clement that made this comic called Operacion Bolivar (Bolivar Operation). The universe is set up in that comic. After that, the writer of El Diablo me Obligo (The Devil Forced Me) grabbed the same universe and made another story around that. We grabbed this book and made this story about the same universe. So, it’s a really rich universe and something really Mexican. But at the same time, it’s so particular that it becomes universal.

The producer that called me the first time was Pedro Uriol. I was like, “Of course! I love that. That’s a really rich universe.” Then, I started with the first guy that’s involved with the development and ideas of the story, Paco Cabezas. At the end, he couldn’t make the series because he was making Penny Dreadful. He was doing a lot of cool stuff, so that attracted me also. He is doing a lot of work in America right now. He is Spanish. He is really good, and I believe he is becoming a huge director in America.

When I came on board, all the guys that are from Mexico that are really close friends of mine, we ended up becoming like a family. We are really close to each other. I work really great with Cravioto, the showrunner and also the director of the show. I believe it is perfect. Right now, we are working on the new stuff for the second season.

DC: Has anything creepy happened while you guys were on set?

RC: The creepiest thing was a place that we shot at, with the witch grabbing people, is actually a huge location that is abandoned. It is really creepy and got really dirty. So, the creepiest thing was the possibility of catching a disease. But seriously, that kind of place, when you are in there, you are always like, “Oh my God. Something is going to come from behind that curtain or behind that window.” But nothing happened.

DC: Do you have a favorite character?

RC: Probably Nancy. I think she is pretty cool. She’s tough, but really small. Actually, when we were doing auditions for the cast, they told me, “Don’t worry. I know that you may know her because of her YouTube channel. She does that, but she is also an actress.”

I said, “Okay. I don’t know any YouTube channels, so don’t worry.” I don’t judge anything. She did an amazing job.

DC: I also like Elvis. I know that people are like, “Yeah, he’s a cool guy!” But I actually want to be him. He’s just so cool and has a cool lifestyle.

RC: Yeah. Actually, the actor Horacio became really close to me. He’s one of the main characters in my new film Unsourced. When we were shooting that, we were also doing the auditions for Diablero. I was pushing him a lot because I believed in his work a lot. So, he is going to be in the film Unsourced, when it’s finished, probably at the end of this year. It’s good also for the film because now he is going to be famous.

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DC: I can definitely see that. Now, I have to ask about something outside of Diablero. I saw that you once worked on a screenplay for The Weeping Woman. I wanted to get your thoughts on the recent remake and ask what kind of plans did you have for your version.

RC: What I did is take the main legend La Llorona. We tried to make a more modern tale. It’s actually like the main plot, but at the same time, I used a lot of horror phenomena like ghosts. I took a lot of the stories around the road that is very close to Mexico City. It’s actually a highway that goes from inside of Mexico City to a woods just nearby. There are a lot of tales around it, in the same characteristics as La Llorona. So, I grabbed them and put it together in a whole story. At the same time, I never used the word La Llorona in the film. I never say, “This is the legend of La Llorona,” even if everyone in Mexico knows that is the legend. I thought it would be really cool not to say it for the people, so they can learn it in the story.

That was the first film. I made a sequel. In the first one, it was more about La Llorona. And the second one is more about the ghost of La Llorona possessed inside a woman. I think it is completely different from the legend. What they are doing now in this new film is more of the original story, the ghost story that is going to spook you and grab you if you do certain things.

DC: I do like your idea of not naming the legend. Instead, you allow people to assume and even learn something new.

RC: Yeah. It actually worked a lot. It’s the biggest blockbuster for a Mexican horror film in history. That is huge. And that was in 2007. Since then, no one has come close.

DC: We kind of referenced your childhood a little. How did you parents feel about you watching horror movies at a young age?

RC: Well, my parents are really Catholic. What I told them is that it is probably their fault. I believe there would be no horror or what we know as the horror genre without religion. Religion is incredibly important for horror. It could be any of the Judeo-Christian religions like Judaism, Muslim, or Christianity. It is basically the same with scares and fears. It is the same fear of evil, the devil and death. So, my parents and I have a lot of discussions around it. But actually, they are really cool people. They don’t care. They are proud.

DC: That’s cool that they are supportive. And that’s insightful about the religion. I noticed that the horror movies that scare me the most are the psychological ones that deal with religion.

RC: Actually, a film that I am doing now is a psychological thriller. At the same time, it’s a little girl that is really lonely and doesn’t have any friends. The parents think that she has an imaginary friend, but it is something else. It deals with religion, and the horror really comes from that.

DC: It sounds like you are living the dream. What advice would you give to someone who may want to do what you are doing?

RC: One advice from my father since I was a little kid is that this world is for the stubborn and the patient. That’s it.

DC: That is perfect. Your father is a wise man. So are you. Thank you so much for allowing me to pick your brain about Diablero and your place in the horror industry.

RC: No problem. Thank you!  

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