The prison drama K-11 is set in the LGBT unit of the Los Angeles county jail. The cell is “run” by the self-appointed Queen Bee, Mousey (Kate del Castillo), a transgender prisoner. She warns the new inmate, Raymond Saxx, Jr. (Goran Visnjic), not to mess with her and is in cahoots with Sgt. Johnson (D.B. Sweeney), a corrupt, drug-fueled guard who is in love with her. Del Castillo steals the film, sinking her teeth into a juicy role.
On the phone from Los Angeles, the Mexican actress, who was recently in Miami filming a short for Univision, spoke about making K-11 and playing Mousey.
How did you prepare for this outrageous role?
Jules [Stewart, the director] could have cast a male actor—that’s an easy way to go. For me, this is was the opportunity of a lifetime. I learned so much about the transgender world, and what trans means. I felt sorry for how ignorant I was about what they go through.
From her makeup to her fabulous shoes—Mousey was very distinctive. How did you create her “look”?
Love the shoes! This is a transwoman who’s a junkie. We didn’t want to do her makeup like a cartoon—there’s a very fine line. We tried to find something that would make people at her stare at her. She’s attractive, but a little creepy.
Mousey is heavily tattooed. Are you heavily tattooed?
I am! I have one on my foot–an arrow that means freedom. And a Pi on my left shoulder. I wanted to put an infinity sign, but it didn’t look right. Under my belly button, I have a design I like. And then I have two on my fingers—one says “love” and one says “live,” and I have “inner strength” on my wrist and “here now” below it. When my father saw my first tattoo, he said “Your body is sacred, when I brought you into this world, you were intact. What did you do?” I have seven now, so he’s like, “Ok, whatever!”
Your tough! How was it to play a Queen Bee? When you assert, “I am that Bitch!” I got goosebumps!
[LAUGHS]. It’s funny you say that, because for me, it’s difficult to find the feminine side. The masculine part I have; the feminine side, I had to work on. That’s weird, but it’s true. When I wore the makeup and shoes, I just owned it. You have to go deep and not let it affect you. She’s a badass character. She has a duality—you feel sorry for her, and you hate her. It becomes “How far can you go?” and “How far will the director let you go to get this emotion out of you?” We understood what the world means to Mousey—she feels secure inside the prison. The streets are dirty. In K-11, it’s “I am someone. I rule. I am that Bitch.” Outside, she’s just another junkie working her ass off.
Your co-star D.B. Sweeney told me that he was Prince Charming to Mousey’s Snow White. How did you see the characters and their relationship?
[LAUGHS]. It’s funny he said that. He’s right in a way. He is really in love—or obsessed—with her. She’s just using him to get the drugs. He knows she has sexual power over him, and she uses it. Why not?
Do you have any experience in or with prison?
[LAUGHS] No! Never!
Do you have a favorite prison movie?
Oh! AH! That’s interesting… The one with Sean Penn. Dead Man Walking. And I love Bad Boys and The Shawshank Redemption, too.