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Kate del Castillo on Being the Mexican Lady Jason Bourne (With a Political Edge) in Netflix’s ‘Ingobernable’

The iconoclastic Mexican actress reflects on the political nature of her new Netflix series, as well as what it means to wear heels on screen.

Kate del Castillo

Netflix

The new version of “24” is running right now on Fox, but for a more intriguing take on the classic government conspiracy angle, it’s worth checking out “Ingobernable,” Netflix’s new political drama featuring Kate del Castillo.

As Emilia Urquiza, the First Lady of Mexico, del Castillo has to go on the run (literally, and in heels) following a series of dramatic events that make for a pulse-pounding pilot.

“This is a badass woman who’s fighting for the right things — even though she’s willing to do the wrong thing to do the right thing,” del Castillo told IndieWire about her character. Initially an established telenovela actress, del Castillo has branched out into film as well as English language television like “Weeds” and “Jane the Virgin” — in part because she was excited to expand her range beyond the type of characters she was asked to play.

READ MORE: ‘Ingobernable’ Trailer: Kate del Castillo Is On The Run in New Netflix Original Series

That said, the intensely political actress (whom you might have heard about recently, thanks to her involvement in introducing Sean Penn to El Chapo) acknowledged that she wanted to make sure that the show spoke to the Mexico of today, both the good and the bad. That includes speaking fiercely about the elements that she thinks have corrupted her country: “The real criminals are the ones who wear white shirts and a tie.”

How did the show come to you?

It was originally an idea of a good friend of mine that I always wanted to work with, Epigmenio Ibarra. They pitched me the idea and said, “you have to do it because we’re thinking of you and we are writing it for you.” I loved the idea because nobody has done the First Lady of Mexico. They’ve done First Ladies everywhere, just not in Mexico.

When they pitched the whole thing, I was like, “this is amazing,” because it was not going to be a boring First Lady. This is a badass woman who’s fighting for the right things, even though she’s willing to do the wrong thing to do the right thing.

When you hear the initial pitch, you don’t necessarily expect that it becomes almost like Jason Bourne.

[Laughs] I love that comparison, because it’s like, yeah, Jason Bourne with women. Probably most of the people think that it’s “House of Cards” or something like that, about the real White House in Mexico. And it’s not — everything goes wrong in the first episode. She’s running the entire season, trying to hide, and prove her innocence.

Plus, you get to be macho, but as a lady.

As a lady, which I love!

How political does the show feel for you?

It’s the First Lady, so we do have to go political at certain points. This is all fiction, but still we’re talking about Mexico, and we go deep inside of Mexico, not only the Mexican White House, but this powerful, wealthy Mexico. And then we go to the exact opposite, which is the poorest part of Mexico, where it is not safe. We’re going to see Mexico like it is exactly, not only how Americans think it is.

How do you balance making sure that a Mexican audience watches the show and doesn’t feel pandered to, versus making sure that people from the global Netflix audience understand the culture?

As an audience member, I love to see the French series, I love to see the English series, because I learn a lot. And I love to hear the different accents — I love to know more about any other country. I’m very grateful and proud that Netflix is releasing this at the same time in 198 countries. And yes, it’s about the Mexican First Lady, but this is about how all the governments are corrupted. So it’s appealing for anybody, anywhere.

This is an interesting time to ask the question, “Can we trust our governments?”

Oh boy. Yeah. That’s a checkmark for Netflix. Their timing could not be better, and I think it’s going to open a lot of eyes, at least in Mexico. We’re going to speak about things that are going on in Mexico, that still hurt for us Mexicans, so it’s good that Americans learn a little bit more.

What kind of stuff are you talking about, when you say that?

There are things that hurt — like students that were killed, 43 students, where sadly nobody knows where they are, and it’s been one of the biggest things in this presidential term. That’s only one of the things. We just ask questions in the series. We don’t say exactly that, but we say that this [happened]. Instead of 43, it’s 33 or something like that. We are resembling what’s there but it’s still fiction. We want people to ask themselves, to question themselves.

So you’re saying that there are certain things that are based on real events, but are fictional for the show?

Exactly.

What do you think that does for the show? What advantage does that give you?

As a Mexican, if they’re going to talk about the First Lady of Mexico, I would expect that they’re going to give me a little bit more, and that they’re going to talk about the real stuff that’s going on in Mexico, even though it’s fiction. If not, then do another kind of series, not about the First Lady.

So for me, that’s important as a Mexican. As an actor, I wouldn’t be doing the Mexican First Lady if we were not talking about serious things that happen in Mexico. I couldn’t do it.

Also [it was important] to show the real Mexico, the way it is — not better, not worse, just the way it is. Because Mexico’s an amazing country.

Ingobernable

What do you think is the most real and grounded element of the show?

I’ve always thought the real corrupted people, the real criminals, are the ones who wear white shirts and a tie. We are corrupted. There’s always a good way to do things, but power and money and fear are the things that keep our government from doing the right thing. We have this tightness with our families, us Mexicans, and the family is everything. But this character is even willing to sacrifice her family for Mexico, which is huge.

What was the most fun element of making the show?

That I was in jeans, and running. I love action. It’s the physical things I love. I had a lot of fun, and I didn’t have to wear high heels. [Initially] I was like, “the First Lady, oh my God, I’m gonna have to be all done all the time.” Then it was like, “no, you are on the run the entire show.”

When I see women on TV, when they get to wear flats, my immediate reaction is always “that was probably a good day for that actress.”

[Laughs] Thank you for thinking that! Nobody notices that! But I chose to have the high heels for the [initial] running and all, when everything happens. Because she’s still the First Lady — come on.

“Ingobernable” Season 1 is now streaming on Netflix. 

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