AL CORONEL – EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

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Photo by Dennis Apergis

Photo by Dennis Apergis

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Regional Leader Manuel Castillo, played by Al Coronel, has been one of the quieter politicians throughout season three of “The Last Ship”. However, episode twelve, “Resistance”, brought him into sharp focus, detailing him as one of the ringleaders behind the dissolution of the USA. It starkly uncovered his role in the political situation, exposing atrocities that, in the post-apocalyptic world, are shockingly seen as both necessary and normal.

We talked to Al about Castillo, his role in the coup, and look at what’s coming next for him as an actor. We started by asking the obvious: give us his take on episode twelve, “Resistance”.

“In episode twelve, it becomes evident that I am one of the main ringleaders of this plot to overthrow the government and basically separate the United States into four regions.”

“I’ll be taking control of the entire West Coast, because I take over the area that was governed by Senator Beatty before his death. I take it over by force, and it angers the other regional leaders. We get into quite the argument about why I felt it was okay to take over Beatty’s region, and I said it’s just a matter of geography. We have the Rocky Mountains that are separating us from the rest of the United States, so unless you’re willing to climb up and over those mountains, I’m going to take control of that area. Then some dissension takes place among the regional leaders with respect to Price threatening to not allow the oil to get to where we need it to get in order to keep my people running. Then I threaten to shut down my operation, where, basically, I’ve turned a lot of citizens into slave labour, in which they’re forced to work, otherwise they don’t get the rations they need to survive.

Al Coronel

“The Nathan James comes in, and there’s a question of whether or not it’s been destroyed, because we blow up a ship! We presume it’s the Nathan James, but we end up finding out that it’s the Chinese vessel that they had attacked earlier. The Nathan James towed it and used it as a decoy, giving them enough of a diversion to allow them to land on the West Coast. They’re coming to San Diego, and I’m in charge of that region. I make an attempt to try and destroy the Nathan James because I have control over the military. The military has also been divided into four groups, with each regional leader in charge of a certain amount of troops. We’ve also done away with a lot of the military leadership: we actually assassinated four of the major generals that were at the same level as Tom Chandler. We end up taking away the chain of command so that we’re the ones in charge of the military.

“It really gets very dicey! They stop a train that they assume is carrying more weapons, and they find the train is basically loaded with citizens who have been turned into slave labour. They think they’re doing a good thing by releasing them, but the citizens look at them and say ‘let us go to work. If we don’t work, we don’t feed our families.’ That also really upsets the crew, and saddens Tom Chandler. He’s starting to lose his moral compass by this point, so you start to see him do and say thing that you wouldn’t have expected him to because he’s always held himself to a high moral ground about himself, and he starts to lose that sense of himself. You’re going to see vigilante justice, which is going to shock everybody. It shocked me when I read the script. Some of the things he does in episode twelve are going to shock, as well as in episode thirteen.”

By this point, we’re gobsmacked.

“So this is the climactic arc for my character, and it’ll be an episode that will feature Castillo from beginning to end, literally.”

To be honest, we didn’t expect Castillo to be one of the absolute ringleaders, and it took us by surprise.

“The writers were so good. They kept where they were going with the stories close to their heart,” he explained. “Steven Kane, the showrunner, and Hank Steinberg, the co-creator, they pulled me aside and told me what was happening with my character, and I was blown away. Even I didn’t see that coming. They really surprised us with every episode script we would get handed.”

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Thing is, we still don’t really know much about who Manuel Castillo is, so we asked Al to tell us about his background, where he’s come from. “Manuel Castillo was someone who was working for a very prominent businessman, who owned a large network of limousine companies,” said Al. “I was his right hand man. Due to my ability to be immune to the virus, everybody around me that was in charge had basically perished due to the virus. I took it upon myself to keep my town together, to keep everybody around me safe, keep rioting at bay and make sure that everybody still survived in my region. Through that, I rose to prominence, and when the government was trying to restructure, they came to me and said ‘since you were able to keep this region together, we’d like you to be one of our regional leaders and one of our liaisons between the government and the people as we try and rebuild this government.

Al Coronel & Mark Moses“In the process, in episode five we were having a meeting with Michener, he was talking about land grabs, and we were a little upset that he bad brought in the military and forced people from their shelters. Michener said ‘those aren’t shelters, those are land grabs’. I said that it was an oversimplification, and he said ‘oh really, well I live in a hotel next door, and I see where you live, Manuel. You live in a mansion. Do you even know whose mansion that was?’ So you get a sense of where the regional leaders are being somewhat self serving, and taking somewhat advantage of that. Even Beatty makes a comment: ‘we’re here to help you as much as we’re here to help ourselves’. There’s that feeling of being seated at a table, and basically feasting on the misfortune of our people.”

There has to be a reason behind why someone would conspire against their own country, right? “There was that feeling that the government had failed us before, and they were failing us again with the ration cards, not allowing people to get to their money in the banks,” Al said.

(Right to left) Eddie Driscoll, Dougald Park, Lucy Butler & Al Coronel

(Right to left) Eddie Driscoll, Dougald Park, Lucy Butler & Al Coronel

“For example, if I have enough money to buy six boxes of cereal, why am I only allowed to buy one? Michener tried to make sense of it, by saying it was a way of trying to stop people from hoarding, and giving everybody an equal opportunity to get supplies. We didn’t quite agree with that. There was a lot of stuff we didn’t agree with, and a lot of it had to do with how it would benefit us individually. Being that we split up the United States into five regions, although it’s four now, we’re basically becoming separatists.”

Fascinating as the politics in the US is in the show, everyone’s heart lies with the Nathan James and her crew. We wondered whether the Asia plot was simply a means to keeping Chandler out of the way. “That was something that Shaw, along with the regional leaders, thought up, to divert resources – i.e., Tom Chandler – away from us and to use him, with his military resources, to basically destroy Tom Chandler. We knew that he would be one of our adversaries who would try to stop us moving forward with this plan. He and Michener had such a tight, strong hold on rebuilding this country.”

It certainly makes for an interesting plot, and one that has driven season three beyond anything we could have imagined. Castillo certainly made his mark in “Resistance”, and we asked Al what it was like coming into such an established cast and having to make his mark. “When I first read for the role, it was just a one paragraph audition to the camera, and it was me addressing the president over and intercom. It was a very direct audition,” he said. “I was in the room with actors who had been series regulars, and stars of their own series on many levels. So I wasn’t intimidated, but it was a sense of ‘this was where I need to be’. As an actor, this is the kind of company I’m going to be getting used to going up against. When I got cast, it was told to me that this may or may not be a recurring character. He was like a union boss that has come into power, but it wasn’t clear to me what the extent of it was.

“I’ve been familiar with Eric Dane’s work, and Bridget Regan, and all these other individuals. I’d become a fan of the show long before I knew I would be auditioning.”

As an actor, I was really excited. Another thing that really excited me about this opportunity is that I have prior military experience myself. I spent eight years in the Marine Corps, so going onto a show where there was such a military presence – because there were military liaisons that were on set, making sure that was being said, or the way that the military was being portrayed was accurate to what it is in the real world – that, for me, was a sense of pride, because I could see they were doing it right, portraying the military as it should be portrayed., and making sure that any inaccuracies would be avoided.

“I was made to feel so at home that there was never a sense of ‘oh my god, I’d better deliver’. It just felt so natural for me to come onto that set. The cast, the crew, they made it such an enjoyable experience that, as I got asked to come back on another episode, and then another episode…”

“Finally, Steven Kane pulled me aside with the other actors who portrayed the other regional leaders, and said ‘there’s a lot of work coming your way. Now that we see what we’re working with, and how each individual actor is portraying that role, we’re getting ideas on where we’re going to take your character.’ And, of course, a few episodes later, Steven Kane pulled me aside again and said ‘you’ve got a big one coming up’. This was episode twelve, and I’m really excited to see it myself.”

We commented that Castillo had never really been on the radar throughout the season. “I think that was part of it,” said Al. “Who’s pulling the strings? Nobody really knows at this point. Now, people are assuming that Shaw’s pulling the strings. If you saw the interaction between Price and Shaw in this last episode [“Scuttle”], Price tells Shaw ‘you may have set the table, but we’re buying the groceries, and we’re cooking the meal’. There’s still a lot to be learned about who’s actually pulling the strings.”

(Left to Right) Marissa Neitling, Eric Dane, Al Coronel & Director Anton Cropper

(Left to Right) Marissa Neitling, Eric Dane, Al Coronel & Director Anton Cropper

We’ve seen a lot of behind the scenes pictures that Al’s posted on social media, and we asked him what had been the most fun thing to film in the show. “There’s a scene where I get roughed up and tossed around, and Jocko Sims’ character, Burk, gets to handcuff me in front of Eric Dane and Adam Baldwin’s characters – Captain Tom Chandler and Captain Slattery. It’s a scene that takes place at a train depot after they’ve basically freed all these slave labour citizens. There was a lot of fun in shooting that, because it was the first time we got to shoot some gunplay. They were shooting dust pellets at our feet, to make it look like bullets were hitting the ground, which I thought was really, really interesting. The fun part was making believe that all these explosions were going on around us, and then seeing the special effects reel at the wrap party where they were showing us what it was going to look like. I remember thinking ‘there was no helicopter in that scene, where did this helicopter come from? Where are these rocket explosions coming from? All these things blowing up around us, none of that was happening in real life, so the special effects team on the show is phenomenal. They showed us the before and the after, and I was just blown away by what they’re able to create out of nothing.”

al_coronel_01Not many people know that Al has a really diverse background: former Marine, personal trainer, stunts, even salsa dancing! Is there anything Al can’t do?? “The one thing I’d like to do is walk in space,” he laughed. “But I think I’ve missed my window to do that! I spent about fourteen years dancing salsa professionally, teaching and performing. The salsa dancing and the military sort of overlapped, because I took on salsa as a hobby when I was still in the military. When I was getting out of the military I started competing and performing, and was invited to go to Europe to teach. I spent some time in London, teaching in Hampstead, and then London became the hub for me, I’d fly from London to Switzerland, then back to London, then London to Germany, and back to London, London to Scotland… So it was the main hub where I spent a cumulative time of six to seven months in Europe and the UK, teaching and performing. I was shocked as to how huge the salsa scene is in Europe!”

Al is also appearing in the next Wolverine movie. “I play a Federale Commander of a Mexican military unit, but you don’t know if I’m on the side of good, or the side of bad. For anybody who follows the Marvel universe, and a particular Wolverine comic book story, it’s going to be a real treat for faithful Wolverine fans. I get asked all the time ‘is it this storyline’, and I can neither confirm nor deny that! Some people have been right on the money without me saying anything! Some people really are some dedicated fans! Working on set with Hugh Jackman was a pleasure. He’s probably one of the nicest megastars whom I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside.”

Nice as this talk of Wolverine is, we bring the conversation back to “The Last Ship”. Can we expect to see more of Castillo – and Al – in season four? Al paused for a moment before answering. “You know, that’s a good question,” he said. “When I wrapped, I went up to Steven Kane and all the writers and producers and said ‘thank you for the opportunity. I’ve been a fan of the show since before I was on it, and I’ll continue to be a fan now that I’m done.’ They looked at me and said ‘don’t assume anything yet, because you are still alive!’ We’ll see what happens.

Al with Emerson Brooks“I’m so grateful for the opportunity, and I honestly don’t know where they would take my character’s arc at this point! Once he’s captured and taken into custody, I’m not sure what more my character’s existence could contribute to the storyline. I’d be interested to see in what capacity that would take place.”

Whether or not Al appears in season four, he’s genuinely happy for the cast and crew. “I’m so very happy for Steven Kane and Hank Steinberg, and the rest of the crew – writers, producers – for the renewal of the show for season four. For me, this season is the most exciting to date on the show. We were at Emerson’s house watching the last episode, and when Marissa Neitling’s character Kara shoots that secret service agent at Jacob’s house, that caught me by surprise! We all yelled! There’s moments like that where, even though you’re on the show, you don’t see coming, or you don’t view them as impactful as they turn out to be on the show. That’s a tribute to the amazing crew working on the show.”

So, seeing as we may or may not get more Castillo in season four, we asked Al what was next for him. “I’ve just shot an episode of ‘Notorious’, a new show that’s about to premiere on ABC, starring Piper Perabo, and so I’m looking forward to that airing. I have a two episode guest star that’s going to be airing in late September or early October on the ABC series ‘Secrets and Lies’. That was something that I shot quite a while ago, even before I shot ‘The Last Ship’. I’m excited to see that. There’s all this stuff that’s starting to air in this big clump for me, so it’s good. It’s good momentum. I just went in to audition for the Netflix series ‘Narcos’, so I’m just waiting to hear back on that. It’s a really good role, and if that comes through, I would be going to Colombia for four to six months to do that. I was talking to Boyd Holbrook – he’s the star of season one and two of Narcos, and is in the next Wolverine movie, too – and he was telling me it was a lot of fun, but also a significant amount of work, in trying to deal with some of the logistics and the way the script was written, and how they had to, in some cases, make up dialogue as the scenes were being shot. That can be quite nerve-racking, I’m sure!”

So we may not have “The Last Ship” over the long winter hiatus, but it looks as though we have plenty of Al to tide us over! Thanks for talking to us, Al Coronel – it was a pleasure!


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