Small town to big time

Soldotna man hopes ‘Crossing Jordan’ is big break

Posted: Sunday, February 11, 2007

On tonight’s episode of the NBC drama “Crossing Jordan,” boxer Tommy “The Kid” Riley finds himself caught up in events surrounding a murder.

If “The Kid” looks a little familiar to viewers on the central Kenai Peninsula, he should. Jose “Chille” DeCastro, the actor portraying the fighter, grew up here and is a 1992 graduate of Soldotna High School, where his friends and family knew him by his nickname Chelito.

DeCastro, 32, has been working hard and trying to make a name for himself in Hollywood for the past seven years. He’s kept busy making commercials and doing modeling jobs, but he’s hoping his role in “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” — the name of this week’s episode — will give his career a boost.

“This job will hopefully catapult me into more things,” DeCastro said by phone from California earlier this week.

He said he’s taken a somewhat winding road from Soldotna to Hollywood, starting with junior college in Oregon and a transfer to Arizona State University.

“Then I kind of ran out of money. I ended up quitting school my senior year, and I started doing stand-up comedy,” he said.

While he got to be pretty good at making audiences laugh, DeCastro said stand-up wasn’t really what he wanted to do. He made his way to Los Angeles, where his first break came on a popular children’s show.

“My first year I got lucky and booked Power Rangers,” he said.

However, he ran into a dry spell after that and while he went on plenty of auditions, he wasn’t able to land any roles. He’s been able to make ends meet with photo shoots for fitness publications. He said pictures of him still turn up in fitness magazines — though he’s not the one making any money off them. DeCastro also has a side business selling tanning accessories.

DeCastro said he spent his first few years in Hollywood learning a variety of acting techniques. He said he hasn’t perfected any single technique, but he is able to draw on aspects of each one and now feels comfortable breaking down a script before an audition.

“Now, there’s no doubt, I know how I’m going to perform,” he said.

DeCastro said he didn’t leave Soldotna wanting to become an actor.

“I always wanted to be an attorney. Somehow, I ended up living in Hollywood, California, and here I am.”

DeCastro called growing up in Soldotna a blessing.

“I have so much energy and short attention span. If I was raised in a city, who knows where it would’ve gotten me,” he said.

Wrestling also helped him to learn self-discipline, he said, as well as how to eat right to take care of his body. In fact, DeCastro said he has to be watching what he’s eating so he’s in top form for any calls he gets Monday.

“I can’t walk into a casting session on Monday and not look like the guy on ‘Crossing Jordan,’” he said.

DeCastro said he’s able to keep in touch with all the friends he’s made along the way through his page on MySpace.com.

“I love it when people contact me. They can Google my name. I get letters probably once a week — just don’t ask me for nutrition and health tips,” he said.

DeCastro said he likes living in Los Angeles, though the cliches about people being shallow can be true. The business can be tough, as well, but DeCastro said he’s been able to stay positive and remain true to himself.

“If I make it in Hollywood, I will have made it because I’m talented, aggressive and I went after it,” he said. “... I feel real lucky right now. I feel lucky I got to book on a prime time show.”

DeCastro said he’s more interested in money than fame, but to get to the point where he can make a lot of money acting, he has to keep working hard.

“This has to be a great year for me — otherwise, I have to consider becoming an attorney,” he said.

“Crossing Jordan” airs tonight at 9 on KTUU Channel 2.

Will Morrow can be reached at will.morrow@peninsulaclarion.com.



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