Actor Kate del Castillo made headlines in October 2015 for taking Sean Penn on a risky trek to meet with notorious Mexican drug lord and fugitive Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in a remote location in Mexico. She has no regrets about the incident, even though it hurt her acting career and prevented her from returning to her homeland for about three years.
“That was an episode of my life that I do not regret at all,” del Castillo said Tuesday during her appearance at the winter Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena, Calif. to promote the new season of her Telemundo drama series “La Reina del Sur.” “It was an experience I will keep in myself and will last forever. I regret that I didn’t follow my instincts in many ways.”
Del Castillo was believed to be alluding to the falling out that she subsequently had with Penn over the incident, which he wrote about at length for Rolling Stone. She has in the past indicated that she believes Penn’s story helped Mexican authorities locate and arrest Guzman, who is now on trial in federal court in New York for drug trafficking and other charges.
“They didn’t call me to testify — I’m happy about that,” del Castillo said about the trial. In 2017 she produced a Netflix documentary recounting her version of how her visit with Penn unfolded, “The Day I Met El Chapo.”
Del Castillo said she was afraid to return to Mexico for about three years out of fear of being arrested because of her connection to Guzman, who is seen by some as a Robin Hood-esque character who aided the poor in rural Mexico through the profits of his criminal enterprise. Her inability to travel to Mexico cost her work, she asserted.
At the time of the El Chapo visit, she was about to start work on the Netflix series “Ingobernable,” in which she played the first lady of Mexico. And when the “La Reina del Sur” production headed to Mexico for filming, she had to stay in Colombia while her scenes were handled through CG and a stunt double.
“I didn’t work for a long time because of my little thing,” she said. “I’m no Angelina Jolie. I don’t earn that kind of money. For me it was kind of tough to pay all the lawyers in America and in Mexico without a job.”
Del Castillo said she was warned by her legal counsel not to return to Mexico while President Enrique Pena Nieto was in power. He was succeeded in November by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, which del Castillo took as an opening to visit her parents over the holidays.
“I spent Christmas with my parents which was the most emotional time,” she said. Although del Castillo has dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship, she defiantly insisted on showing her Mexican passport as she crossed the border. She had a tense 25-minutes or so when her passage was held up by authorities, but she was eventually cleared to enter the country.
“It wouldn’t have happened if I came in with my American passport. I was like ‘I’m Mexican. I am going to enter my country being proud of being a Mexican,’ and that’s what I did,” she said. “I had the best time with my parents. I slept right between them. I needed that. I’m a 46-year-old woman. I felt like I was 7.”
Based on a novel, “La Reina del Sur” was a smash for Telemundo in 2011. The sequel was a long time in coming in part because producers had to develop an original story beyond the novel. The new season had a much bigger budget and was lensed in eight countries, including Russia, Romania, Spain, Italy, Colombia and the U.S.
“This is the most ambitious Spanish-speaking project ever,” she said. “I’m very proud to say that.”