The Dominican actor plays Diego Torres, a football player who's determined to find the truth about who framed Monty de la Cruz.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead.
You would think that after all the shit these kids have been through, their senior year at Liberty High would be a little less chaotic.
If you are a fan of 13 Reasons Why, you knew that was never going to happen. And this is where JanLuis Castellanos's character, Diego Torres, comes in.
"Diego was a fun character to bring to life. He gave me a chance to go back to high school," said the 24 year-old actor. "He is fierce. Loyal. His aggression can get in the way of things at times because he's so loyal."
Diego is the leader of Liberty High's football team. As one of Monty's closest friends, he's determined to find out who framed him. In the process, he becomes Jessica Davis's boyfriend. Even though their relationship is one-sided (Jessica *kinda* uses him to get information), several instances throughout the season confirm that Diego truly loves her. Yes, even after he finds out she was involved in Monty's arrest.
When I asked about his connection to the character, JanLuis said, "Diego is one of those characters that hit home."
JanLuis and I had a Zoom call where we talked about being Latinos in this country, his favorite cinema classics, and his decision to grow his hair during quarantine. He's a charismatic guy that has you holding on to every single word he says. After finishing the fourth season of 13 Reasons Why in one day (no joke), I really believe his was a perfect casting.
"Diego get's stuck between two worlds. Who can he trust? Does he trust [Jessica], or his boys who always have his back and vice-versa?" said JanLuis. "He gets stuck in a pretty good predicament."
The similarities between Jan Luis and his character are not a coincidence. Brian Yorkey, developer of the series, had a bunch of conversations with JanLuis during filming. He asked him about his own coming-of-age experience, his Latinx culture, and his past. Later on, JanLuis realized that a lot of the things he told Yorkey had made it into the final script.
"He even let me speak a bit of Spanish, which is a huge part of my culture. It made me feel more at home with my character," said the Dominican actor.
In Jan Luis's eyes, his role as Diego Torres is the biggest one of his career so far.
Obviously, he had heard of the show before he auditioned. Who hasn't? 13 Reasons Why rose to popularity after its controversial first season, starring Katherine Langford, sparked debates all-over the internet. The final season is the culmination of everything that happened to Clay Jensen and the students of Liberty High in the previous seasons.
"We wanted to make sure we sent these kids with a clear head, a clear mind, and able to let go of the dark times from the past," said JanLuis. "It's going to get more intense before it gets better."
When JanLuis moved to LA in 2018 to start his career, he struggled. He had about $50 dollars to his name and even had to sleep outside on Sunset Boulevard because he had nowhere to go. Back then, starring in one of Netflix's biggest shows seemed like a far-fetched dream.
"I was struggling, and when someone recommended I take an acting class as a form of therapy, I agreed. I had nothing to lose," JanLuis recounted.
The first time 13 Reasons Why reached out, he didn't know it was them. Netflix tends to be super discreet about their castings, and because he was busy with tests and modeling gigs, the actor didn't pursue the audition right away. But Netflix knows what they want. So, when they reached out for a third time and revealed what the project was, JanLuis couldn't say no. He went in for a screen test and did great. All there was left to do was wait.
"I had a ton of stuff going on at the moment. Little did I know that all the pent up emotion I had would be exactly what they were looking for," JanLuis said.
In the meantime, JanLuis focused on his current gigs. He was flying to Wyoming for a job when he received more news. Netflix wanted self-tapes of different scenes before they made their call, and they wanted them YESTERDAY.
Imagine you're chilling at the gate, waiting for your flight to board, and you see a guy acting out a dramatic scene? If you witnessed something like this, we know what happened. Before almost missing his flight, Jan Luis recorded his tapes on his phone and sent them to the producers.
THROUGH TEXT, Y'ALL.
"As soon as I touched down [in Wyoming], I had an offer," Jan Luis said. "It's crazy how things happen."
Now, I'm going to make an argument about why JanLuis's character is 13 Reasons Why last good guy. If you're a fan of the show, I know what you're thinking:
There aren't any good guys in Liberty High's football team.
And in the first two seasons, I would have agreed with you. There's Justin and Zach, but because they're friends with Clay Jensen, we gotta put them in a different category. And we can't forget about Charlie, of course. He must be protected at all costs.
Diego, on the other hand, is more football player than he is part of #TeamJensen. At first, I was quick to judge him. Again, it feels like no one who wears a light blue football jacket in this show deserves any sympathy from us, but I'm making a case for Diego Torres.
For starters, the guy's an incredible friend. Diego is not afraid to call out his friends, and although he starts the show acting like an asshole, he becomes better. He also loves Jessica, and gives her the benefit of the doubt when Winston rats her out. And finally, he respects people, even when he disagrees with them. One of his biggest moments this season came during the school protest, where he helps Justin after things take a violent turn.
"There's pressure in being part of a show this big. Especially coming in on the last season. You wanna make sure you live up to the expectations," recalled JanLuis about his experience.
Recently, I went back to my conversation with JanLuis and couldn't believe how similar he is to his character. He dances in between workouts at the gym and posts it for his followers to join. He's a cinephile at heart, who enjoys classics like Taxi Driver and The Fighter. And most importantly, he hustles for a future that he trusts is only going to get brighter and bigger.
After finishing 13 Reasons Why, I can confirm that JanLuis is a big part why the last season is also the best one. But you don't have to take my word for it when there are 10 electrifying episodes on Netflix waiting for you.
Pro-tip: know early on that despite the appearances, Diego Torres is one of the good guys.
Watch 13 Reasons Why only on Netflix.