The biggest winner from Sean Penn’s El Chapo interview

Narco culture has been good business for Kate del Castillo.
Narco culture has been good business for Kate del Castillo.
Image: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
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A few weeks before she would attract world-wide attention for reportedly arranging Sean Penn’s recent interview with drug cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, Mexican actress Kate del Castillo told the host of a lifestyle TV show in Mexico that she wanted to be involved in a more stable business than acting.

“I want something so I don’t have to be cracking my knuckles (link in Spanish) every time I finish a movie,” del Castillo told the show’s host, Rebecca de Alba, last month (Dec. 8).

She was referring to her new tequila brand, “Honor del Castillo,” but it was her participation in an operation to interview one of the world’s most notorious criminals, as detailed by Penn in an article for Rolling Stone, that has proved a publicity boon for the actress, until recently little-known outside Mexico. Penn said his interview with El Chapo would not have been possible without del Castillo, who provided the “ticket to El Chapo’s trust.” (The kingpin reportedly made contact with the actress after she famously tweeted in 2012 that she trusted him more than the Mexican government.)

Penn’s interview took place a few months ago, while El Chapo was the subject of a manhunt following his July escape from Penal del Altiplano, a maximum security prison in central Mexico. He was captured Jan. 8 as he fled the western city of Los Mochis in a stolen car after a shoot-out with Mexican law enforcement. Rolling Stone published Penn’s article the following day.

So far, del Castillo has yet to confirm or comment on Penn’s recollections of her involvement in the interview.

Del Castillo is no stranger to projects that touch on narco-culture.  She took on the role of a drug-cartel boss in not one, but two, soap operas on Telemundo, the popular La Reina del Sur, or The Queen of the South, and Dueños del Paraíso, or Owners of Paradise; and played a high-flying Mexican politician in season five of Showtime’s popular series Weeds.

She’s also made a number of guest appearances on other US shows, including Jane the Virgin and Grimm.

Del Castillo’s reported involvement in the Rolling Stone interview has given the actress substantial exposure in the US media and abroad.

Her new tequila brand also got a publicity boost. The drink makes a prominent appearance in the Rolling Stone piece, when Penn describes having taken a swig out of an Honor bottle with del Castillo to calm their nerves during a bumpy flight towards their clandestine rendezvous with El Chapo. Through her production company, del Castillo owns the rights to a video interview with El Chapo that was posted on Rolling Stone’s website.

Mexican authorities have said they want to question (link in Spanish) the actress about the meeting.