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Exclusive interview: Marvel’s Runaways star Jan Luis Castellanos on Topher, the newest villain

Luis Castellanos in a promo photo for Marvel Runaways
Jan Luis Castellanos discusses his new role on Marvel Runaways. Pic credit: Hulu

There’s nothing like a new villain to roll into town and shake things up, and on Hulu Original’s teen angst drama Marvel Runaways, handsome model-turned-actor Jan Luis Castellanos is filling the bill with fangs and a six-pack.

His character Topher is described as a survivor the Runaways meet on the street as they attempt to bring down their parents’ evil plans while laying low and not getting found out.

His character was initially announced to be part of Season 2 during the Runaways panel at New York Comic Con. The series returned December 21.

Dominican actor and model Jan Luis Castellanos is season two’s hot new bad boy in the cast. 

Castellanos’ was quoted in a press release from Marvel that was timed with the live announcement.

“I’m super grateful to be joining the Marvel/Hulu Runaways family. It has been a dream come true. Topher is a tough and complicated kid, and it was very exciting to bring him to life.”

In the comics, Topher is a vampire, armed with a “posse of minions who obey his every word” while he keeps his true nature hidden, for a while.

For those new to the series or not up on the comics, Marvel’s Runaways is the tale of superpowered teenagers in a fight with their own family, as their parents are part of a syndicate of evil villains. Season 2 adds new faces to the lineup, such as this cryptic villain, Topher.

Last season, the kids of Marvel’s Runaways learned that their parents were in fact, PRIDE, an evil syndicate of criminals.

The six Runaways Alex Wilder (Rhenzy Feliz), Nico Minoru (Lyrica Okano), Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner), Gert Yorkes (Ariela Barer), Chase Stein (Gregg Sulkin), and Molly Hernandez (Allegra Acosta) lived up to the title of the series and ran away at the end of Season 1.

Now Season 2 is showing us that adjustment to life on the street not under the wings of their parents, who are working overtime to return their kids back home.

We spoke to newcomer Jan Luis Castellanos about this fun new role.

Monsters and Critics: Marvel Runaways, coming back, season two. It’s going to be a lot more … 

Jan Luis Castellanos: Exciting, exciting, exciting!

M&C: Yes and with really dark scenes. Your character is Topher, and you’re described as a not-to-be-trusted vampire. What does that mean?

Jan Luis C: It means, of course, everybody has personal issues, and everybody has their secrets, so I guess he has to kind of put up a front for his friends. I don’t want to say too much.

I want you guys to really watch the show, but of course, he’s not one who should or is going to be trusted, I guess you would say.

It’s pretty exciting how you get to see two sides of him, I would say. You get to see a little bit of everything, and it gets pretty intense, so I don’t want to give away anything that you guys can’t handle.

M&C: Does your character, Topher, fall in love with any of your peers as the Runaways are fighting PRIDE, or do you form a relationship that’s special with anyone? Anything that you can kind of tease?

Jan Luis C: Well, there is somebody there, I feel. Not now, but in the future, hopefully. Someone that I can share a certain connection with, based on similarities.

Like I said, it gets pretty intense, and I’m really excited for it because you have the comic, but it can completely be taken the opposite direction, so you never know what can happen.

M&C: The runaways are fighting their parents, essentially. Now, are you just kind of like an outlier that sort of comes into the group?

Jan Luis C: Yes. They’re definitely fighting their parents, but my parents, they have no idea kind of what’s going on. They’re not involved with the parents.

Down the road, obviously, some history kind of connects, but I, at the end, kind of start being like the Topher, kind of coming in as a two-faced kind of guy, I embed and [am] fighting against their parents with them, along with them.

I mean, because it’s all pretty much in the comics, and obviously Topher tries to get his way. But yeah,  Topher’s parents are not involved with their parents.

M&C: Got it. Now, does your character have anything to do with arch villain Jonah?

Jan Luis C: Not that I know of. That would be really exciting.  It’s funny. He’s a big villain in almost everything I’ve watched, but when you talk to him in person, he’s like the sweetest guy. It’s just like, “Here, you’re completely different.”

M&C: Are there any little twists or any little things like a teaser that you can share with the fans of the show to watch for as it starts, and are you in all of the episodes or some of the episodes?

Jan Luis C: No, no, no, I come in on the third episode. Definitely not on the premiere, but Topher has a nice story arc, and it’s pretty cool stuff. They switch it up a bit, a little bit from the comic.

I guess maybe to give it a little bit more longevity. I’m not too sure, but it’s interesting the way they did it, and I’m pretty excited for what everyone’s going to see.

M&C: Yeah, you describe him as a complicated kid. What does that mean? Is he a good complicated kid or bad or troubled, complicated kid?

Jan Luis C: I would go with number two. People consider him as a villain. I don’t consider him as a villain.

One of the main reasons why I really love Topher is because it was very easy to really just to connect with him, and I just saw another human being, with obviously some superpowers, but it was just like this guy.

Personally, I don’t think he’s a bad guy at all. I don’t know, maybe because that’s my character, but I didn’t see.

He’s just a little complicated. Obviously, he has his personal issues, but I felt like to be in character, I felt he meant well in some areas, in some actions I saw. I saw [his] heart. I saw something in there.

M&C: So let’s talk about you personally for a minute. You were born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and then you became a Jersey boy.

So you were on this beautiful island where it’s sunny and nice beaches, and it’s all warm, and then you went to New Jersey when you were eight. It’s very cold.

Jan Luis C: It was a huge culture shock. All around, really. Not even just the cold. I actually felt the cold actually as soon as I walked out of the airfield. I’m like “Oh my gosh, is it really that cold out here?”

And then I finally got to meet my mom, from what I remember, and she was just holding a jacket there, and I just couldn’t believe how cold it was. But going to school, starting a new school and all that, it was very hard because of the fact that I couldn’t speak English.

Spanish is my first language, but I lived in Union City for a little bit, and then I moved over to Secaucus. And moving into a town where it was hard to find ESL (English as a second language) at the time.

I had to really force myself to learn English, and sometimes I feel like I still have my accent, so it’s just weird, but that’s okay.

But yeah, it was a hard transition, trying to communicate with friends, trying to even make friends. If I have to make friends it would have to be with the Spanish people that only spoke Spanish, that understood me, and that was about it. And then there weren’t that many, so it was definitely tough.

M&C: Right, I can imagine. Your English is impeccable. How did you learn it so? Did you watch Sesame Street? What did you watch that made your English sound so good?

Jan Luis C: A lot of Robert De Niro!

M&C: Oh, so that explains your Twitter header. Okay, I was like, “Oh, that’s an interesting Twitter header he has.”

Jan Luis C: Yes, yes, yes. He’s an actor that I idolize. No, I see him, and I see confidence. I see a badass. I see somebody that’s really in it to win it every single time, feeling comfortable and relaxed, so that’s me at heart, and he does a great job at it, so growing up, I used to watch a lot of his movies, especially the old ones and stuff.

So I was just always telling myself, “Wow, that’s just so cool. This guy’s …” He drags me in, and something about. Denzel Washington, too, is another great one.

I love watching. These guys have just tremendous confidence when they’re right behind the lens. It’s just wow, okay. Wow, how do I do that? How can I? How can I emulate that, you know?

M&C: I noticed on your Instagram of course, you became a model. Were you discovered or did you send your photos in? I mean, how did that happen? 

Jan Luis C: Well, thank you. Thank you. Yeah, actually I lost 70 pounds. A lot of people don’t know that. Not many people know that.  I was kind of chubby for a couple years, two years, maybe.

Almost two years, but like a year and a half, and I didn’t feel healthy. I didn’t feel myself because I was a top athlete in high school and it was just one of those things where you kind of go through the motions and lose it, but I’m glad that I got back on my feet and I was able to lose the 70 pounds.

After I had lost the 70 pounds, I was discovered through Instagram, actually, by my modeling agent, and through that, I always knew that I wanted to act.

That’s my passion, and I was able to finally find a way to get out to L.A. because I didn’t know how I was going to pay the bills. I didn’t know how. A little gym job wasn’t going to cut it, you know what I mean?

And if I had the gym job, I probably wouldn’t have enough time to go to class and then try to do an audition whenever I could or this and that.

So I was just like, “Wow, this is such a great opportunity,” and they flew me out here to L.A., and I was able to work, work, pay the bills, and I was able to stay connected to some amazing people that guided me, and now I’m here on the phone with you.

M&C: Well, you’re a real inspiration for a lot of people, and I know that you’re a hard worker. Anything else you might want to say?

Will you be booked on Desus and Mero? I know that Mero is a Dominican living in Jersey, so you guys can bond over that!

Jan Luis C: I would not mind at all, to be honest, but they have not approached me. I’m right here. My family’s from Jersey, so I don’t mind taking an airplane whenever!

It’s not easy, but I believe anyone can do whatever it is that they put their minds to, and thank you guys for the support. I know I’m not a crazy star or anything like that, but it really, truly helps, and it keeps me motivated, so. And I can’t wait for you guys to watch the show.

I am excited to discover Topher myself. I mean, I was playing the guy, but I was just like, “I want to see him in a third-person kind of deal.” I feel like I’m going to be freaked out.


Season two of Marvel’s Runaways premiered on December 21 on Hulu


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