Adriana (Paulina Gaitan) is a 13-year-old girl from Mexico City whose kidnapping by sex traffickers sets in motion a desperate mission by her 17-year-old brother, Jorge (Cesar Ramos), to save her. Trapped and terrified by an underground network of international thugs who earn millions exploiting their human cargo, Adriana's only friend and protector throughout her ordeal is Veronica (Alicja Bachleda), a young Polish woman tricked into the trade by the same criminal gang. As Jorge dodges immigration officers and incredible obstacles to track the girls' abductors, he meets Ray (Kevin Kline), a Texas cop whose own family loss to sex trafficking leads him to become an ally in the boy's quest.
Fighting with courage and hard-tested faith, the characters of Trade negotiate their way through the unspeakable terrain of the sex trade "tunnels" between Mexico and the United States. From the barrios of Mexico City and the treacherous Rio Grande border, to a secret internet sex slave auction and the final climactic confrontation at a stash house in suburban New Jersey, Ray and Jorge forge a close bond as they give desperate chase to Adriana's kidnappers before she is sold and disappears forever into this brutal global underworld, a place from which few victims ever return.
The debut American feature of one of Germany's leading young directors, Marco Kreuzpaintner, Trade is produced by Roland Emmerich and Rosilyn Heller from a screenplay by Oscar nominee Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries) that was inspired by the New York Times Magazine cover story The Girls Next Door written by Peter Landesman.
In the film, Kate Del Castillo plays the villainous Laura, who aids in abducting the young Adriana. Del Castillo is a veteran of the Mexican telenovela scene, and was nominated last year for an Ariel, Mexico's version of the Oscar. We recently met up with the very beautiful actress to discuss her role in one of this year's scariest dramas.
Here is that conversation:
Can you talk a little bit about what attracted you to this project?
Kate Del Castillo: Yes, it was a couple of things. I originally auditioned for a completely different role. Then I auditioned again maybe two or three months later. And I got this part. Which I was thrilled to do. Because its just of one story and meaning. I think this (the sex trade) is something we should all be aware of, and know. I had fun too. Time was tight, but I had a very good time doing it. I had a great time working with Kevin Kline. It was Kevin Kline, so of course I did. I had a very, very good time doing that. It was very touching for me, this role. I had to empathize as an actress. How could you empathize with this thing, which is so horrible? That's were it got tricky as an actor. But I loved it.
Were you aware that the sex trade industry was so prominent in the United States?
Kate Del Castillo: Yeah, I was. I'd heard of it. I knew it happens. I didn't know it was that bad. I didn't know that they went through Mexico to come here. I didn't know how they do it, and how they trick the little girls. I didn't know that the virgins would be at a higher cost. I didn't know those horrible things. I appreciate that I now have an understanding of it. It's horrible, because you really can't do anything about it. I think this movie might do something, make people aware of it.
How did you go about humanizing her? She is quite a villain.
Kate Del Castillo: You have to think, "Why is she doing this?" Its because the same thing happened to her. It was like, "Why is she going to be nice to this girl?" There is a saying that I love. It's a phrase. "The most dangerous people are the ones that have gone through it. Because they know you can survive." That was my main thing. My premise for the role. "I know that you can survive, so don't cry about it. Look at me. I'm here and I'm okay." There's this other thing with Kevin Kline. He might be my father, so there is this uncomfortable thing about him being there. Its not about him being a cop. Nobody knows this. This was my work, this was my inside job. I felt uncomfortable around this guy, and I didn't like him. I wasn't ready for that, because I haven't had love my entire life. You try to do things to humanize it, and make it human. It's hard when you are dealing with this type of role.
Can you talk about working with Paulina Gaitan?
Kate Del Castillo: Paulina was great. She was a tremendous actress. She was so professional. We talked a lot. We wanted it where you didn't know what these two characters were going to do to one another. We wanted it to be, maybe, a sexual thing. Not for the little girl, but when I am touching her, or brushing her hair. I just did my thing. I wouldn't tell her what I was going to do. She is so sensitive. The whole thing was horrible for her. I tried to talk to her a lot, because she was getting ruined by the character. The other guys? The Mexican actors? I loved them. They are so good. The bad guy? I loved to act against him. We had a great time.
You mentioned that you originally auditioned for a different character that was written out? Which character was that?
Kate Del Castillo: My mother. The junkie. It was just one scene. But I wanted to do it. It was a really good scene. But they revised the script, and that scene got lost. Kevin Kline's character talks about her. And that she was a junkie. That's why she gave her daughter away.
How did you feel when they offered this second role to you? Were you honored?
Kate Del Castillo: To be honest, they didn't offer it to me. I auditioned like it was a whole new movie. I went in there and auditioned for another role. I bought a prop gun and took it to the audition. She holds the gun to him, you know? So I did that to the casting director. I put the gun against her head. I think that's what got me the part. They were scared. They didn't know I was going to do that. It was a completely different role. I loved it even more.
How different is this film compared to the telenovelas you are so well known for?
Kate Del Castillo: I loved the telenovelas I did. I just ended up doing too many of them. The joy of something like this, is you get to do different stuff. You know when it starts and when it ends. You also know how it's going to end, so you have a chance to get in there and really do your thing. Your craft, whatever it is you do. It's so hard with a telenovela, when you do two hundred of them, to try and keep the same thing. Not just with the actor, but with the writers too. It's hard to keep that consistency. My approach to these sorts of film roles is a completely new thing to me. It's a different thing from what I did, and it is so much fun. I was bored with what I used to do. It wasn't bad, because I learned so much. And everything I know came from that. It was like great training. I wouldn't be the actress I am right now if I didn't have that training. They gave me a big name in Mexico and America. And the training is there.
Did the producers give you enough information on the topic of the film? Or did you have to study on your own?
Kate Del Castillo: I always did my own research, because you can't really rely on anyone, except maybe the director, Marco Kreuzpainter. You never know if they are going to give you enough tools to work with on your own. So I do my own research. That's the way I work. Actually, Marco was great. I would go on the internet and search whatever I wanted. When I saw the amount of girls and boys that had been abducted, it certainly opened up my mind. But the director gave me certain tools, and we worked on it. It was really harsh. I was only there for a couple of days, because I had to fly to Chili for another film. They were waiting for me. It was like nonstop work. And Marco was really sick during that time. It was really chaotic and intense. I was so glad that Marco was really clear about the role. He knew what he wanted, and we didn't waist any time. When I got there, Kevin Kline, Marco, and I went to Kevin Kline's suite. And we worked on this for two hours together. That, I will never forget. I was so grateful for that opportunity. Both Kevin and Marco were working all day long. They just came in, wrapped, and gave me a couple of hours to work with them. People usually aren't that nice.
They used a lot of handheld cameras during this production. How was it working in that environment?
Kate Del Castillo: I love it. When you have been doing this for so long, you are really aware of where the camera is. In a way, you have to go to your mark, because you don't want to mess up the lighting. Or the camera placement. When it is handheld, it is free. You can do whatever you want. Any movement, it is going to be there. It was liberating. It was great. Doing a telenovela, there are three cameras all the time. It's like that. This is not that specific. I love the handheld camera. It is very liberating.
Did you have any input into your dialogue? Did you improvise during some of these intense scenes?
Kate Del Castillo: I always have a little bit of trouble when someone who is not Mexican is writing a Mexican part. Because they have a little bit of a problem when they write it down. They can't get how we speak. So I just try to stick to the script, but I added a lot of stuff. Like the part where I tell her, "Come on, smile." There's that, and some real cursing with the other guy. That was me. I always ask the director first, but I did do a lot of adlib. Especially because it's not my first language. As you can see. It was really difficult. I see Americans say two or three things in Spanish, and they mess up all the time. I tell them, "That's what is happening with me. But now you can help me with my English." It is really difficult. I am not that comfortable improving in English. But I can do it in Spanish. I try to stick more closely to the words.
You mentioned the role of the mother as being Oscar worthy. Would you be more excited about an Oscar or an Ariel (Mexico's version of the Oscar)?
Kate Del Castillo: You know what? I have to be honest and say the Oscar. It is international. The Ariel? People won't know it except my people in Mexico. But I would love to have an Ariel. I was actually nominated for one last year. But come on, the Oscars are the Oscars. It's about working. I want to work. I don't care if it's in Hollywood. But if you get an Oscar, they will know you everywhere. Maybe that will get you some work in Spain. That I would kill for. I would love to work in Spain. Or Argentina. Or wherever. But this is where everything comes from.
You had to have green eyes in this. How did you like wearing those contacts?
Kate Del Castillo: That was a nightmare. I loved the way it looked, but it was a nightmare. The contacts were really big, so they covered your entire eye. Every time they yelled cut, I had to take them out. I've never had contacts before. They were big and thick, and I have never had to wear those kinds before. I had to let them cool down after they put them in. Seeing my costars was the hardest part about it.
Trade opens September 28th in Los Angeles and New York.