Berkeley-born Rafael Casal, co-writer and star of the 2018 Oakland-based film Blindspotting, is the next guest on 7x7's new podcast, People Will Talk.
He isn't the first movie star I've interviewed—or the 10th, or even the 20th. But he is definitely the funniest, most insightful, and the easiest to talk to. The up-and-comer still exists in that almost-famous limbo between being mostly unrecognizable on the street and being a legit paparazzi target; and let us tell you, Casal is lovably normal, and Bay Area to the bone.
We covered a lot of territory in our chat, from Casal's smart-ass antics growing up in Berkeley to his rather pointed opinions about cannabis, but what's not on the tape is still good stuff, humdrum though these things may be. Indulge me, will you?
Casal arrived at our recording studio 15 minutes late, having walked from the nearest BART station more than a mile away. Not only did he not roll up in a blacked-out SUV, as you might expect from someone whose movie opened the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and has since become a rebel yell for Oakland (like Fruitvale Station was before it), but the dude didn't even want to spring for an Uber. He was preparing for a talk at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts that evening, and he simply wanted the extra time to finesse his speech. So responsible!
When he walked in, he told us about how a famous person who had just @'d him on Instagram with big props for Blindspotting. That celeb? Another fellow Bay Arean, comedian Ali Wong. I congratulated him on being fangirled, but he was quick to correct me. "I was like 'I love you!'" So humble!
And for sound check, I always ask the guests what they had for breakfast, and he said, with a grin (or may be it was a grimace), "Pumpkin muffins." His mom had knocked on the door to his room (yep, he stays with his parents when he's back in town from Los Angeles—so tender!) asking if he wanted any of her fresh-baked pumpkin muffins for breakfast, which roused him from his slumber. Not the knocking-on-the-door part, but the huh?-what?-mom-actually-baked-something? part. So dubious!
On the verge on full-blown stardom, Casal is working hard to tip the scales in that direction, even if fame isn't the ultimate goal. (For the record, it's not—his singular achievements just happen to be fame-worthy.) Among other projects in the works, in June 2020, the veteran of Youth Speaks and HBO's Def Poetry Jam will debut his hip hop musical, The Limp, about millennial men and their struggles with love (he speaks from experience) at YBCA. He's also working with Daveed Diggs, his BFF, and Lionsgate, which distributed Blindspotting, on a new sci-fi romance about finding love after you fall asleep. When we talked about this on the podcast, I unintentionally outed myself as a presumptuous dolt. Did he let it slide? Tune in to find out.
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