Secaucus native Jan Luis Castellanos explores the other side of the “bridge and tunnel” in the Epix series


With the Epix drama series “Bridge and Tunnel,” storyteller and actor Ed Burns returns to exploring the lives and relationships between a tight-knit group of people orbiting Long Island and Manhattan. But unlike his films (which he started making in the ’90s and continues to make to this day), “Bridge and Tunnel” dates back to 1980. The show’s six-episode second season has just been released. to be created on Sunday,

Actor Jan Luis Castellanos plays Mikey Diaz, one of six friends entering their post-college lives floating between the (then) working-class suburbs of Long Island and Manhattan — or the “Manhattans” of their dreams.

For Castellanos, the parallels between him and his character Mikey – a talented artist turned accountant – are not lost on him. If you circle around Manhattan, Castellanos was completely a “Bridge and Tunnel” kid, growing up in Secaucus, graduating from Secaucus High School and then St. Peter’s University in Jersey City.

“I feel like we’re like the other side of New York, like Brooklyn,” Castellanos said in an interview last week. “The view is better. It has everything you want and need, if not more, that’s why I’m here.

Castellanos, who has appeared on Hulu’s “Runaways” series, the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” and the Snap Original series “Breakwater,” originally wanted to be a doctor. “I was also a biology student. I mean, I’m an actor now, which I think is quite the opposite.

The commonality between an actor and a doctor can be of interest to people. Castellanos retained a sense of curiosity that he stoked at Secaucus High, where he got to wrestle, go to choir, and then explore acting through the school’s drama club.

“There are certain things in terms of origin story and background,” Castellanos said. “We don’t really tap into Mikey’s high school side, but I can definitely say I feel like we come from a similar background. You know, Mike was a wrestler, a state champion, and I also in Jersey and all that stuff…you use all of that to fuel the rest of the story….Whether I wanted to be a doctor or an accountant, we were both really upset doing things for others rather than ourselves myself, and then you know he wants to move to the big city and start painting, and I want to move to the big city and start acting. It’s all relatively the same in terms of energy and, honestly, Either you do it or you don’t, and the result is that you will get it at the end of the day… after trying a little.

Turning to the 1980s of “Bridge and Tunnel,” in what series creator Burns called the ’70s dream, Castellanos identified how different the world is now – “Now it’s all more about the cell phone. It’s certainly changed a lot, because people are inspired by influencers now and back then, you were inspired by a rock star or an actor” – but also how the end goals should perhaps be the same.

“…Now we have no shortage of bold people and being themselves,” Castellanos said. “I think it’s also a pro for the new era – the new way of doing things, because it allows people to be themselves without shame. (I would say to) that person who wants to go out in the big city ​​and do things… if you don’t know what to do, do it anyway, because it brings a lot more life experiences. I still go through it to this day. Every time I go to a new town I learn a bit more about him and if he has a different language I’m intrigued because like I said I grew up in Jersey so if you’re continuously in Jersey everything what you will know is Jersey and New York and all your friends there is much more to explore.

The world of “Bridge and Tunnel” has high stakes but, tinged with a bit of nostalgia, it’s also a little easier to breathe.

“It’s a very optimistic show, but it’s good to be optimistic in life as a whole, especially in these dark times, you know?” said Castellanos. “I think it’s important to keep that balance.”

“Bridge and Tunnel” is “ultimately about people chasing their dreams, and I think in this second season we’ll see the rest of the cast double down a bit more just on that,” Castellanos said. “Season one was more about placing these characters and getting to know them a little bit, and they’re the ones actually trying to do that. We’ve only got six episodes, but I think we’ve done a job of letting people know that these guys are going all out, whether it’s through heartbreak or the loss of a friend. … You’re always going to have to go through some growing pains, and I feel like that’s what this season is all about, because these guys are coming of age and coming of age isn’t easy. Especially in New York.

Growing up in Secaucus gave Castellanos the best of both worlds in some ways. Its graduating high school class numbered less than 200 people.

“When I came to Secaucus it was starting to get very diverse and a lot of people were like me,” Castellanos said. “In a way, it’s a town that made you leave it, but you always find yourself coming back to it, and that’s what I love about Hudson County. Every time I land at Newark airport…I feel like home. My phone rings and it’s time to grab a sandwich at Giovannis Deli (in Secaucus).

“I have to thank Ed Burns and everyone, honestly, because I’ve been so lucky to come home and work in New York and live 10 minutes from my parents. … I can see my brothers and everyone. And that’s important to me – doing what I love and also keeping my roots. I think it’s a good balance, through and through. I have to give a lot of credit to Jersey for this one, Jersey is my pendulum.

“Bridge and Tunnel” airs Sunday nights on Epix.

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