A major new Marvel character is making its small-screen debut on December 21 with Runaways' bingeable season season: Topher. Fans of Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona's original Runaways comic obook will remember him as the vampire who stirred up a lot of drama for the team - and actor Jan Luis Castellanos looks to be doing the same on TV.
Castellanos spoke with Newsarama just days before his Runaways debut, and spoke about expectations fans (and he himself) has for the character, the character's comic book roots (and finale), and the connection he has with Allegra Acosta's Molly.
Newsarama: Jan Lius, what can you tell us about your character?
Jan Luis Castellanos: He’s not all that he seems to be. I believe he’s a very complicated kid. In the comics he’s a vampire, he’s been around for quite some time.
He comes into Season 2 as a character who tries to redefine himself after so much history that we are not yet aware of. That will be pretty interesting to watch to see where Topher really comes from.
Nrama: What was the auditioning process like to get the role?
Castellanos: The auditioning process was very exciting. I was going to a lot of auditions in general, and then this one came across. It was cool because Marvel is very discrete about things. I was just like, "I’ll do what I know how to do best – I’ll do my best." I went in there and I didn’t really know what I was auditioning for. I had a callback, and I always just wanted to make sure I was prepared going into the room being off book, especially. So the lines could come out naturally.
The auditioning process was kind of nerve-wrecking, especially towards the end. You would go to callbacks, and have all these people in the room that are giving you direction and all of that stuff.
The cool thing about it was that after I had finished doing the audition they actually asked to talk about my life and myself. That was one of the things I felt most comfortable doing in front of the camera, and I did it for I think an hour and a half. That was amazing that Marvel caught a glimpse of my actual story.
For me, Topher really touched me personally because there were a lot of similarities. We had a lot in common. Latin kid, fluent in Spanish. This and that. I grew up in the Dominican Republic, and it’s not easy. You have to be very street smart in a way, and I felt Topher had that. It was pretty cool to put that into a character like Topher.
Nrama: Did you read any of the Runaways comic books to prepare for the role or even after you got the role?
Castellanos: Yeah after I had gotten the role I found out who I actually was, and I had to go get the Runaways comics.
I believe it was volume 7 where he shows up. So I can get to learn a little bit about him. I didn’t get to go through all of them because work came so fast, but that it was just being on set every single day.
Just bringing him to life was very exciting, and learning a lot about him. I was just like "WOW! There's a lot there." He’s been around for quite some time from what I read up on.
Nrama: Even though the show seems to have their own take for the character. Are there any similarities you see with vampire Topher and your version of the character?
Castellanos: I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but there are some similarities I feel, but it can be taken a different way we know that. There are some similarities there with Molly. As we saw in the trailers both Topher and Molly have the glowing eyes. It’s yet to be determined where his vampire powers come from in the show.
So we will just have to wait and see what happens. You may be able to know he’s a vampire in this season. You may not. But there is for sure a lot of curiosity behind Topher. He’s almost like a two-faced kind of guy. Of course, everyone has their secrets and personal issues.
The main word I can come up with is "complicated," but that’s what makes him, him.
Nrama: Your character is going to have a big connection to Molly. Can you tell us a bit about their relationship?
Castellanos: At first, I think the same way Molly is curious about Topher. Like who is this guy that’s sort of like me. Topher has that same curiosity because he’s never met anyone else – that I’m aware of. It builds that connection. “Where do you come from” and “where do I come from?” type of story.
Obviously, there are some trust issues between the Runaways and Topher because he comes out of nowhere and into the picture. And what we know about the comics he’s a vampire that’s not to be trusted. They’re all on their own. So for them to accept this guy takes some proving to do. Some trusty task for Topher to take into his own hands then, and really take control of the whole thing.
Nrama: Do you think there’s a relationship in particular with Molly or another character that Topher puts a wedge in this season?
Castellanos: Well Topher may have a love interest. Who knows. I don’t think that’s his priority. There might be some flirting, but I think his eyes is really on the prize. The main focus is not having a love interest right now. Especially because he’s the whole “he’s not what he seems to be” type of guy.
Nrama: Tell us about Topher’s powers. Does the show go into the origins of his abilties?
Castellanos: This season we will get some story with his parents. We will get to understand Topher’s family a lot more. It was really cool that I got to show that because it was another way for me to relate to Topher with a Spanish-speaking family. Especially when you are foreign, it’s a little bit of a tough environment for any kid. With Topher we get to learn a lot about his family. Then that leads us to learning more about Topher and his secrets.
It shows that there is a lot more to this character that we don’t know, which kind of throws them off in the sense of that the Runaways trusted this guy, but now what. What are we doing with Topher here? I don’t think he can be trusted, but there’s a lot more to it. He’s still trying to find himself. This is the first time he’s come across someone like him, which is Molly. It’s pretty interesting how things can go.
Nrama: Can you tell us a bit about his relationship with his parents? What we learn about them this season?
Castellanos: Let’s see, without giving any spoilers. I don’t want to get into trouble. He and his parents are not on the best of terms. Of course, Topher has been on the streets. It’s a big break it or make it moment for Topher.
Nrama: What surprising dynamics do you think Topher has in the Runaways team?
Castellanos: I wouldn’t say he has one. Topher is really just trying to get all of the Runaways to trust him. He comes off as a very nice guy, to me personally, but he just has his personal issues, which comes off pretty strongly in the show. This has the Runaways asking, “do we help him or do we not?” Dynamic wise, I don’t see anything.
Nrama: What are you most excited for fans to see with your character?
Castellanos: Honestly – everything! It’s just amazing all throughout. I think episode 5 is my favorite.
Nrama: Any reason why Episode 5 is your favorite?
Castellanos: In Season 2, especially the middle, they really pick it up compared to last season. The intensity is just WOW. It becomes more real. I believe episode 5 it’s really a critical point for both Topher and the rest of the Runaways.