Ramses Jimenez on playing a Latino cop in Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt For The Bone Collector
Inspired by the best-selling book, the series Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector follows the tale of the notorious serial killer known only as "The Bone Collector" who returns three years after his disappearance. The murder, now, forces former NYPD detective and forensic genius Lincoln Rhyme (Russell Hornsby) out of retirement.
We got talking to Ramses Jimenes, who plays Eric Castillo — a third-generation cop, who doesn't respect Lincoln's willingness to bend the rules in order to solve a case. But when Lincoln's unorthodox tactics save lives, Eric soon forms grudging respect for Lincoln.
Had you read any of the books by Jeffery Deaver, on which the show is based before you took on this role?
I read the first book, but I did not read all the books. I’m working one serial killer at a time – like a real detective. And most of the research I’ve been focused on is basically just trying to learn what it takes to become a New York detective, and what is the process of interviewing, interrogating and solving crimes. So in that way, I am trying to bring reality to the show, instead of just trying to mirror the books. I’m trying to do the background research on who these characters really are. I know other people have been really studying the movie, studying the books, but I’ve just been focussed on learning how to be a detective.
I have a good relationship with a lot of detectives now, because I like to check everything. How am I holding my gun? How am I when I come into this place? How am I supposed to be looking? Is this a place where we would have our guns drawn? What’s the level of danger? Is this correct? Do you guys actually do that? I double-check everything. My character’s a rookie cop, so I could be playing him a lot more serious, but what I’m trying to figure out is, how does a rookie cop react to things? I’m trying to add those layers to it.
Have you spent some time with the NYPD?
Yes, I have, and it’s been extremely helpful. Patrick Fogarty is our point person at the NYPD. He’s a detective who came up through the narcotics unit and he investigates all of the mafia that are still operating in New York. I’ve kind of modelled the background of my character on him and how he came up because he has had a blue-collar route where he didn’t have anybody that was higher up to get him in the door.
My character, Eric Castillo, comes from a family of Dominican cops; his whole family is the police – his mother, his father, his brother, his sister, and his father who gets killed on duty – but Eric is the only one in his family who’s ever made detective, so he takes it very seriously. The clothes that I wear on the show, they’re all his father’s old clothes, so it's kind of like his father is with him as a detective.
What are the challenges of making a show that may already be familiar to people as a film?
I think that whenever you are working on a property that used to be something else, you really want to try to honour what that property already did. So there was something already built with The Bone Collector that started, obviously, with the books and then went into the film. If I compare it to basketball, I got brought into a team that’s already winning championships, so it adds a certain level of pressure compared with a property that’s brand new that nobody’s ever seen. We all know that this is something very popular, something that people love when it comes to Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie and the books of Jeffery Deaver. The last thing we want to do is be the ones that bomb the show and leave everybody with a bad taste. So we’re taking it really seriously. That’s the pressure, to make sure that we can maintain the same quality that everybody else has.
You said your character has Dominican roots, like you. Was that already in the script, or is it something you brought to the role yourself?
When I got the role, I looked like a hippy. I had super-long hair, a big beard, I never shaved, because, living in Los Angeles you can be the craziest-looking person and you’re never the craziest person. So I never went in for these sort of auditions, because I was like, ‘They want somebody that’s a cop, who’s probably got a military background, they’ll look at me, they’ll just discard me.’ But my agent was like, ‘Well, listen, the producers of this show, Peter Traugott and Rachel Kaplan, they were the producers of the show you did before, called Wisdom of the Crowd,’ which is a show where I was in prison and I was framed for a crime I didn’t commit. So I went in and I did the audition, and after I was done with it they called my agent and said, ‘Look, we didn’t write the role like this, but we love what he did with it and we’re considering rewriting it.’
When you’re in production you do not want to have to go back and rewrite characters. So to me it was a very long shot at the role. Then maybe three weeks later, they called me in again. I trusted my manager, I trusted my agent and I did what they told me to do and I landed the role and then they changed the character. So back to your question, I’ve been coming up with this character, basically building it from scratch, because they were literally like, ‘Well, you’ve made this, so what do you want it to be?’
And how do you feel now, having shaved off the beard and cut your hair?
I’m happy because I always feel like this character. It took a while to get used to it, because when I looked at myself, I would always just see Eric Castillo, and there was a certain level of insecurity that started to hit me. The hair allowed me to hide, to remain in the background, almost – people never really saw me. Now I’ve come front and centre.
How do you think your character will resonate with audiences, being a Latino cop?
He’s a smart guy and he’s loyal and he’s trustworthy and he’s got all these great qualities about him that I think you don’t necessarily see in many Latino characters on television at all. The fact that he’s a Dominican-American detective is also unheard of. Even in real life, it’s unheard of. So I love that it’s projecting positivity towards who we are as Latinos, in the Latinx community. I like what they’re doing with the character and I think it will resonate in the community really well. It resonates with me, because I feel it brings out my disciplined side – I have to be military, I have to work out every day, I have to watch what I eat, I have to read a lot, just to try to figure out what a detective is, how he operates. I have to do a lot of homework all the time. It’s a very disciplined job.
Do you have a routine or rituals to help you get into the character?
Let’s say I’ve got to be on set at 9.30, I wake up at 7, I’m at the gym at 7.30 and then I am there until they come and pick me up. When I’m in the sauna, after my workout, I’ll listen to the recording that I got from the detective – it’s an hour of audio about how and why he became a police officer, to become a detective to then moving onto the mafia unit that he’s working with now. I listen to that and it starts getting me into this mood of, ‘Okay, this is who I am.’ By the time I show up to work, I feel like I am a detective.
How does your character evolve and develop over the course of season one?
The character that I play Eric is Lincoln Rhyme’s replacement when he’s injured on the job as he’s become Detective Rick Sellitto’s (Michael Imperioli) new partner. And he’s growing up fast, because he’s not as smart as Lincoln. He wants to be like Sellitto, but Sellitto loves and respects Lincoln so much that my character doesn’t really vibe with him, he doesn’t like the way that he does things. He feels like Lincoln only pays attention to the big crimes, the big killers, and the smaller crimes don’t get the same amount of attention, because it’s not going to be a serial killer. Those are the cases that Eric loves. He treats everyone equally.
My character’s going to evolve by learning how to be a detective, learning how to be a team player and there might be a little bit of romance for him. Most cops date cops and when they don’t date cops, they divorce. It’s unfortunate. When I was in the precinct, 90% of them were divorced and then had hooked up with a cop afterwards, because they wanted to be with somebody who really understood the life and the pressures. I think that that’s something that’s going to come out too – what is it like for us in our regular lives?
What have you learned from your character?
I think my character makes me better, because playing this role forces me to realise that, for example, as a cop you’re responsible for your own life when you’re carrying a gun and you’re responsible for the people that you’re trying to help and then, at the same time, you have to stay alive for your own family. So there’s a level of having to be at your best all the time. It’s made me more disciplined, it’s made me more focused on who I am as a human being, so I can also communicate that to my character Eric. He brings all the best qualities out in me, so it’s actually a really good thing that I ended up being a cop with a military background versus a surfer who’s undercover. He’d be a lot lazier, I tell you that, because I did meet some undercover cops and I was like, ‘Oh, you don’t work out at all.’ Working out is a thing, man! Every day when you’ve got to do it, you have to create a mindset of: ‘where’s my energy coming from?’
Why do you think we’re so fascinated by crime shows and serial killers?
I think we fantasise about solving something big, I think we fantasize about being the person that’s able to catch somebody who is dangerous to society. I think that a lot of us, a lot of alphas, have a hero complex and I think when you create a show like this, you picture yourself being that detective. You always want to be the cool guy that somehow has his life semi-together, but he’s one of the best cops you’ve ever seen. I’ve thought about that since I was a little kid – I wanted to be a detective as a child because I loved the idea of working for the FBI before I really knew what the FBI was. I also think that people have an infatuation with darkness. They’ll fantasize about things like, ‘How would I rob a bank?’ They’re never going to do it, but like the idea of trying to come up with something perfect. I think some people are like, ‘Well, could I kill somebody? Could I get away with it?’
Do you think there’s a risk of being desensitised to the things that really do happen because we’re so busy listening and watching and thinking from the point of view of perpetrators rather than from the point of view of victims?
I think we’re already past it – we’re already very desensitised. We’ve run that course. I think that’s why you have to push the envelope and have serial killers that aren’t just like regular mom and pop serial killers but are just crazy sadistic. They don’t just kill the person, they kidnap them and torture the person and record it and send it to the police. It gets darker and darker, because I think we’re already desensitised, to a certain extent. That rubber band has to keep stretching. But that’s what the audience wants to watch – they want people to push the envelope because they’re so used to seeing everything at this point.
Watch Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector on SonyLIV