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The Untold Truth Of The Umbrella Academy's David Castaneda

Playing Diego on "The Umbrella Academy" means a lot of pouting, tossed knives, thrown punches, and sibling rivalry. David Castañeda is up for all that, but he couldn't be more different from the broodiest Hargreeves sibling. 

While Diego grew up in a cold and unloving adoptive household, with only a robot mother to go to for parental affection, Castañeda, feels deeply connected to his Mexican-American family and heritage.

Castañeda enjoyed the challenge of mastering Diego's fighting style, but although he's got the martial arts moves down, unlike his character, the knife-throwing doesn't come naturally to him. Neither does dancing, although he was excited to try something new. Moves he picked up in his childhood helped him pull off the series' most famous dance scene (It took professional help to do that Embassy pair dance, though).

From his struggling actor years to his beard, here's the untold truth of David Castañeda.

David Castañeda is proud to be first-generation Mexican American

Castañeda was born in Los Angeles to a Mexican family who spoke Spanish at home, and he lived in Mexico until high school. He told PopSugar that he still translates English scripts into Spanish, because it helps him get a better feeling for the true meaning of the dialogue.

In an interview with his former college Cal State Fullerton, Castañeda said that choosing to become an actor was tough as a first-generation Mexican American, and that not everyone around him understood or respected that decision. However, his family and his culture remain a big driver in everything he does at work. "If I'm on the screen ... It's not just me doing the work for this scene. It is my mother, my father, my grandparents, my great-grandparents," he told PopSugar.

Castañeda says that he's proud that many Mexicans and Mexican Americans are so excited to see him representing the Latinx community (as much as one person can) as Diego. He hopes that Latinx kids who see him playing a superhero on screen will realize that there is a place for them in Hollywood and heroics.

But he's also relieved that "The Umbrella Academy" doesn't make a big deal about Diego's heritage — not because he's not personally proud to be Mexican American, but because he felt that it wouldn't be right for this particular character, who didn't grow up in a Mexican household. "Diego was never raised in that culture: he was raised as an entity behind a philanthropist ... this guy wouldn't even speak Spanish," Castañeda told PopSugar.

He balanced acting with college

Castañeda got his first acting role at 17, but didn't originally see it as a potential profession. In 2007, he went to study civil engineering at Cal State Fullerton, with plans to eventually take over his dad's construction company.

He kept auditioning on the side, landing parts in short films, and finally decided that he really wanted to act. He started studying part time so he could fit in auditions and roles.

In 2013, Castañeda landed a role in the ABC Series "Switched at Birth" and appeared in seven episodes of the third season while finishing his college degree. Although he says that balancing the two got hectic at times, Castañeda was determined to earn his diploma. He ultimately double majored in communications and international business, graduating in 2015.

Castañeda credits his time at Cal State Fullerton with introducing him to ideas and people who ultimately helped his acting career, including humanities courses, studio executives, and producers.

Castañeda is really good at stunts

Diego isn't one to back away from a fight. Neither is Castañeda, but only the staged kind. He takes the stunts very seriously: Castañeda's intense training for "The Umbrella Academy" Season 2 included studying Muay Thai at a training camp in Thailand.

His skills and dedication impressed both stunt coordinator Rick Forsayeth and showrunner Steve Blackman. They particularly praised Castañeda's work in that corridor fight scene in Season 2, set to KISS' "I Was Made for Loving You." Blackman said Castañeda did all of his own stunts, while Forsayeth said it was nine tenths — still impressive. He says Castañeda is "as good as any stunt guy I could put in there."

The scene was carefully choreographed and rehearsed, but as excited as Castañeda was, he was pretty nervous on the day. He told Collider they only had four fake windows to break, which meant they had to nail the sequence in four takes maximum. "I don't think I've felt that nervous in awhile," Castañeda admitted. "By the second take, we had it."

Diego isn't just good at throwing punches. Mastering his character's knife skills was a whole new challenge for Castañeda. He said to ScreenRant that he was "decent" at that part, but not good enough to use real knives. However, the knives he carries — not throws — are real, which meant Castañeda had to be constantly aware of them.

He is a bit shy about his dance moves

"The Umbrella Academy" squeezes in an impressive number of dance sequences for a series ostensibly about superheroes. Fans love this quirk, and it was part of the show's appeal to Castañeda — partly because it felt fresh. "I want to be doing things that I haven't seen before," he told BriefTake (That explains the storyline he wants added to "The Umbrella Academy").

For the dance scene between Diego and Lila, Castañeda and Ritu Arya spent multiple sessions working with a professional dancer to make it look effortless. But the first dance number of the series was all instinct.

That's the scene in which each member of the Academy starts dancing, alone, to Tiffany's cover of "I Think We're Alone Now." Showrunner Steve Blackman asked the actors to think about how the character would dance.

Castañeda told BriefTake that he thought of Diego's dance style as "violent and also he takes himself really seriously." He said that he was partly inspired by the super confidence of The Fresh Prince, and by a style he learned as a kid. "When I moved to Mexico, one of the biggest things was pop locking," he shared with Bustle. His early moves also included the Worm and the Windmill, but all that floorwork eventually got too grimy.

Despite his amateur experience, Castañeda found dancing on camera nerve wracking. Having people watching him dance through the whole song "was probably scarier than doing an actual scene ... I'm not a professional dancer and it's not my sweet spot," he said to BriefTake.

He'd better start practicing. "The Umbrella Academy" Season 3 is officially a go, and fans want more dances in between supernatural battles. 

Castañeda committed to Diego's new look

One of the most striking changes Diego goes through between Seasons 1 and 2 — besides being dropped alone in Dallas in 1963, becoming J.F.K.'s self-appointed protector, and being placed in a mental institution — is his hair and beard. The paramilitary-style crew-cut-meets-faux-hawk has been replaced with shoulder-length waves, complemented by a hipster beard.

Castañeda says it started with a throwaway comment from Steve Blackman, long before Season 2 was filming. The showrunner vaguely mentioned Diego having a beard and long hair in the next season, and Castañeda took that as a cue.

He spent the next five months growing his hair and beard, but he wasn't as convinced by the results as some of his fans. "I would walk and people would just jump off the sidewalk and go around me, because I just looked so sketchy," he told BriefTake. He credits the hair and makeup team with making it work. For the record, they ultimately went with a wig, but the beard was his.

Klaus (Robert Sheehan) thinks he looks like Antonio Banderas, and Castañeda said he channeled the superstar sometimes. However, "I also felt like the Bee Gees," he told Collider.