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On Friday’s edition of ABC’s 20/20, the Mexican actress sat down with Diane Sawyer and disclosed details of their private meeting, along with her thoughts on Penn’s Rolling Stone piece, in her first on-air interview on the subject.
During the one-hour special, del Castillo talked to Sawyer about the flirtatious text messages she received from El Chapo prior to their meeting, which were made public in January.
“He probably had a crush on Teresa Mendoza,” she said, explaining that El Chapo was most likely an “admirer” of the fictional drug-trafficking character she plays on the telenovela La Reina del Sur.
The actress recalled being on edge upon first meeting El Chapo after several text exchanges, saying she had to muster up the courage to speak to him. She, Penn and the drug lord had agreed to meet at a remote location in the mountains for drinks.
“I didn’t know how to react. He kissed me on the cheek and embraced me,” del Castillo told Sawyer about the encounter. “His eyes penetrate you like a dagger. It’s scary, you know? Because it’s really strong.”
At one point in the night, she was left alone with El Chapo, a moment she remembered to be “really scary.”
“I was waiting for him to make a move. I had no idea what intentions [he had] … everything happened in my head. … Those seconds were crucial for me. I thought everything,” said del Castillo.
She then added, “My heart started pounding … I actually got the guts to tell him. I [felt], this is now or never, and if I don’t say it right now, I might not have another opportunity. And if I say it, these might be my last words.”
She shared that before she left, she told him, “‘You’re a powerful man. You can do something good.’ … I was literally dying inside. I thought, if he gets mad, I don’t know what I’m going to do. … I thought I was gonna faint.”
Del Castillo, once prodded by Sawyer, also explained how she connected Penn with El Chapo, a meeting that ultimately led to El Chapo’s recapturing after he escaped from prison in July 2015, and admitted she was still angry with Penn for how things panned out.
The actress maintained she believed Penn was accompanying her because he was interested in working on a film she was planning based on El Chapo’s life. She told Sawyer she wasn’t aware that the actor had met with El Chapo for an interview he was planning to publish in Rolling Stone.
“I think he was never interested in the movie,” said del Castillo. “I’m angry at myself because I believe in people, and I didn’t know Sean Penn.”
She claimed that several anecdotes in Penn’s published story were false and that she took offense with his reference to her as his “ticket to El Chapo’s trust.”
Holding back tears, she apologized to her family for putting them in the center of the controversy, saying, “I am an honorable woman. … This does not define who I am.”
The actress is currently being investigated by Mexican authorities for possible money laundering in association with El Chapo. She ended her sit-down with Sawyer by revealing that she still plans to continue on with her film project about his life.
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