April Hernandez-Castillo: Finding God
Share This article
April Hernandez-Castillo calls herself a “Nuyorican,” or a New York Puerto Rican. April has had guest starring roles on several hit TV series, like Law and Order and ER. Her breakout role came in 2007 when she played “Eva Benitez” in the film Freedom Writers starring Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank, Patrick Dempsey, and Scott Glenn. April received critical acclaim for her performance and it marked her as one of the up and coming actresses. She began to get roles on stage and off. On the small screen she got roles in the FOX pilot Blue Blood and Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. She received a SAG Award nomination for her role as Officer Cira Manson in Showtime’s popular show Dexter.
DOMESTIC ABUSE SURVIVOR
April grew up in the Bronx, New York in a two-parent household, which she says was rare in her neighborhood. Her parents loved April and raised her to love herself. As a young woman, she was confident and strong. She was also athletic and wanted to be a nutritionist. She also began an interest in film and acting.
When April was sixteen, she fell in love for the first time and everything seemed to be going fine. Then, eight months into the relationship April says, “the beast came out.” Her boyfriend began to abuse her physically and emotionally. She was in shock, denial, fear, and didn’t know what was going on. The shame of what was happening prevented her from telling anyone and kept her in the relationship for three more years. One day, April had enough. She took control of the situation and broke off the relationship. It was not an easy process, but there were no after effects or repercussions as a result of the break up. To this day, April continues to heal and doesn’t know how she ended up in that kind of relationship. She is thankful that she was able to get out alive.
Sometime after that abusive relationship ended, April became more focused and determined to pursue acting. She was still broken, in denial, and healing. She met another man, Jose Castillo, who would eventually become her husband. Also around this time she accepted the Lord, but April says it wasn’t a deep commitment.
Her first big acting job was a Super Bowl commercial and she started getting more TV parts. Then her dreams came true. April says it was a great day when she got the role of “Eva Benitez“ in the feature film Freedom Writers. She was living in her new Hollywood world, but she still had her boyfriend, Jose, in New York. April says at that time New York represented what was wrong in her life. She didn’t think Jose was moving forward and they were even on the verge of breaking up.
When April finished filming Freedom Writers, she did move back to New York. Jose started going to a new church and tried to convince April to go. Finally, she joined him. They started attending every Sunday. April was distant but found that something was different about this church and that the people were very loving.
One weekend, Jose went on a men’s retreat with the church. April says the Jose who she had known for the last six years changed after one weekend. He became a different man right before her and she didn’t even recognize him. They continued on as a couple, which was difficult because April was very angry with God. She didn’t understand the new man in front of her. He no longer wanted to be intimate and that was a huge problem. They stayed together and encountered many difficult moments because April still did not have an experience with God. Then it was time for the women’s retreat. April wasn’t planning to go but decided to test God. She said, “If You want me to go, then You make it happen.” Shortly after she made that comment, the church secretary gave April an application for the retreat. Just like Jose, she left for the retreat on a Friday and she returned on Sunday totally in love with God. Then she made a true commitment to Christ. Eventually, April and Jose married.
Though she had that encounter with God, like Jesus after He was baptized, April says the Holy Spirit led her into a “very dry desert time” for the next three and half years. Despite her decision for Christ, she still battled very hard with wanting to be a Super Star. She felt a lot like when Jacob wrestled with God and when Abraham sacrificed Isaac. She tried to understand and process everything. God stripped her of acting during this period. For three years she didn’t get any acting jobs. Her whole identity was wrapped up in that so it was a very difficult time. Through the process April stayed in faith, walked through her hardships, prayed through things, and continued to pray more. She finally did get through her desert time and continues to move forward with what God has for her. Some of the things April learned from this process are to let God do what He wants to do and stop fighting Him. Worship and choose to believe Him and do right even when you don’t see anything happening. Continue worshipping and believing. Put your faith into action, and don’t not do anything. God calls us to persevere.
BOLD FAITH MINISTRIES
April is still a busy actress. She has just completed a new sci-fi comedy independent movie, Future Folk, an appearance on the web series East WillyB, and a film Officer Down with James Woods and David Boreanaz. On stage she worked with award-winning director Frank Perez in the off-Broadway play, Death of a Dream.
While promoting the film Freedom Writers, April discovered she had a gift of connecting with audiences. Later, April and Jose started speaking at juvenile facilities. This began a passion to minister to the youth. Three years ago they started a ministry called Bold Faith Ministries and they have even been certified as youth chaplains. April says ministry opportunities have really opened up and they are meeting a need. Jose’s production company, Lion Chaser Films, is growing. She says the way they go about projects and ministry is different now. They check in with God and they know He gave all of these to them.
Share This article