Jason Castro never thought he could be an actor.
“But I secretly always wanted to be,” he says.
Now his private dream has become a reality, five years after the North Texas native achieved pop culture fame on American Idol.
Castro stars alongside such “real actors” as Eric Roberts and Sydney Penny in The Perfect Summer, a feel-good surfing and family drama that premieres at 6 p.m. Saturday on UP TV.
“It was an amazing experience,” Castro says. “Getting to have a different artistic outlet was a lot of fun, and I’d like to try it again someday.”
Not that the laid-back 26-year-old, who placed fourth in Season 7 of Idol, is planning to give up his day job right away.
“I’m currently touring to promote my new album [ Only a Mountain],” he says. “It came out in January and this is the first year in my career that I’ve had a solid year of touring booked, all the way up until Christmas. It’s exciting to have that and I’m really thankful for it.”
As for the movie, it’s about an uprooted Chicago kid (played by Adam Horner) who doesn’t fit in when he and his mom (Penny) move to a small California surfing town. His life gets better, though, once his grandfather (Roberts), a former surfing champ, teaches him how to ride the waves.
In the process, this three-generation estranged family becomes closer than anyone thought possible.
Castro plays Cody, the local surf shop owner who’s ready to dispense a little advice when necessary.
“I always thought, if I ever did any acting, it would have to be something close to who I am, because it’s not like I have a lot of range,” he says. “I don’t know how I would do at acting as someone totally different.
“But as I read this script, it sounded like somebody I could actually be, living on a beach and being a peacemaker type of guy who reaches out to help kids. I grew up skateboarding, not surfing, because we don’t have any beaches here in Dallas. But I always dreamed of living on a beach and surfing.
“And I’m still actively skateboarding with the neighborhood kids and spending time with them. So I definitely relate to that, especially at this stage in my life, because I’m kind of the older guy now.”
Castro, who grew up in Rockwall, currently lives in Dallas with his wife and daughter.
“They keep me grounded in what is otherwise a crazy life,” he says. “It’s been five years since the craziness of American Idol and the craziness hasn’t slowed down one bit. People recognize me everywhere I go.”
Still sporting his distinctive dreadlocks, Castro is hard not to recognize.
Only a Mountain, his first release through Nashville-based Word Records, a Christian faith-based label, features 11 tracks, all written or co-written by Castro. The upbeat songs are fueled, he says, by “the realization that life is beautiful.”
Life has certainly been good to Castro. He suspects that much of his success over the years has come because he isn’t desperate to succeed.
“Like, before American Idol, I was playing drums in a band and we were talking to labels,” he remembers. “But I felt I needed to step away, because I was squandering other opportunities in my life, like college, where I was failing miserably.
“It was during the next year that I learned to play guitar and I learned to sing. And about a year later, I had a new perspective heading into American Idol. To jump right into this big TV show and being in competition can be pretty overwhelming.
“But I believed God had plans for me and that carried me a long way through the competition because I wasn’t obsessed with winning. It gave me a level head through it all.”