In-depth interview with James Castle

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UK born James Castle has worked as an international performer for over four years and is an advocator for against the stigma of HIV, most notably for his work with GMFA, the gay men’s charity in the UK.
We caught up with James backstage at last week’s SBN and are pleased to confirm his return to the club on Sunday 5th August to get the party started for many and welcome those returning via Vauxhall from Pride in Brighton and Hove.

Hi James, I hope you enjoyed your show? The SBN crowd can be wild! What have you been up to since we last saw you at SBN? 

I’ve been incredibly busy!  On top of my usual schedule of luncheons and high tea with friends, I‘ve managed to squeeze a number of live appearances at some incredible locations overseas recently, including Milan, Prague, Catalonia, Malaga and Cancun; I’ve moved house and I’ve also been studying for a business venture I have my eyes on.

I understand you teach overseas too. Have you continued to specialise in finance, as I am told that was your background in in the UK, or have you picked up other skills whilst you have have been away?

It’s good to have an opportunity to talk about my former career because it keeps popping up. I’ve actually been in the entertainment industry for over 4 years now (I think that might make me a ‘veteran’).  My previous career in the UK was in finance for the NHS and it was there my desk that I was struck by a business idea that really excited me.  I was only 24 at the time and after weighing things up, I decided that I needed to blow off some steam before entering into such a serious commitment.  In the interim, I decided to move to Spain to teach English. I also used the opportunity to make contact with a small number of the larger film studios about a possible modelling career.

It’s fair to say that your search for performance work overseas was a success, signing an exclusive deal with the first studio you saw?

Yes! I was offered an exclusive contract with Kristen Bjorn following my first in April 2014. To be honest I was due to shoot with another producer the following weekend, which is probably why the first company secured me so quickly! Over time the terms of my contract expired and I’m free of an exclusive contract for the first time in four years.

It’s often thought that it was when you left Kristen Bjorn and joined Lucas Entertainment that you began to perform bareback on screen for the first time, risking a risking backlash from fans and followers. What prompted this decision at the time?

Actually, noting could be further from the truth!  When I started out in 2014 all my work was bareback. And counting on my fingers right now, I can tell you the number of productions where I appear wearing a condom amounts to less than ten.

You’re an athletic performer, with a perfect physique and with a raft of successful movie releases to your name, but I’ve read that you describe yourself as quite vanilla off-camera. Is that true? 

It has been pretty incredible exploring the breadth of my sexuality over the past few years so I think you must have got that from a very early interview. Would I describe myself as vanilla? Hell no! But thats not to say I’m into ‘all sorts’.  

What I do like is effortless, passionate, masculine sex without rules, without agenda and without expectation.   And please, if ever you spot me acting like a small, irritating Jack Russell non-consensually dry-humping a poor unsuspecting leg, just ask me “what are you into?”. Thats a sure way to turn me off and send me scarpering.  

What is the most outrageous scene that you have been required to perform onstage or screen?

That depends on your definition of “outrageous” but since you asked, it would have to be playing the lead in a halloween production set “in a far off place called Truvadia”, based loosely on a very well known tale was pretty darn outrageous. Its title I hear you ask? Barebackula. Need I say any more…?

In 2016 you recorded a Living With HIV video message with gay men’s charity GMFA designed to tackle HIV stigma in all sorts of life.  How did this come about?  

I had been wanting to get involved with something like that for a long while, which isn’t as easy as it may sound. You’ll appreciate its a sensitive subject to some and larger organisations such as the Terrence Higgins view myself as someone who “promotes” HIV, I understand. 

Liam Murphy of GMFA is a dear friend of mine and we met one day to bounce some ideas off one another. “Living with HIV” was his project at the time and it was my pleasure to accept the invitation to be involved as with my experiences I believed I cold offer an alternative, if not unique outlook on the subject.

Had you known you were positive for sometime previously? 

I was diagnosed in 2011, although it was years later when the diagnoses hit me hard. This wasn’t so much to do with having a chronic illness but more because I was forced to deal with the relationship that resulted in my diagnoses.

Did any surprises that emerge for your personally following the publication of the campaign?

I am flabbergasted that the stigma surrounding HIV is still so prevalent. How is HIV still such a hot topic to many? How is HIV still controversial?  That cannot be more disappointing given the knowledge and treatments that should be available. Some of the campaigns that I see completely eye-rolling and breathing new life into the debate. Stigma itself only exists if you give it life.

What advice would you offer someone feeling stigmatised because of their status?

If ever you find yourself confronted by someone else’s lack of knowledge or education on a subject that is personal to you, I see it  two logical choices:

  1. 1. Educate and inform them to give them a better a better understanding.  Try not to be upset by your own insecurities.
  2. 2. Accept and appreciate that their views, based on what they believe to be factually correct. With this in mind, it is highly unlikely you should accept that this persons views and opinions are no concern of yours. You know the truth, they don’t. It is that simple.

The success of recent techniques in the fight against HIV transmission such as PrEP has made some people reconsider the type of sex the want. What would you suggest are the most important factors when considering abandoning condoms from their sex life?

Do what you can to avoid getting HIV, test regularly and if you find that you positive, take your medication.  And by far, if you are positive – make sure you protect the negative. In the western world, there really isn’t anything else to say on the matter in my opinion. Remember though that HIV is not the only threat when choosing not to wear a condom. Most of us are aware of the risks when choosing not to wear condoms as protection, despite this STI’s have been steadily increasing for a number of years, many of which passed on from not rubbering up.  

Despite this we are told that the majority of STIs are ‘manageable and free from the system after a course of a few pills and abstinence of sex.   I do find it ironic (and a bit funny) that PrEP is a slightly invasive one a day tablet you take in order to prevent having to treat a virus with a slightly invasive one a day tablet. Despite that, the figures according to the figures, it works.
Keep abreast of developments surrounding health issues that may effect you and don’t rely on what you think you might have learned at school for your ‘sexual handbook’. 

Part of the GMFA campaign highlighted the various roles, professions and interests those featured carried out in life.  To be honest it wasn’t your your positivity, sportsmanship – or even that you started your acting days on stage playing Oliver Twist.  Instead it was the revelation that you are a keen astronomer!

Ha! I have no clue where you read that as it’s not astrology that fascinates me – it’s whatever the heck is out there! The more I learn the more I realise how little we really know. Our children are taught theories as if they are facts and I would encourage anyone to confirm what they are told by investigating science and sound facts.   Although I have actually invested in a telescope!

What should we expect from you when you appear in your solo show at SBN on Sunday 5th August?

I always consider my act carefully before a performance, and always with the  of audience in mind.  Add to the mix that many clubbers at next Sundays SBN will be returning from Brighton Pride celebrations and you should expect a show that will delight the senses.

SBN is at UNION,NIGHTCLUB Vauxhall, 2pm – 10pm every Sunday. Show live at 5.