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Umbrella Academy’s David Castañeda on Living Your Best Life

The Actor and CSUF Alumnus Offers Advice for Finding a Fulfilling Career
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Alumnus David Castañeda ’15 (B.A. communications-radio/TV/film), known for his role as Diego Hargreeves in Netflix’s superhero TV series “The Umbrella Academy,” said his time at Cal State Fullerton helped him realize his passion for acting and filmmaking. 

The actor gave advice to first-year students who completed their first semester of college virtually this fall. Castañeda spoke about choosing a major, pursuing a degree as a first-generation college student and navigating a career in the entertainment industry.

Follow the Career Path You Want to Do, Not What Anyone Else Wants for You

Castañeda said it was difficult for him to speak about his career aspirations with family and friends at first. “It’s hard when you’re first generation in whatever field you’re doing,” Castañeda said. Although students can feel pressure from parents or family members to pursue certain careers, Castañeda said students should ultimately go after the career they want. “A lot of the work I was doing, I never really talked about it,” Castañeda said. “It was just for me.” While students may face obstacles pursuing their careers, he said they should not feel discouraged. “You have to know that the sacrifices you put in right now will pay dividends in the future.”

Find a Group of People Who Believe in You 

Castañeda said it is crucial that students ignore overly critical messages from their inner circle or community, especially if family or friends don’t understand or have experience in a chosen industry. “Every word of discouragement, at the end of the day, is motivation,” Castañeda said. The actor recommends hobbies that inspire creativity or serve as a safe space. “I’d go to the movies at least twice a week. That was a good way to keep me in it and enjoying it, and not have to explain to anyone why.” He also emphasized the importance of finding the right community who can push you to be your best. “When I was in my mid-20s, I found a group of people who really got me into poetry,” Castañeda said. “It’s all about learning who you are.”

You Can Make the Best Out of Any Situation  

Castañeda double majored in communications and international business and is a huge proponent of humanities courses like sociology, philosophy and psychology. “Anything you pick up on the way to where you’re going is useful,” Castañeda said. “You have to be able to think outside of the box.” He also encourages students to ask questions and take advantage of their resources and surroundings. “When I was at CSUF, they would have tons of people come in from the film industry. There were studio executives, film accountants or producers who would speak. I’d be gripping to everything they said because I knew they would offer advice that could help me.”

There is More Than One Path to Success

While students might want to emulate someone they look up to for inspiration, Castañeda said it is important for students to understand their career path will be unique to them. “If we try to mimic someone else’s journey, we’re never going to be happy,” Castañeda said. For example, the values Castañeda learned growing up as a son of immigrants are a huge influence on who he is today. “There was never a moment where I was going to give up. I feel very reinforced by my culture in what I do.” Above all, he said personal fulfillment comes from the work you put into your craft as you grow on your career path. “The most important part of your path is your work ethic,” Castañeda said. “You can follow whatever path you want, but if you’re lazy, you’re not getting anywhere.”

Kendra Morales