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Lizette Castaneda described it as her “passion project.”
A producer in the ESPN Features Unit, Castaneda oversaw the making of a piece airing this week on both ESPN and ESPN Deportes leading up to Sunday’s live Super Bowl telecast on ESPN Deportes (6 p.m. ET). Narrated by two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim Plunkett, the feature takes a look at the Bay Area through the eyes of Plunkett, a Mexican-American who grew up in San Jose and is the only Hispanic Heisman Trophy winner.
Castaneda, who is also Mexican-American, also grew up in San Jose, went to the same high school as Plunkett (James Lick H.S.) and dearly loves the area. The feature idea came to her in a brainstorming session.
“I thought this is the perfect platform for this,” said Castaneda, who moved to Connecticut 12 years ago when she started with ESPN. “The Bay Area is so diverse. We have a plethora of ethnicities and different cultures and it’s really amazing to see how much it’s grown since I left. So I said it would be awesome to do sort of an essay, a tour of all the historical locations and all of the Hispanic neighborhoods.
“And I knew Jim Plunkett was in the area,” she said. “I don’t think he gets enough recognition or that people realize what a legend he really is.”
Getting Plunkett involved in the project was as easy as a call to his old team, the Oakland Raiders, for whom he does broadcasting work. Plunkett was on board immediately.
Castaneda did a pre-interview with Plunkett and his responses were used to write the script for the feature. “We didn’t want him to feel that he was just reading something that he had no part of,” she said.
Originally, the plan was to shoot Plunkett’s scenes in his home, with him commenting on projected scenics of the Bay Area, but when Castaneda arrived, she changed her mind.
“I felt like I was at the Hall of Fame when I walked in,” she said. “His office has so much memorabilia – books, trophies, news articles. So we decided to go full screen with the actual scenics that we shot, then we wrote the story and had him voice it in a studio near his house.”
English and Spanish versions of the feature were produced, with Jerry Olaya narrating Plunkett’s parts in third person in Spanish.
Castaneda began work on the project when she was visiting family in San Jose for Christmas and was happy her idea was given the green light.
“I’m a Bay Area girl through-and-through,” Castaneda said. “I wanted to make sure that I represented it correctly. I’m blessed to be able to do something that speaks to who I am and how proud I am to be from that area.”