Raquel Castro dishes on 'Empire,' being on Team Christina on 'The Voice,' and her new single
BY: GIBSON JOHNS
For Raquel Castro, who you may recognize as the little girl from "Jersey Girl" or as a member of Team Christina on the first season of "The Voice," joining the cast of "Empire" was a true blessing.
"I was working at a hair salon in Long Island, and I was just trying to pay the bills -- that's what you gotta do in this business. And when I was working there, they called me and they were like, 'We want you to come out to Chicago [to film 'Empire']!'"
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Though Castro insisted to us at AOL that she wasn't intimidated by the immense talent on the "Empire" set, she does admit that she was careful to not overstep her boundaries. After all, she was on set with people like Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard -- and not to mention pop stars like Becky G and Pitbull.
"I was a newbie coming onto this set where everyone had known each other for a whole season already," Castro explains. "And I didn't know anyone, but Taraji was very welcoming. She was very cool. One episode we were hanging out between takes and she was like, 'Be careful that nothing gets stolen on set! We've had incidents!' She was a sweetheart."
Castro plays Marisol, a member of the girl group put together by Hakeem Lyons called Mirage a Trois. Originally, the group features Becky G's Valentina, who quickly. leaves the group behind to go solo. According to Castro, Becky G is nothing like her selfish character.
"She's a sweetheart," she says. "She is the complete opposite of her character."
Raquel Castro sings a snippet of "Do It," from the hit show "Empire":
For Castro, being a part of "Empire" -- even if just for a series of episodes -- has been an absolute thrill and one that has re-ignited her passion for music and acting, especially when put together. She's "just excited to be a part of the show."
Despite maybe being a little bit nervous before starting on "Empire," Castro is no stranger to being on television. Back in 2011, she competed on the first season of NBC's "The Voice" as a member of Team Christina -- Christina being, of course, Christina Aguilera. Having Aguilera as a coach was a complete dream from true for then-16-year-old Castro, who had grown up idolizing the iconic pop star ever since she first heard her on the "Mulan" soundtrack.
"Being on 'The Voice' was amazing. I love Christina Aguilera -- she has been my inspiration since I was a little girl," she explains. "She's very bubbly. It was kind of like a big sister thing: When I was being interviewed, and she was there, she would be like, 'She's only sixteen, leave her alone!'"
It wasn't just a one-way relationship, though, as Castro reveals to us. During that time, the media was scrutinizing Aguilera's every move -- something that Castro saw as unfair.
"In a way, I was really protective of her because, at the time, the press was really hard on her for her weight and the stuff she was going through. It's funny because you'd read something and then work with her and see something totally different."
Raquel Castro sings a snippet of Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got U":
Though Castro admits that she doesn't frequently communicate with Aguilera, that doesn't mean that their relationship completely went away when the cameras stopped rolling. Just a few weeks ago, the star surprised her former team member with a message on social media.
"She recently tweeted my [new 'Young & Dumb' music] video, which I was not expecting," she gushes. "I went on Twitter and was like, 'Why are all these people tweeting me?!' It brought tears to my eyes -- that touched my heart ... She helped me so much, and it was perfect timing."
When we asked Castro to pinpoint something that Aguilera taught her that has stuck with her over the years, she was quick to answer: "Don't let the opinion of others affect you, your performance, or who you want to be. Know who you are."
These days, Castro certainly knows who she is. With the recent release of her single, "Young & Dumb," she is as sure of herself as ever. She told us that she "writes the lyrics and melody" of her songs completely on her own, and then goes into the studio with producers later. As the song's subject matter proves, Castro has seemingly always this self-assured.
"I wrote [Young & Dumb] about a guy I was with for 6 years, and it was a roller coaster of a relationship. This song was written at the high point," she explains. "We were very happy. This was at a really great point in my relationship where I was just like, 'Screw what everybody thinks! My mom has her opinion, my friends have their opinions. I just want to do what makes me happy and live in the moment and just be carefree!'"
Though being in contract with "Empire" is preventing her from releasing any new music before next summer, she hopes to be able release a ton of new music in the future.
"I have a bunch of songs that I really want to get out there," she says.
As for her initial burst of fame in 2004's "Jersey Girl"? Castro has nothing but fond memories of her time on set with then-couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. One memory in particular that stands out? Affleck's 30th birthday celebration.
"When we did the table read one day, it was Ben's 30th birthday, so we did this little surprise birthday cake for him. I was sitting on Jennifer's lap, and it was a surreal moment ... sitting on one of my idol's laps."
At just 20-years-old and all of the success coming her way, it would seem as though Raquel Castro will only have more surreal moments in the future.
Photos of Raquel Castro from over the years:
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