Written by Amy Hernandez
Edited by Rita Johnson
Not many people can imagine beginning an acting career as a child, but for Raphael Alejandro, acting has been a part of his life since he was four years old. Raphael has had a successful career to date, including five seasons on Disney’s BUNK’d, and not even the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed him down. Currently, he awaits the premiere of his new movie Jungle Cruise, debuting in theaters and on Disney+ for Premier Access on July 30th, where he stars with Emily Blunt and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Raphael says filming on set while following safety protocols has been “a new and unique experience. We do COVID tests three days a week. Through all of this, I would really like to thank the production and Disney Channel for keeping us safe in this environment. When it comes to seeing my castmates on set, we still have fun. We're always eating lunch together, but now we have to sit six feet apart to be socially distanced.”
Although having class virtually was a new thing for students everywhere, to Raphael, virtual classes are nothing new. Raphael said, “I've been acting ever since I was four years old, so I've been homeschooled. Juggling school and work have become second nature to me now. Virtual classes have been the norm for me... I've had virtual classes practically my whole life.”
Raphael's advice to kids and teens who are figuring out how to balance their school and work life is to make a schedule. Raphael noted that “Making a schedule of your schoolwork is helpful because you'll have an idea of exactly what you need to do for school in the week, and you can adapt it to what you need to do for work, especially on busy days. It helps ease your mind to look at a physical copy of what you need to do.”
In his free time, Raphael loves spending time with his siblings, playing basketball, and video games. He's also been skateboarding recently. Although Raphael has been busy with production and auditioning, he’s been watching Cobra Kai because he's a fan of the original The Karate Kid.
Raphael became interested in acting because of his older siblings. “My start in acting began when my sister was five years old because she wanted to start acting. After she did a couple of auditions, she got roles. My brother wanted to do the same, and then I followed. After I got my first TV role in Once Upon a Time as Roland, I never looked back,” he said.
Raphael stuck with acting because he found it creative. “It's an art form. I had so much fun being creative and fell in love with the way you can use a blank canvas to paint a scene,” he said.
When it comes to choosing roles, Raphael said, “I have good communication with my agents and managers. They have a really good idea of what I want out of a role; it’s not based on the surrounding characters or the plot. It's really about whether or not the character has layers. If the character has something to explore and the opportunity to develop their feelings and personality, then I find myself drawn to the role for the movie or TV show.” His next role, starring alongside Eugenio Derbex, will be in Apple TV+’s bilingual comedy series, Acapulco, inspired by the film How to Be a Latin Lover.
When asked if he gets nervous, Raphael said, “I don’t get nervous, but I do get really excited. When I get into the room, I try to let go and just do my best, but if I'm ever too excited, I sometimes listen to music. That calms me down.”
On dealing with rejections, Raphael said, “There were roles that I really wanted to get, but I didn't. That's kind of the nature of the business, and you can beat yourself up about roles you didn't get. You just need to do your best, keep working hard, and look to the future.”
Raphael's favorite characters to play so far are Hugo from How to Be a Latin Lover and Zaqueu from Jungle Cruise. “Both of them were completely different characters, but I had so much fun playing both of them and exploring their different personalities and quirks. I had so much fun shooting with all the actors and collaborating on set,” Raphael said.
Raphael has worked with many legendary actors such as Salma Hayek, Eugenio Derbez, and Emily Blunt. When asked if he gets starstruck, Raphael said, “Yes! I do get starstruck. It's amazing working with all these incredible veterans in the business. It's great because as I get to know and work with them, they make me feel so comfortable on set, and they're such great people. They are my role models for how I’m going to treat other kids when I'm an adult because they were so nice.” Out of the actors he's worked with, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson left Raphael the most starstruck. Raphael said, “I used to play him [The Rock] in my wrestling game. Meeting him in person and getting to know him was a dream come true because I got to see how humble he is and how dedicated he is to his craft. Also, how hardworking he is and how tall he is!”
As a young actor, Raphael's role model is his sister. “Not only was she the first to start acting in my family, but she also has an amazing work ethic. She's an amazing person, and I look up to her not only as a big sister but as a wonderful person in general,” he said.
If Raphael could work with anyone, he would love to work alongside Robert Downey Jr. “Not only is he an amazing actor and very experienced in the industry, but he's also gone through so many highs and lows in his career and life and has come out on top. It's such an inspiring story, and I admire him. It would be an honor to work with him,” he said. Raphael would also love to work with Steven Spielberg one day, “Steven Spielberg is fantastic. I would love to learn everything I could from him. He's also another inspiring human being because he's so perseverant.”
Regarding his upcoming movie Jungle Cruise, Raphael said, “The set was huge and beautiful. The movie is going to be completely action-packed, and I know that the crowd is going to love it for all the action it has. I can't wait for you guys to see it.” Raphael will also voice the role of Nathan in the upcoming movie, The Boss Baby: Family Business, set to premiere on July 2 in theatres and on Peacock.
Raphael loves watching movies for fun, and some of his favorites are mysteries, including The Usual Suspects and Dead Again. He also loves classics such as Casablanca because they're profound and beautiful.
A lot of actors have dream roles, and for Raphael, his dream role would be Spider-Man. “Playing him in the future would be a dream come true,” he said. Both Raphael and Peter Parker share a love for science.
“Sometimes, I can be a little more confident than Peter Parker. I would have to master the shyness of Peter and the confidence of Spider-Man,” he said.
Raphael would also love to play a role that takes him out of his comfort zone. He added, “It would be really cool to analyze another perspective and really immerse myself in this new character and see their new perspective on life. Any character who's the opposite of me would be amazing to play.”
To Raphael, his work means joy, creativity, and the freedom to express his ideas. He's most proud of his family because, throughout his career, they have been supporting him every step of the way. “They've supported me throughout all these years, and I love them,” he said.
Raphael's advice to kids and teens who want to start acting is not to act for fame but rather for their love of acting, “If you truly love it, follow your dreams, and work hard. The sky's the limit.”
As for what Raphael is most excited about this year, he said, “I look forward to the world healing from its wounds and for the human race to learn from this experience. Everything else will fall into place.”