At only twelve years old, Raphael Alejandro is already working extensively in screen, having joined the cast of popular TV series Bunk’d in 2018 as one of the lead roles Matteo Silva, with the show recently being announced to be the first live-action Disney Channel Series to be recommissioned for a fifth series. Prior to his role on Bunk’d, Raphael’s screen credits included playing Roland across three series of Once Upon a Time, and he won a Joey Award for his performance in Kindergarten Cop 2 as Cowboy. Raphael has filmed for the 2021 Disney feature film release Jungle Cruise, based on the Disneyland theme park ride, alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt. Speaking with Raphael, he talks about playing the role of Matteo in Bunk’d, booking his first recurring character in Once Upon a Time and working with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in next year’s release of Jungle Cruise.
What is Matteo Silva like to play in Disney’s Bunk’d?
Matteo, my character, is a shy and cautious kid. He loves learning, especially Science; he is a scaredy-cat and a germ freak. He started his journey at Camp Kikiwaka not really wanting to be there, but the more he spent time with his fellow campers, Finn (Will Buie Jr.), Destiny (Mallory James Mahoney) and Gwen (Scarlett Estevez), the counsellors Noah (Israel Johnson) and Ava (Shelby Simmons) and, of course, the camp owner Lou (Miranda May), Matteo slowly became more adventurous and he began to like going to camp.
What is a typical day on set?
When you do a sitcom project like Bunk’d, there are two types of days: rehearsal days and shooting days. On rehearsal days, I usually do some school first, rehearse the scenes on set and finish the day with some more school. On shooting days, it all depends on the shooting schedule, I can start the day in school, put on my costume, go to hair and makeup and after go to set to film; or I can start the day putting on my costume, going to hair and makeup, going on set to film and do school in-between scene breaks or when I finished shooting all my scenes for the day.
We understand you learnt ASL for an episode in the latest series, what was this like to do?
I enjoyed learning ASL very much. It was a challenge to do my lines and sign at the same time. I developed a great appreciation for everyone that is a part of the deaf community.
How was it hearing the news that Bunk’d has been renewed for a fifth series?
I was so happy and excited when I heard the news that Bunk’d was picked up for a Series 5. I feel very grateful and honoured to be a part of this show. We have an amazing cast and crew who are always very caring and supportive of each other. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that Bunk’d is the first non-animated Disney Channel show to have a fifth series. Also, I’m very proud to say that Bunk’d was nominated for the 2020 Daytime Emmy Awards.
Can you say about the Disney Fan Fest at Disneyland that the Bunk’d cast are part of?
Being a part of the Disney Fan Fest was incredible. Meeting all those fans and being able to get a bit more personal with them was very gratifying. I felt a little sad when time ran out and there were still a lot of fans waiting in line to see us. I wished we could have stayed a little longer and seen everyone. I’m very grateful for our fans and being able to say “thank you for being a fan and watching the show!” in person made me very happy.
You will be playing Zaqueu in Disney’s Jungle Cruise set for release next year, is there anything you can say about your character and what was it like filming for the role?
Unfortunately, I cannot share any specifics about my character or the movie, but I can say that I had a blast shooting Jungle Cruise. Shooting it in Hawaii and in Atlanta was a dream come true.
How is it being part of the cast which includes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt?
Working with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt was surreal. They are such amazing actors and human beings. They treated me with a lot of respect. We had a lot of fun on our breaks talking and playing games. It was an unforgettable experience that I wouldn’t mind repeating in the future.
Can you tell us about playing Roland in Once Upon A Time?
I was five years old when I got hired to play Roland. It was my first recurring guest star role. I loved Roland’s character. I felt very proud to be Robin Hood’s son. Working closely with Sean Maguire, Lana Parilla and Jennifer Morrison was unbelievable. I was so young and seeing them act taught me so much.
Do you remember how you felt booking this as your first recurring character in a TV series?
Yes, I do. When I received the phone call from my agent that I was hired for the role of Roland, which was my first recurring character in a TV series, it was a dream come true. I was so happy and excited. I jumped up and down non-stop. I couldn’t wait to go on set.
How was it filming for your role in Kindergarten Cop 2 and winning a Joey Award?
I loved playing Cowboy in Kindergarten Cop 2. One of the scenes that I enjoyed shooting was when Dolph Lundgren, who plays Agent Reed, brought a PB & J sandwich not knowing that Cowboy is allergic to peanuts. When Cowboy finds out that Dolph is eating a PB & J, he starts running and screaming all around the classroom causing a lot of chaos. It’s always a wonderful feeling just to be nominated for an award. And winning the Joey Award, I felt very happy, proud and grateful.
For your first screen role, you were cast as Victor Haseman in Almost Human, which saw you as a nominee for Guest Starring Young Actor – Best Performance in a TV Series at the Young Artist Awards, what do you remember about this role?
Playing Victor was a lot of fun. I remember that for one of my scenes, I needed to pretend that I was seeing a giraffe toy statue come to life when there was nothing there, and doing that was pretty cool. It was an honour to have been nominated for a Young Artist Award for my role as Victor. I remember that I was wearing a white suit with a blue fedora hat. I felt grateful and proud to be there, and I enjoyed doing interviews and signing autographs.
You’ve been involved with Disney special shows including Holidays Unwrapped, can you say more about these?
On Holidays Unwrapped, actors from various Disney Channel shows worked together to create this Holiday Special. We had a great time improvising and being creative while shooting it. It’s always exciting to work with actors from other shows.
Do you have a favourite screen actor?
I don’t really have a favourite actor. I admire and would like to work with Paul Giamatti again in the near future. I loved working with him on Jungle Cruise and it would be an honour to work with him again. Also, I’m a big fan of Marvel and Spider-Man, so I would love to work with Robert Downey Jr. I would also enjoy to work with Margot Robbie; she is incredibly talented. I would say that Tom Hanks and Scarlett Johansson are also on my list of actors that I would like to work with in the future.
What do you like to do away from acting?
One of my aspirations is to become an environmental lawyer to help protect the environment, especially our oceans. Besides being an actor, I would like to create a non-profit organisation that will help me accomplish that. I also like to support breast cancer awareness and research. I’m currently working with the Susan G. Komen Foundation to raise money for breast cancer research.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
What I love about being an actor is that I could tell the story of the character I’m playing through their own eyes. Every role helps me to understand and acknowledge different perspectives, so I not only grow as an actor, but as a person as well. By doing so, I can use my past experiences in the new roles to come. The challenge of portraying something different from me and convincing the audience that this is who I am is the most rewarding part of my work. Also, I enjoy the fact that§ I can inspire my fans to follow their dreams and be whoever they want to be.
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