Many people wait years to get on the silver screen, but one Throggs Neck resident caught her big break at just 8 years old.
Summer Rose Castillo, is the daughter of April Hernandez Castillo, who has been a professional actor for 15 years with roles in TV shows such as “Dexter,” “ER” and “Law & Order” and was in the movie “Freedom Writers.” Her father Jose was also a rapper briefly.
In the fall, Summer Rose will be the main character on an animated children’s show on PBS, “Alma’s Way.”
“I’m very excited,” Summer Rose said to the Bronx Times. “It’s been a very fun year for me and my family.”
Last summer, she was doing school remotely, like most kids, when her second grade teacher decided to do a virtual talent show.
Her parents suggested she do a rap video about her experience at school and she blew everyone away. So, they put the video on social media and it began to garner attention.
Sometime later, a good friend of her parents and actor himself, Victor Cruz, who’s been recording episodes for the new PBS show, came across the video just when the producers of the show asked him if he knows of any young girls, preferably Latina, living in the Bronx who can sing and rap.
He immediately referred Summer Rose to their casting agent and a couple of Zoom auditions later; she was awarded the leading role as Alma.
The modern-day series stars 6-year-old Alma Rivera, a confident Puerto Rican girl, who lives in the Bronx with her parents and younger brother, Junior, as well as a diverse group of close-knit friends, family and community members.
In each 11-minute story, Alma speaks directly to young viewers, sharing her observations and feelings, working through challenges and offering them a window into her everyday life.
Her parents are on cloud nine and still can’t believe their daughter will be on TV. Even Hernandez Castillo didn’t start her career until age 21.
“She’s so proud of herself,” her mom said. “I don’t know an 8-year-old who is doing 40 episodes of anything.”
They explained that their daughter loves to sing and act, but may not realize the gravity of the situation. Since landing the role in November they built a studio in the house and she has recorded 22 episodes.
“I don’t think she really understood the magnitude,” Hernandez Castillo said. “We kind of had to paint the picture.”
Even with her new found stardom, she still keeps up with her school work and does chores at home.
“Because I’m in the business I think I have some leverage knowing how much she can handle,” she said. “We are very intentional about keeping her grounded.”
They feel the future is bright for Summer Rose and plan to eventually get her an agent.
“She definitely enjoys acting, why not open the doors for her now,” she commented. “We’re just so proud. Most importantly, how is it going to have an impact on the community?”