"It's been a sh*tty two, three years," she tells ET exclusively, amid working on a number of projects. On Tuesday, del Castillo returns to the silver screen with La Reina del Sur 2 Special Edition, a televised event that features never-before-seen footage, scenes and images from the groundbreaking series. Viewers of the drama will get to relive Teresa Mendoza's tale as she reclaims her power and fights for the most important love in her life. It's a story that rings true in del Castillo's life.
The 47-year-old Mexican actress began acting at the age of six and got her big break at 19 with the highly successful telenovela Muchachitas. Over the years, she became one of the top actresses in Latin America, starring in a slew of films and telenovelas, like Los De Abajo, La Mentira and Ramona.
She broke away from stereotypical roles and instead became known for taking on powerful female characters, like on El Derecho de Nacer and La Reina del Sur.
In 2002, she got the opportunity to cross over to the U.S. with PBS' American Family, the first broadcast television drama series featuring a predominantly Latino cast. She then went on to land roles on shows like Weeds, CSI: Miami, Jane the Virgin, and films such as Bordertown, No Good Deed, The 33 and more.
Despite all her accomplishments, things took a turn for the worst for del Castillo in 2015 as she found herself embroiled in a scandal that almost ended her career.
The Under the Same Moon actress came under investigation by Mexican authorities when reports surfaced that she had been in communication and knew the whereabouts of notorious Mexican cartel kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, who had escaped from a maximum security prison in Mexico in July 2015.
He was serving a 20-year sentence for homicide and drug-related charges. Del Castillo was approached by Guzmán's lawyer in 2014 to discuss producing a biographical film about the druglord and obtaining the rights to his life. Following his escape, del Castillo and El Chapo finally met in person on Oct. 2, 2015. She was joined by none other than actor Sean Penn, who had his own agenda for meeting the fugitive.
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Kate del Castillo Feels 'Hurt' by Sean Penn After Helping Him Meet Drug Lord El Chapo
Del Castillo has expressed regret over assisting the actor in meeting Guzmán in the hopes of getting a movie made about him. The movie never happened and she felt betrayed by Penn, claiming she didn’t know that he was going to publish an article. After El Chapo's arrest, del Castillo had to face a media frenzy, as well as Mexican authorities -- who subpoenaed her and opened an investigation for alleged money laundering. The investigation came to an end in 2017 when no evidence was found to support claims that she had received any money from El Chapo. This ordeal cost del Castillo work, as projects fell through, and she had to regain the trust of her fans.
"My family and my closest friends have been so supportive, and you know, it was also very sh*tty for them," she explains to ET of the public fallout. "I will always appreciate that and I will never forget all the support. That's how you come out of that hurting and difficult time, with love, and also when you know that you've done nothing wrong. I'm very lucky. I'm working, I'm doing whatever I want to do, and I have my family and I am safe and they are safe. So that's all that I want and all I need."
Meanwhile, Guzman was extradited to the U.S. on Jan. 19, 2017 to face drug trafficking charges. On July 17, 2019, he was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years. The kingpin is currently serving his sentence at the maximum security prison, ADX Florence, in Colorado.
"I would do anything for my parents. I would do anything for my sister and my nieces and nephews. They are the closest family that I have," del Castillo says, crediting her parents, Mexican acting legend Eric del Castillo and Kate Trillo, as well as sister Verónica del Castillo for getting her past the Penn-Guzmán narrative.
Her father warned her of the possible pitfalls of becoming a public figure, she shares, revealing that he told her, ''I don't want you to be an actress because I don't want you to suffer." Aside from suffering rejection, he alluded to the hardships of putting yourself out there and how it might affect her personal relationship with a partner or a husband. "[He said], 'It's going to be hard for you.' And he was right."
Del Castillo considers herself a fighter and says she's moved past that part of her life. She's also not worried about what people think or say of her. "I always say, 'I don't care. Me vale. Si yo me voy de esta vida, I don't care,'" she adds. "I don't live for what other people say [about me] and that's why I've had so many problems in my life, because I just say and act the way I want and I don't have a [filter]. But I think that's what keeps me grounded."
In Bad Boys for Life (out now on Blu-ray and DVD), starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, del Castillo plays Isabel, a ruthless criminal who was imprisoned for many years. While behind bars, she gave birth to a son, Armando (Jacob Scipio), who goes on to become a lethal assassin. Upon her release, she works with Armando to seek revenge on those who wronged her.
Del Castillo says she enjoyed her time on the set, sharing that the entire cast and crew were "unbelievable." She was also honored to work closely with Smith. "I can only say he is so professional, fun and he's there for you. That is what acting is all about, being there for the other one," she marvels. "That's exactly what he did and what he is as an actor and as a person. He's very generous."
The cast is also very diverse, with a number of Latinx actors getting plenty of screen time, as she told ET's Kevin Frazier during the Bad Boys for Life premiere. "They know what they're doing and that's the way I want to see more movies. I want to be in Hollywood and see more diversity just like this one," she shared. "I think it's amazing."
"It's a big franchise movie and it's always nice to see Latinos in those kinds of Hollywood hits. Hopefully, it will be a hit as well," she said. Del Castillo also added that "la raza" has to "be there and go to the movies so that we can prove that the ones that are spending the money are Latinos."
Continuing to focus on her future, del Castillo recently signed a deal with Endemol Shine North America to help develop a number of projects with her Cholawood Productions company.
"We are developing scripted, unscripted, docuseries, movies, features," she shares. "I'm producing and I'm not only acting, so that's also another passion I have. It was about time."
"I just want to do things in my lifetime that make me happy," del Castillo adds. "And, second of all, do something -- big or small -- for humanity."
La Reina del Sur 2 Special Edition airs Tuesday, April 2 at 10 p.m. on Telemundo.
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