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Exclusive: Empire’s Newest Latina Star, Jamila Velazquez, On Her Romance with Hakeem and Music Career

With a face that’s hard to forget and an infectious personality that’s even harder to ignore, actress Jamila Velazquez has appeared on everything from Law & Order: SVU to ABC Family’s Twisted, all before she’s turned 21-years-old. Her profile has only brightened in recent months after joining the cast of Empire as Laura Calleros, instantly catching the eye of Bryshere Gray’s character Hakeem.

While we weren’t able to squeeze out any spoiler alerts (sorry!) during a recent chat, we got the chance to talk about everything from her Season 2 debut to her budding music career. Check out the interview in full below and catch Jamila tonight during a fresh episode of Empire.

Houston Style: Everything seems to have happened so fast! What was the process for being cast for the show?

Jamila Velazquez: Well, my agent sent me to audition and I ended up getting the part. It’s crazy because I actually used to watch [Empire] last year and now I’ve been given this opportunity.

HS: Fox has done a great job with allowing Empire to promote music through the show. Has it helped you as well?

JV: Yes! I got so much love! “Lago Love” (the first single that she performed on the show) actually went #3 on the Latin Pop Digital list. It’s just amazing. Most of my family speaks Spanish, so as a Latina actress it feels good to be able to sing in Spanish and know that they’re watching and supporting me. It’s all a blessing.

HS: Without giving anything away, what can we expect to see from your character and should we expect you to return next season?

JV: [Laughs] I honestly don’t know who will be returning next season, but so far I’m definitely in a lot more episodes with new songs! Expect some great performances with Hakeem as well.

HS: Is there anything about Laura’s character that you identify with or see in yourself?

JV: She worked hard to get where she’s at and so did I, so I definitely love that about her. We’re a little different when it comes to wardrobe though.

HS: [Laughs] How so?

JV: She kind of has what Taraji (Taraji P. Henson) refers to as a bumpkin or “country style,” but you’ll get to see her progress as the season goes on.

HS: Speaking of Taraji, how has it been working with the cast?

JV: It’s crazy to go from watching them on-screen to like ‘Wow, I’m working with Taraji P. Henson!” Seeing her and Terrence work, they’re just wonderful and great at what they do.

HS: I’m curious. Do you have a favorite character or castmate?

JV: I will say that my favorite character is Porsha (Ta’Rhonda Jones.) It’s her first time acting but she kills it. She’s so great!

HS: You’re a busy lady! What else do you have up your sleeve that we should keep our eyes out for?

JV: I’m mostly focused on my acting. I’m going to be appearing in the new season of Orange is the New Black, but I’ll also get a chance to put out music as well. I’m just going to keep working!

For more information, visit www.fox.com/empire.

First published via Houston Style Magazine, November 2015

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