The sexy telenovela sensation is getting lots of buzz (and ratings!) for her latest project

By Alla Byrne
Updated March 25, 2011 12:40 PM
Credit: Telemundo

Kate del Castillo may not be a household name in the U.S. just yet – unless you speak Spanish at home.

The Mexican actress is the star of Telemundo’s hugely popular – and surprisingly edgy – telenovela La Reina del Sur, which translates to “Queen of the South,” a racy soap about an innocent Mexican woman who becomes the powerful leader of a drug cartel.

The Spanish-language series has beat out major networks ABC, NBC and CBS in ratings for its timeslot and del Castillo’s performance as Teresa Mendoza is generating a lot of buzz.

Here are five things you should know about the sultry star:

1. You may recognize her from that infamous pool scene in Weeds
La Reina del Sur isn’t the first time del Castillo, 38, has played a powerful Mexican criminal. The actress portrayed Pilar Zuazo, who threatened to kill the family of Nancy (played by Mary-Louise Parker) in season 5 of Weeds. She ended up floating facedown in a pool after Nancy’s son took a croquet mallet to her head.

2. She’s a telenovela queen
The actress feels right at home on the set of soap operas since that’s where she first rose to fame. Del Castillo’s breakout role was in the highly popular Muchachitas and she went on to star in nine other soaps, which have aired in more than 100 countries worldwide. “It’s just drama, drama, drama and that’s what a telenovela is about,” she recently told E! Online.

3. Acting runs in the family
Her father, Eric del Castillo, is a popular Mexican matinee idol and Kate got her start acting alongside her dad as a child. Del Castillo landed her first film role at the age of six. Her husband, Aaron Diaz, is also an actor, as well as a singer and model. The two married in Las Vegas in 2009.

4. She’s not like the bad girl she plays on TV
While the actress has portrayed a variety of shady characters, she’s a do-gooder in real life. In 2009, del Castillo was appointed Ambassador for the Mexican Commission on Human Rights and the following year she helped launch the Blue Heart campaign in order to raise awareness and fight human trafficking.

5. She doesn’t think she has a Hollywood body
Although del Castillo has graced the cover of many magazines, including Spanish-language versions of GQ, InStyle and PEOPLE en Español, who named her one of their “50 Most Beautiful,” she still doesn’t think she has an A-list figure. “I see here in Hollywood, ‘Oh my God, they are like so thin,’ ” del Castillo told E! Online. “I could never be like that. I will never be a star in Hollywood.”

We beg to differ. Reina del Sur airs Monday through Friday (10 p.m. ET) on Telemundo.