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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Get To Know: Valerie Cruz

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After roles on "Nip/Tuck," "Dexter," "Dollhouse" and "True Blood," you might think Valerie Cruz is using my DVR season pass list to guide her career.

Now the small-screen stunner is headed to the big screen for "The Line," a drug-fueled, south of the border ticking time bomb of a movie. Holding her own against cinematic heavyweights Ray Liotta, Andy Garcia and Armand Assante was no easy feat, but Valerie's been getting lots of practice going toe-to-toe with imposing actors.

She revealed a very interesting pre-filming ritual when we chatted about "The Line," as well as why she gets the stink eye at Blockbuster and what fans of "True Blood" can expect to see on Sunday's episode!

PopWrap: What were your thoughts when you found out the full cast?
Valerie Cruz: It was pretty crazy. After I got the part I, well, not exactly panicked because I knew I could do the job, but I've been watching Ray Liotta since I was a kid. A lot of times when I work with new actors, I'll get some of their movies to and going back through all the movies he's been in, he's like an iconic part of cinema.

PW: So you must have the longest Netflix queue ever!
Valerie: Yeah, if I was more efficient I'd be on Netflix. But I'm still the person in the commercial that has all the Blockbuster late fees! But I try to make it a point to refresh my memory about the people I'll be co-starring with. It gives you perspective, especially with people that have such prolific careers.

PW: Yeah, the cast in "The Line" is nothing to sneeze at!
Valerie: For sure! People don't realize that Esai [Morales] kinda paved the way for actors like me. Him, Jimmy Smits, Edward James Olmos -- amazing. And then you've got Andy Garcia, who's Cuban like me, and the most famous Cuban's are Andy Garcia and Jose Canseco! Oh, and Fidel Castro [laughs]. So it was a head spinning feeling. It's a whole new level for me!

PW: What made this movie stand out to you?
Valerie: The fact that the script didn't have tons and tons and tons of dialogue. The story is told just as much visually as it is verbally. And for me, those are the most fun parts to play because you have to be expressive. I could see so much potential in the script because it's not in your face. It's subtle and leaves a lot of room for the actors to interpret.

PW: You shot the movie in Mexico and I heard you had to have a bodyguard at all times, true?
Valerie: Oh yes. It was crazy. When I got there, they didn't even want me to leave the hotel without a bodyguard! There were so many eye-opening incidents that occurred while I was down there -- in some ways it's like a third world country to be perfectly honest.

PW: Were you prepared for that?
Valerie: Not at all. The suffering that people go through, I had never really wrapped my mind around it. But that's why I love acting. Telling stories about lives you don't live forces you to walk the walk. It gives you an opportunity to learn more about other people, and at the end of the day, about yourself.

PW: I think after this movie people are going to start hating you for all the amazing men you've now worked with!
Valerie: I know! [laughs] I never have the chance to work with women! In fact, I've only really worked a lot with Julie Benz on "Dexter" and we ended up becoming really close. But I am getting the chance to work with big men that fill up the screen and really have a presence. I'm super lucky ... but I wouldn't mind working with some more women.

PW: Will Sylvia Prado be back this year or has she gone the way of her husband?
Valerie: I think she's gone the way of her husband, which is the nature of the show. It's called "Dexter" so that world kind of revolves around him. But I think in the ether of that world, when you're not watching, Rita is still her friend.

PW: And now you're on "True Blood," one of my favorite shows ever!
Valerie: I know, mine too! It's so weird because I felt like a traitor last year because Sunday nights when "Dexter" was on, I'd be watching "True Blood!"

PW: How did you go about creating Isabel?
Valerie: It's funny, I did an interview and they kept saying I sounded like Penelope Cruz, so I said, "yeah, I guess." Then the headline became, "I modeled the whole character on Cruz," which is not factual at all. For me the jumping off point was figuring out that she became a vampire during the Spanish Inquisition. So I started reading books and studying the fashion of the early 1500s, which is what I modeled her after.

PW: I love her relationship with Hugo, will we explore that more?
Valerie: I think you're really going to enjoy this week's episode because there's a great scene between Isabel and Eric on the side of a hill. It's a really still scene and we talk a lot about why vampires are attracted to humans. We're starting to see a new side of Eric now that he's falling sway to having feelings for Sookie. So it's an interesting conversation to say the least.

PW: Does she factor in to the vampire/human war that's been teased all season?
Valerie: Well, she doesn't want to go to war -- she's definitely a pacifist in that sense. But yea, she's present. Isabel is an integral component towards the end of the season, but she's not in there killing people.

PW: Were you worried that being on a show you love would ruin the mystique?
Valerie: Yea, I've kinda been worried about that. OK, I was really worried about that. I didn't want to ruin my Sunday nights! But I only have a small sense of what's happening from the table reads, so it's all good!

"The Line" is now playing in select theaters

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