Talking TRUE BLOOD with Valerie Cruz

valerie-cruz-true-bloodAs soon as Sookie and Bill left Bon Temps, I knew we were in for a world of trouble with the Dallas vampires.  What I didn’t expect was the lovely Isabel, the first Latina vampire we’ve come across, in love with a human (my buddy Chris Gartin), and a total ally for our Bon Temps team!  Isabel is played by one of my favorites, Valerie Cruz, an alumnus of both DEXTER  and NIP/TUCK, and she and I had a chance to chat early this week about the role on TRUE BLOOD, what we should expect, and the fan campaign she’d like us to start to get her on another favorite series!

I hear that you loved TRUE BLOOD before you joined the cast!
It was my MAD MEN / TRUE BLOOD Sunday night!  It was very consuming.

That’s probably one of the best Sunday night combos to watch!
Yeah, then your mouth is like on the bottom of the floor, like the whole time [laughs] like “Oh my god Oh my god, now way! That did not just happen”.  It was one of those like all night long!

And of course, at the time, you’re on one of the greatest shows on TV, [DEXTER]!
With DEXTER, I was like a traitor!  Every award show, we were nominated against either both of those shows or like MAD MEN and MAD MEN, obviously, swept everything all last year.  I felt a little bit like a traitor and I didn’t talk about it very much at work [laughs].

Ha, it’s like going to work and saying “Oh by the way, I love these other shows that are technically our competitors”.
Yeah, exactly, it was not water cooler talk over there at all.

So now you are on TRUE BLOOD, and I’m interested in how the role came to be, aside from your just wanting to be a part of the show?
It’s interesting, I loved the show beforehand, but the role just actually came up.  It was sort of like we had this thing,  my agents saw that they were adding this character, and they had created her a little bit in their minds that they wanted somebody Latina, so I ended up going in for the audition.  I think, too, the character herself, Isabel, is in the second book, “Dead in Dallas” and I think what they did, as far as my research, there’s another Latin character that they don’t have in this season, and I don’t know, that is with Sookie and helps her out further along in the story.  I think what they did was sort of merge the two.  Isabel in the book wasn’t Latina, but there was this other Latin character, Luna, I think her name was, that isn’t really present in this season, so I think what happened was they kind of made Isabel Latina.  As far as who she is, after getting the part, I kind of created a lot of that on my own.  Her backstory, and her history and all that kind of stuff.

Is there anyone that you based the portrayal on?
Not really.  I was kind of misquoted recently, as far as like, somebody was talking about the accent being from Penelope Cruz, and I was like, I suppose, but I never really thought of her at all when I was doing the role.  If anything, I’ve seen a few things with Antonio Banderas in it, and I thought, maybe more of him.  Isabel has a very masculine sort of energy about her, it’s almost male like, it’s really animal like.  I didn’t pick a female in particular.  I modeled her after a peacock.  I did a lot of animal work with her.  There’s a peacock sensibility to her.  I did a lot of research on the Spanish Inquisition, because I knew that she was very old.  You kind of have to pick a time that a person is made.  It was a lot about reading literature about you know, the 1400s and that time with Isabel and Ferdinand, and a very real, and visceral moment in history, that sort of, she evolved.  History is so rich with all different kinds of characters, way more than I think you have watching other actors and admiring.

We were introduced to Isabel with Stan [played by Ed Quinn].  How would you describe their relationship?
I think they’re kind of quintessential nemeses.  It’s pretty textbook and on the opposite sides of the line.  It’s very, kind of a ferocious energy between the two of them, and I think that continues on through the season, because one is fighting for sort of dominance over humans and sees themselves as far more evolved, and the other one wants to find a way to find the middle ground with the human beings and sees a lot of potential in humanity.  I would say they’re quintessential nemeses.

By the time we see Isabelle in the second episode, she has this other layer of not all humans are bad, she is the one who is trying to work with them.
Yeah, definitely.  She’s the first vampire that you encounter on the show, that’s more in line with how Vampire Bill is. And his sensitivity and sensibility.  I think it’s interesting, too, because throughout the season, you’ll get a lot more backstory on Bill and you’ll see it hasn’t always been that way for him.  There are really deep conversations between me and vampire Eric and you see how these lines for vampires are starting to get blurred.  They go through these journeys.  They’re kind of like vampire Bill, in a sense, is born again, through his relationship with Sookie.  You saw last season, some of the crew that he used to hang with.  Very hardcore, very gritty with total disregard for human life,vampires. I think that being a vampire is probably a constant evolution.  You walk the earth for so long, even as people, human beings with our finite life spans, we evolve as humans, so you can only imagine the evolution spread out over hundreds and hundreds of years, it’s even more of an evolution for sure!

What can you kind of tease about what we’ll see for the rest of the season?
Oh my gosh, I don’t know!  I’m trying to keep it a secret!  They barely give us the scripts. If I say anything, I might never ever see anything again!  What can I tease?  I think it’s more of what you seen.  It gets crazy man!  That whole show?  Not even just my character, with every character. It’s when the world collides sort of thing.  It’s insane.  It’s like Carnival in Brazil, in Rio.  With her, it’s more of the same.  Definitely a warrior side.  I think you’ll continue to get a different side of who vampires are.  There’s definitely some stuff that happens in the next episode with Eric that I think people will be surprised about because it’s his emotional relationships change; he starts to form some interesting attachments in the story, and she [Isabel] starts to call him out on it. It gets pretty nutty,  but I don’t want to give it away.  I feel like if you’re a real fan of the show, you’d hate me for it!  It’s so surprising every week that I would hate to take that away from any of the fans.

I totally feel the same way – when I watch an episode of TRUE BLOOD, not knowing what’s coming up, it’s that much of a show, because I’m surprised!
They do a really good job of trying to protect their secrets.  There are people who, if they got their hands on the script, or this or that, they would definitely spoil it for other people.  It’s better if it’s a constant surprise, so I’d hate to take it away from someone!

If you were to say something to someone who hadn’t been watching about why they should tune in, what would you say a reason to tune in would be?
Alan Ball [laughs].  The amazing actors on the show.  I think the biggest thing that everyone talks about, with a show like that, everyone is so committed to this other world, and if they weren’t, it wouldn’t work.  The intensity of the actors, it sucks you in.  If you set yourself in front of it, and suspend your disbelief, of whether or not you believe in vampires and this and that, or if this is silly, or what have you, and just really let yourself be engaged, these actors are some of the most amazing actors on television, and they will just bring you into this gorgeous, gorgeous story.  It’s fun, and fantastical.  It’s an hour of freeing your mind.  It has nothing to do, it’s so not steeped in this world.  With all of the things that are going on between the Middle East, and the economy, I don’t know who wouldn’t want to just sit in front of a TV and just completely free your minds of that.  It’s a show that harkens back to why entertainment, the movies, kind of developed to begin with, during the World War.  Which was, you went to the movies to forget about what’s going on in the present.  It was a real escapism sort of event, and I think that TV show is really reflective of that.  Just pure, unadulterated escapism.

You did 6 episodes, right?
Mm hmm

Is there potential for you to come back next season?
Ooh, I feel like if I say anything then I give it away. I mean, yes.  I will say that, I will say yes.  If I should be so lucky, yes!

What do you have coming up besides TRUE BLOOD?
I’m getting ready to leave for New York, I’m really excited, there’s a film that I did with Ray Liotta and Andy Garcia called The Line.  It’s actually called La Linea and then parentheses, The Line, in case you don’t know Spanish.  I think that’s so funny every time I see that.  That’s getting ready to premiere at the closing of the Latino Film Festival in New York City, so I’m pretty excited.  I’m flying there to do that this weekend.  I’m pretty proud of it, it’s a fantastic movie.  So we’ll see what happens with that.  Other than that, it’s pretty much plugging along, back in the world of unemployment!  [laughs] You have to go and find your next script.  That’s the beauty of being an actor, so I’m going through scripts and going through meetings and seeing what goes next.

Hopefully we can get you on MAD MEN so you can hit your trifecta!
I’ve been saying that!  My dream will have been completed; my Sunday night jaw drop dream!

We’ll start a campaign!
Start that campaign!  I will be your biggest fan!  I was always like, especially because I’m Latina, I’m always laughing when I talk to my agent.  It’s the 60s.  There just aren’t a lot of Latin faces at that time.  So I’m just laughing, like, “even if I have to be somebody’s housekeeper”.  Get me on the show!  I will play somebody’s housekeeper.  It’s so funny, because at that time period, it’s unfortunate for me, but it was a very black and white sort of era, so the race issues being dealt with are more black and white.  I don’t know, maybe!  We’ll see, start the campaign!