With a career spanning nearly 30 years, Raymond Cruz may be one of the most recognizable character actors in Hollywood these days. Whether he’s putting his foot in fantasy, drama, horror, comedy or reality, he nails every role – like the creepy, violent kidnapper in the film Cleveland Abduction or the loose-cannon gangster Tuco Salamanca in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. There is no question that Cruz’s performances stick in your mind every time he hits the screen.
Through all of his amazing work, Cruz has found true longevity as Detective Julio Sanchez in the long-running cop series The Closer (2005-2012) and spin-off Major Crimes, now in its fourth season on TNT. His character is a gang tactics specialist in the LAPD’s Homicide Division who has been through hell, including the loss of his wife and being framed for a murder, amongst other things.
We spoke with Cruz briefly about his body of work, how he has managed to balance filming such huge shows at the same time, and where he hopes it all will go. While he’s not big on social media or public displays, Cruz does want to connect with fans in the best ways possible, and he promises some startling revelations about Julio in this new season of Major Crimes. Read on…
How does it feel to be a part of such a long running series of shows?
Raymond Cruz: It’s an amazing experience to have the opportunity to do that, because how many actors get that? It’s a rarity. To be able to take a character over 11 years and then to slowly unveil the character, which is a dream. The audience gets to know the characters like you get to know real people. Immediately you don’t know everything about someone, but the more you spend time with them, the more you get to know them, you get to see how they tick and what motivates them. Monday’s episode [S4.E2] is an amazing example of a huge payoff for someone, an insight into Julio.
What are some things you like or dislike about your character’s development over the years?
RC: I find it interesting that all of his deep-seated issues stem from one problem. It’s huge and the scenes [revealing that]are amazing, so you’re in for a treat. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done on the show, to put this together and expose the character in this way. You find out what really happened to his wife.
How do you balance being a part of such successful shows filming and airing at the same time?
RC: You know I’ve been fortunate because the people that I’ve worked with like [Major Crimes creator] James Duff and the [Executive] Producer Mike Robin, they’ve been so flexible when working out schedules. You gotta understand that I shot Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul at the same time I was doing our show. I ended up working on the weekends and hiatus, but they were able to move things around, so without them I don’t think I would have been able to do it. I’m really grateful.
You get no rest, but I’ve been fortunate that Vince Gilligan [creator of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul]was really adamant about me coming to work for him, so it’s been great.
What role do you say that people recognize you for the most?
RC: It depends on the demographic and the age. If they’re a lot younger, it’s definitely Tuco Salamanca from the Breaking Bad series. If they are a little older, it’s The Closer and Major Crimes, also the movies. We’re in a time where you can watch anything you want at any time which is great.
I remember when I was a kid you had to sit in front of the TV at a specific time to watch something. Now it’s on demand, and the movies that I’ve done get played over and over again. I think I’m on television every single day on something.
Where do you see yourself going creatively in the next few years?
RC: Hopefully we’ll still be on the air with Major Crimes and we’ll be exploring that show a while more. I guess after that, I think I’ll go and work on movies for a while. I’ve always loved doing television because I grew up a huge television fan, I mean I watched everything. If you would’ve told me as a kid, “When you grow up you’re gonna be on television,” there’s no way I would have believed it. It’s incredible, a huge gift and I treat it with respect as a privilege. The producers trust me to help tell their stories.
What do you want people to know most about you as a man and an artist at this stage of your career?
RC: That I do treat it as art. I don’t simply look at it as a job. I try to be as creative as possible with these parts that come across my path, and try to really bring something people can relate to – but also in some way either to create something for them to be inspired by, whether it’s negative or positive. Either to scare the hell out of them or inspire them. I think that’s really the path I’m on and look forward to in my work. I’m in love with the work.