Cruz was born on a military base in Germany to Puerto Rican parents, but moved to Killeen when she was a toddler. She grew up on Fort Hood, and Cruz recalls Killeen as a “diverse city in the middle of nowhere.” Although Cruz grew up surrounded by a variety of people from various parts of the world, there wasn’t much to do on weekends aside from going to high school football games and the movie theater. Cruz would usually opt for the latter, and if not at the theater, renting movies from Blockbuster was one of her favorite pastimes.
“I just watched a lot of film growing up as a form of escaping and traveling,” Cruz says. And because we were so poor, we never left the state of Texas, not even to visit family, until I was like 14 or 15 years old.”
As a child, Cruz was a “moody, emo kid,” who idolized characters like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Wednesday Addams. While most teenage girls would fantasize about their weddings, Cruz would often imagine her funeral.
“I remember being in the driveway just laying down, with my hands crossed over my heart,” Cruz recalls, “My mom and my brother, they came out, and were like ‘What are you doing?’ And I was like, ‘I'm playing dead.’”
“I was this little fifth-grader singing at the top of my lungs to ‘You Oughta Know,’” Cruz remembers. “I had no concept of what the song was actually about. I just knew she was pissed off, and I loved her for it.”
Her love of music carried over to her adult years, as she attended University of North Texas and studied opera and early music. She acclimated well into Denton’s music scene and befriended local jazz musicians.
She joined a cover band immediately after college. During the week, she would travel to New Orleans, Austin, San Antonio or wherever she needed to be for live auditions.
“I used to joke that my singing paid for my acting habits,” Cruz says.
Eventually, she shifted to only auditioning via self-tapes, given that she grew tired of driving hours to various cities for auditions. For The Suicide Squad and Reminiscence, she locked down both movies without ever setting foot into a physical audition room.
In Reminiscence, Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) uses a machine to observe people’s memories in an attempt to find Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), a woman he falls in love with after a chance encounter. Cruz filmed several scenes with Ferguson before they were ultimately shortened.
“Originally, my character was a close friend to Rebecca Ferguson’s,” Cruz says. “And so that when she goes missing and Hugh Jackman starts looking for her, I'm the one that goes to Hugh Jackman and says, ‘You know, I don't think she's the person you think she is.’ And that basically sets him on the path of trying to figure out who Mae is, and why she did what she did.”
In the future, Cruz hopes for more Latino and Hispanic representation in film and television. While she praises the big streamers for showcasing diverse stories, she wants more representation on the primetime networks.
Next year, she plans to represent Dallas and Texas in general in Iver Jallah’s upcoming film Blood Orange Moon, filmed and produced primarily in Dallas-Fort Worth.
“I was [Jallah’s] leading lady in Blood Orange Moon,” Cruz says. “I'm really looking forward to that one because it's home-grown. It just has this Coen Brothers-esque feel to it, where it doesn't take itself seriously at all. It's just a great, funny, silly horror movie. I'm really looking forward to seeing how that one turns out.”