Valerie Cruz Sinks Her Teeth Into True Blood
Valerie Cruz has managed to score the cable television triple crown. She portrayed Grace Santiago in the first season of Nip/Tuck, then moved onto Dexter, where she played Sylvia Prado. Now she’s joined True Blood, as the Dallas-based vampire Isabel who arrives in Dallas this Sunday. Cruz shared why she loved burning the midnight oil on the set, how she approached playing a very senior citizen and why she’s relieved Isabel did not appear in any of the show’s famous sex scenes.
Who is Isabel?
She is a vampire they’ve introduced this season. [Sookie and Bill] take a trip to Dallas. According to the books she’s about 600 years old. So she’s been around the block. As vampires go she’s a little more in the vein of having a sensitivity and a conscience. She’s pretty fabulous. She has great costumes, a great hairstyle. I don’t think we’ve really seen a vampire quite like her yet.
Why are Bill and Sookie in Dallas? How is Isabel involved in their story?
I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but if you read the books you know they go to Dallas to help find a missing vampire. That’s how they encounter all the people in Dallas.
In the book, Isabel worked at a vampire hotel. Is that what she’s doing on the TV series as well?
Yes. Definitely. They did such a great job on the sets. It’s pretty amazing. It was interesting to read the book and then walk onto the set and see the recreation. It’s like bringing it out of the mind and bringing it into physical form.
What was it like working with Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer?
I can’t say enough good things. Stephen Moyer is probably the most gracious, gifted actor that I’ve met. He’s really intelligent. He has a real sensitivity to his character, to scenes, to scripts. Anna’s definitely the same way. It was strange because I was a big fan of the show before I [was cast] and interacting with them after being on the outside looking in was a real interesting trip. They’re both really sweet people, kind, and hard workers. The hours on that set are insane. It’s a vampire show, so you’re shooting into the night, getting off at five in the morning. If you can go to work every day after working those hours and be as gracious and kind as both of them are, it’s a real testimony to who they are as people.
How did you approach playing a character who was 600 years old?
A book gives you a lot of back story. On TV there’s not always that time so as an actor, when you come on and you get this character you have to create it from head to toe. I did a lot of research on vampires, read books, watched different movies. I pieced together what it was that I wanted for her. I put her at 600 years old. I thought about the Spanish inquisition. When I knew the time period where she was made it was easier to flesh her out. I took my ideas to wardrobe and the hair and make-up department. They’re so creative. They got on board with the ideas I had. You can tell by the way she dresses. There are hints to a different time and place. I think all these vampires have a world weariness about them. I’ve only lived 33 years and I feel world weary. I can’t imagine having walked the earth for that number of years with no end in sight.
Does Isabel have any of the show’s trademark wild sex scenes?
No, she did not. Thank God! I saved myself and the rest of the world a bad, bad sight.
You’ve been on a lot of popular television shows. Other than True Blood, what was your favorite role?
I have a movie coming out that I put a lot of my heart and soul into in August with Ray Liotta called La Ligne. That was really interesting. I learned about another side of life that I had never seen, life in Mexico. It’s interesting because we filmed the movie prior to Mexico really being on the grid for everyone. Now everyone can see it on CNN. It’s like martial law over there: tons of crime, tons of drugs, people can’t go out on the streets. I don’t think I had a sensitivity for the plight of people over there, why people were fleeing over here. Now I think I have a little more insight.
You also were on Dexter. Who is scarier: vampires or Dexter?
Dexter is scarier. With vampires you know exactly what you’re getting. There’s rules and regulations. With Dexter, Michael [C. Hall] is such an amazing actor. He’s pretty freaking scary. I think I’d have a better chance getting out alive with a vampire.
Have you deliberately chosen to work on edgy cable shows instead of network television?
It’s weird. After getting cast on True Blood my agent [said] I’m the cable queen. They take more risks on cable shows. I’ve been lucky to be a part of them. They’re really ahead of their time. The [cable channels] look at the shows very differently. With network, shows are pulled half the time after three episodes whether they’re good or they’re not good. It’s a numbers game. With cable, they can take a lot more liberties. So they take risks. With Nip/Tuck, I had never even done anything before I got on that show. They created that character for me. I was reading for something else. I haven’t set out to do it on purpose, but I go where the material is. With Dexter and True Blood, there was no doubt in my mind. who doesn’t want to work on great shows with great actors?
What television shows do you like to watch in your fee time?
I have to confess last year my Sunday nights consisted of Mad Men and True Blood. That was literally my Sunday night. I do like 30 Rock. Family Guy is one of my favorites as well.