Actor Raymond Cruz is often best known for his television work, particularly on TNT’s The Closer and his memorable reoccurring turn in Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul. For more than thirty years, however, Cruz has appeared on screens both big and small, providing memorable and distinctive turns in a variety of projects. His latest role in the New Line horror film The Curse of La Llorona, however, is one of his biggest to date. Premiering in theaters and IMAX screens around the world starting tonight, his role in The Conjuring spin-off film is literally and physically among his most gigantic to date, particularly if you see him on the 72-foot screen.
It’s certainly a celebratory moment for the noteworthy actor, and he took the time to speak with us here at Cinemaholics to reveal his interest in the project, his reaction to the South by Southwest premiere, his future endeavors, his ambitions outside of the acting world, and a whole lot more.
Are you a horror fan?
First, when it comes to his role as Rafael Olvera in this weekend’s big horror film, it wasn’t merely an acting gig for the veteran performer. He comes into the series as a fan of the horror genre, particularly the Conjuring films. He said that the incorporation of faith and religious elements was what appealed to him most as an actor coming into this supernatural series. And playing the role of a former priest who still finds himself in contact with his spirituality, that element of religion and humanity certainly played a big role in inviting him into this new film.
Cruz reveals that he was raised Catholic throughout his life, and he says he likes to go to different churches and seeing what the different experiences are like. The religious elements are at “the forefront” of the story in La Llorona, and to bring these elements into the film was “a great journey for me.”
“I really enjoyed it. I loved the whole feeling of it. I loved the energy of it. I love what it means and I love how it helps tell the story. Because you gotta remember that there is no combating darkness without light. So you either have to have a strong light or deal with the dark intake.”
Additionally, Cruz worked with first-time feature director Michael Chaves, whom he referred to as “a great ball of energy.”
“I was worried he was going to burn himself out because he goes at, like, 100 miles an hour,” Cruz said. He was definitely driven by the great energy of the first-time film director, and he was warmly receptive to his open process, allowing the actor to build upon his own character and expand it in ways that felt real, honest, and most of all, human.
“It’s great to work with someone who is so enthusiastic about every single scene you’re going to shoot in the movie. He had a great energy. He’s very collaborative, too. He’s very open to you. [Particularly] with my character and bringing some life into it.”
How was South by Southwest?
Cruz was given the opportunity to attend the film’s premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, along with a few other cast members. The actor called it a “great” experience, and he found himself warmly enthusiastic to the response given to his newest film by the fun-loving crowd in attendance a couple weeks earlier.
“It’s the first time I had ever been to South by Southwest. And I loved it. I loved the crowd. I loved seeing the movie with an audience. You can feel everyone’s energy, especially with the jump scares, as well as the sound of the movie on the big screen. So, yeah, it was great.”
Also, Cruz talked about balancing the character’s comedic elements with the thunderous horror elements of The Curse of La Llorona. He admits there is an “energy” to his character that he possesses throughout the film. Particularly when it comes to the character’s spirituality. Considering how dark and intense that can be, his elements bring some lightness.
“The thing is, the movie is so scary, people end up holding their breath for long periods of time. So, when you bring in this element of humor, it helps break the tension. Which is great. Also, with this character, you have a way of bringing light into the darkness. It helps lighten the mood. [Both] in the story and in the theater. So, it works fantastically.”
TV, film, or both?
Later in the interview, Cruz talked about the continuously evolving nature of television and how it’s a “great” period for Network TV right now. As someone who has worked in film and television at a frequent clip, he is definitely “excited about all the different projects and all the different avenues in which to work” at this time. But he was quick to note that working in film is quite different than the world of television, especially working on a major film like The Curse of La Llorona.
The shooting schedule and the pacing of each project is different, for instance. Especially with television being a medium where you often have to shoot multiple scenes in a given day as an actor, while shooting with film often allows for a different schedule. Cruz also noted that in film, you can get away with a little more than you can on television. At least, certain television providers. Particularly on some stations and networks where you need to “mind your Ps & Qs.”
When it comes to his work away from the promotional rounds on the new horror spin-off, Cruz was enthusiastic to recommend Epix’s darkly comedic crime series Get Shorty, which is based on the 1995 film of the same name. He joined the series in a supporting role last year, and he explains that it wasn’t until the show aired that he watched it, and he says “it’s fantastic” and an “amazing show.”
If things go according to plan, then soon enough, acting won’t be the only job title on Cruz’s IMDb. The actor is looking to shift into writing, and he says he is currently writing a few different things at the moment. In fact, he’s in the thrust of a film screenplay right now, plus he’s actively working on pitching a new television series. Obviously, he can’t say too much about any details. But he teased that it’s “not like anything you’ve seen before.” Cruz notes that he is excited and hopes that he can get the series up sometime in the near future.
When it came to the possibility of the actor reprising his role as Tuco Salamanca in future episodes of Better Call Saul (or possibly a flashback sequence in the much-anticipated Breaking Bad follow-up movie that is expected to premiere on Netflix and AMC later this year), Cruz was expectedly coy. He couldn’t admit whether or not we’ve seen the last of the fan-favorite drug kingpin. But he did admit that he was recently playing golf with Jonathan Banks, the Emmy-nominated actor who plays Mike Ehrmantraut in the popular dramatic shows.
Is that a sign that he’ll be reacquainted with a few other familiar faces soon enough? Time will tell, especially for eager fans like myself. As someone who lives and breathes Breaking Bad, however, I had to ask the tempting inquiry. I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t at least bring it up.
The Curse of La Llorona is now playing in theaters everywhere.