'The Following' Actress Valerie Cruz Twisted Bromances, Scary Serial Killers & Whether We'll Get More Maxton
Fox's perpetual thrill ride, The Following, may be Kevin Bacon's show, but it would be nothing without Valerie Cruz. Cruz, who joined The Following Season 2 as FBI Agent Gina Mendez, plays perhaps the only character that fans can trust to really have a handle on all of the serial killer happenings. Even better, this character embodies many groups who don't get enough visibility on TV: she's a woman of color who also happens to be a lesbian. "I like playing a character who happens to be gay and where it has nothing to do with whether she's good or bad at her job... it's an honor and a joy to do that, because that's how real life is... I think that the show really does a good job at that, and portraying minorities."
Unlike Bacon's character, Ryan Hardy, whose borderline obsession with tracking down Joe Carroll and co. puts him in constant danger 24/7, Mendez has remained level-headed despite the craziness surrounding her — which is an impressive feat on this show. Of course, in a show where serial killers are everywhere, it's only a matter of time before it all goes wrong. And if there's one person who can facilitate chaos, it's Joe Carroll, the Poe-reciting serial killer and the show's original Big Bad.
Now that Ryan has visited Joe in prison, how will that affect his own psyche? According to Cruz, the answer is a lot. "Ryan knows he is opening Pandora's box... It's why he didn't go to see Joe right away. The dynamics of their relationship have definitely changed... The Ryan and Joe 'bromance,' for lack of a better word, is somewhat back, but in a twisted way."
Of course, that's not to say that Cruz thinks Ryan has made a mistake — at least, not for the viewer's sake. "The show wouldn't be a show without James Purefoy, who plays Joe Carroll. Joe is the person that our characters are striving to get or put away or kill, or he's the person who influences the other people who are killing, so if there was no Joe Carroll, there really wouldn't be any show."
Joe may have been the show's very first big bad, and he's certainly a fan favorite character despite his penchant for murder. But, according to Cruz, he's not the person she's the most afraid of on the show — that title is reserved for a brand new character, one that might be even more twisted than Joe, the twins, or Lily Grey.
"We have so many twisted characters on the show it's really hard to choose one..." she tells me. "I think Michael Ealy's character [upcoming Season 3 character Theo] is probably the most violent of all of the characters... he's the kind of person that, you see it in their eyes, you don't want to be alone with them. With Joe, it's a little bit more psychological.... [Ealy's character] is like our Domer... there is no moral compass."
Prior to the resurgence of a serial killer community (this one seemingly not run by Joe Carroll) Ryan, Mendez, and the rest of the gang were happy. Mendez got married in the season opener, and Ryan was revealed to have a serious girlfriend... which, naturally, made everyone suspicious. Can we trust Ryan's new lady friend Gwen, or could she be a potential follower? Cruz's character, Mendez, was in that boat in Season 2, when it was revealed that her own ex-girlfriend was a follower of Joe's.
Now, Mendez is married to a woman whom, we hope, doesn't turn out to be evil herself. As for Mendez's lesbian relationship, it's refreshing to see a show that has LGBT characters without having their sexuality be the crux of their character development, and Cruz agrees that it's a particularly important aspect of the show. "I hope we get to a point where we stop seeing these lines between people and their gender preferences. It's really like New York, if you go out on the street you'll see people of different [identities], and I think we really represent that well on our show."
Of course, the most important thing to know about the season is Cruz's feelings on my own person OTP, Max and Mike. Does she ship them as hard as the fans do? The answer is, of course. "Can you tell me who doesn't want to get them together?" she said. "I don't know a single person who doesn't want them to get together."
The Following might not be the happiest of TV shows, but Cruz leaves me with this optimistic piece of information. "You'll get plenty of Maxton later this season. The writers are all over that."
Tune into The Following Mondays at 8PM on Fox.
Images: Sarah Shatz, Giovanni Rufino/FOX