Valerie Cruz, who comes aboard “True Blood” this season as the show’s first Latina vampire, Isabel, recounts that she was surprised to find series creator Alan Ball on hand when she first went in for a casting meeting
“Funny, I wasn’t even expecting him to be in the room. A lot of producers nowadays, it’s like they can’t even be bothered to be in the room anymore. They want it on tape,” says the actress, known as Sylvia Prado — Jimmy Smits’ wife — to “Dexter” fans. “There are a lot of things you can’t get from an audition tape — the energy when someone walks in, their interaction. Alan is such a class act. He’s there at every table read. The writers I’ve spoken to say he’s incredibly gracious – he trusts the people that he hires to really do a great job. The cool thing about it is, once you’re cast, one the whole thing is put together, he takes a step back and lets people do creatively what they want to do.”
One thing she did, as Isabel, “I definitely asked for the wardrobe. Everyone was pretty gracious about that. She’s 600 years old and definitely from the time of the Spanish Inquisition in my mind. It’s pretty clear where she comes from. She speaks still with a Spanish accent.”
Adds Cruz, “I’ve always loved vampires so I was really excited about doing the show. Well, you’d be hard-pressed to find an actor who doesn’t get excited about the prospect of playing a character with this mindset that you live forever. The world just weighs on you differently, you know? That’s part of what makes vampires so interesting to play. In a sense they lack humanity, but in another sense there is a great humanness about them.”
Cruz says she became an avid fan of “True Blood” in its first season. “My handful of Sunday nights when I could watch TV were ‘Mad Men’ and ‘True Blood,’ even though I was working on ‘Dexter’ at the time. It made me feel a little bit of a traitor.”
THE INDUSTRY EYE: With Diane Keaton okay after her visit to the hospital last month (she bumped her head during a sumo wrestler scene while making Nancy Meyers’ “Morning Glory”) production is heading toward a wrap. Interestingly, they just added to the cast of subsidiary characters – a beautiful, sophisticated upscale woman in her thirties, who’ll share the waiting room at a fertility clinic with Alec Baldwin’s character. The romantic comedy, reuniting Keaton with her “Something’s Gotta Give” director Meyers, also stars Steve Martin.
NO REGRETS: VH1’s “Best Week Ever,” which spoofs pop culture news every week, is officially on hiatus until 2010, though many see this as an unofficial cancellation. While its future is up in the air, one of the show’s stars, Doug Benson, says he’s been lucky to be a part of it because it’s definitely helped his career. In fact, the stand-up comedian, who is known for his love of marijuana, says he’s been able to acquire new fans who might not have otherwise seen his work. “Some people don’t go that far up on their dial, but I get recognized all the time from being on VH1,” Benson tells us.” At first, though, they’re like, ‘Is that just some stoner or that guy from VH1?'”
With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster