This University of North Texas alumna has come a long way since graduating with a music degree in Opera and Early Music. After appearing in two Warner Brothers feature films this past summer, Cruz talks about why she is now more focused on acting rather than her music.
Giovannie Cruz’s interest in acting began when she was young. Like many children, she excelled at make believe, but it wasn’t until her father told her about Broadway that she learned a person could make a living off it.
Although Cruz was born in Germany, she made it to Texas via her parents and the military. She says, “Texas has been my home for a long time. Honestly, my favorite thing is how vast the landscapes are. When I was a kid, I’d get very annoyed that we’d be driving nine hours and still be in Texas, but now that I’ve seen what’s out there, I’m always in awe.”
Cruz has appeared in numerous TV shows and films. Most notably, the new Walker TV series and NCIS New Orleans. Her film credits include The Suicide Squad, Queen of the South and Reminiscence (starring Hugh Jackman). She’s torn as to which she likes best but says, “I love film as a medium, but I love the consistency of television which has the longer form of storytelling and that a character can live through all sorts of scenarios.” Sometimes she feel a story is limited in filmmaking as she’s always left wondering if there was more to say, or another point of view to explore. “At the end of the day, I enjoy reminding myself that there are other ways to live, and I feel like that gets explored in greater detail through television.”
A graduate of the University of North Texas College of Music (‘09), Cruz focused her studies there on Opera and Early Music. After graduation, she linked up with other UNT alumni to form a jazz cover band that she still participates in today. “I was invited to teach voice lessons for a number of years at another alum-owned private music school and I am the music director for anime shows in partnership with Sony’s Funimation,” she says. “I also am asked to sing a lot for roles on-camera. I may not be perusing Opera exactly, but what I learned in the pursuit of it has been utilized greatly.”
To Act or Not
In her spare time, Cruz enjoys exploring new things. Her favorite pastime is Googling stuff and going down encyclopedia rabbit holes. But acting, and the extra elements that go along with that, take up much of her time. However, she has considered another career choice. “I’ve often wondered if a career in politics or business or law or marketing or in the healing arts would suit me, but the fact of the matter is, none of that calls to me like being an actor does.”
As an actor, she likes that she gets to travel and explore other ways of life. “The pursuit of acting has brought a lot of experiences to me that are unique and un-replicable. I couldn’t even begin to describe them!” She also loves that acting is a team effort — after all, it wouldn’t be possible without all the creatives behind the camera. But, it can be isolating, she says. “I sacrifice a lot of nights and weekends and time with family because I’m on set, or auditioning, or traveling for some other bit of business.” Then there’s the strain of the financial side. “I also have years where it seems like I’m barely breaking even because it costs a lot of money to hire the team and have all the resources one needs. Acting is somewhat of an all-or-nothing profession. It takes a lot of grit and know-how…oh, and supportive family members. Thank goodness for them.”
Back when she was 15, Cruz won a contest from Teen magazine that sent her to Hollywood where she met all sorts of celebrities at a private charity event co-hosted by the magazine. She stayed in the hotel where they shot the film, Pretty Woman. It was her first Hollywood experience, and it was overwhelming.
From age 15 until now, she has persevered in a tough business and has this advice to others who desire to follow in her footsteps: “I would say the same thing that was said to me, if there’s anything else you can see yourself doing and really loving, go do that. Because this life requires constant work and sacrifice and it isn’t for everyone. It’s not glamorous. But if you’re willing to look inward and really dissect your human experience and find your voice, then it doesn’t matter where you come from, rich, poor, Black, Native American, or in my case Latina, you can find a place in this rat race that fills your cup. The trick is to never give it up, even when times are low.’
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Cover photo: Giovannie Cruz with actor Gerardo Davila at a screening of The Suicide Squad. Photo courtesy Bryan Chatlien Photography
Bob Valleau is a freelance writer living in McKinney, Texas.