Living Life Off- Script

Vocal performance alumna finds her way as a Hollywood actress.
Written by: 
Brittney Dear
Giovannie Cruz
Giovannie Cruz ('09)

Dallas-based Giovannie Cruz ('09) recently served in supporting roles in back-to-back Warner Bros releases, The Suicide Squad and Reminiscence, where she acted in a scene face-to-face with Hugh Jackman. She also has acted in Queen Sugar, Queen of the South, NCIS: New Orleans and more.

But her life wasn't originally planned out this way.

Since she was a child, Cruz dreamed of becoming a Broadway star; having a father from Brooklyn, she heard all about the wonders of the theatre district growing up. This dream further blossomed when Cruz was watching West Side Story and she noted that she resembled Rita Moreno.

"I thought to myself, oh my gosh, she looks like me," Cruz says. "I thought, I can do that; I can sing and dance and be in movies."

As  a student in UNT's  vocal performance program, Cruz focused on opera, as she hoped it would propel her toward Broadway. However, opera wasn't her dream; she realized quickly that acting is what called to her.

"I was in the top choir at UNT as a junior, and the director Dr. Jerry Mccoy had us go around and share our name, major and what we wanted to be when we grew up," Cruz says. "I was one of two people who said, 'I want to be an actor,' and that was a great moment for me. I thought, 'Yeah, I'm going to go become an actor.'"

She just had to figure out how to get there.

After graduating UNT, Cruz stayed in Denton and sang in High Definition, a wedding band assembled by UNT Jazz alums.

"I was covering my bills by singing at weddings and birthdays on weekends," Cruz says.

She then began auditioning for various acting roles during the day, teaching voice lessons at night. Her first official paid on-camera role was for the Texas Educators Association training video, and later as the principal actor in various commercials regionally. From there, Cruz found herself playing supporting roles in TV shows and movies, some of these opportunities occurring quite spontaneously. The casting director for Queen of the South, for instance, called Cruz to be a reader for the show during its filming in Dallas, entailing she show up every week to read scripts alongside the cast, which eventually led her to nailing a role in the show.

"The producers kept telling me that I should be on the show, until finally, they got me on the show," Cruz says. "I auditioned for years and could not get a TV job, and through being a reader for the show, I got my first breakthrough."

With the help of her friends, Cruz composed tapes to submit to casting directors far off whom she then had a repertoire with, and without knowing the full scope of the films, she was chosen to act in both The Suicide Squad directed by Marvel alum James Gunn, and Reminiscence, a film by Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy-Nolan. On the set of Reminiscence, she chatted with well-known stars.

"On set, Rebecca Ferguson just plops down next to me and started chatting my ear off, and she says to me, 'I really like you.' Then, in walks Hugh Jackman, and he hands me a lottery ticket as a gift and says, 'I think I work with you later,'" Cruz says. "I normally don't get starstruck over actors; I do get starstruck over directors, because not only do they often write the script and direct, but they invite me into their playgrounds. But Hugh Jackman caught me by surprise."

Cruz has already landed some big roles in films that will be released in the next few years. She's determined to become a household name, just like Ferguson and Jackman.

"People often assume that Hollywood success as an actor is a matter of luck. But I think if you can become a lawyer, you can become a successful actor. It takes just as much hard work," Cruz says. "I may not be a household name, I may not have made it yet, but that little girl who dreamed of being in movies would be really proud of where I am now."

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