It seems like everyone in Hollywood wants a piece of the Netflix action these days. Luckily for New York City native Jackie Cruz, over the last few years she’s been on the inside looking out—in more ways than one. Heading into the third season of the streaming service’s smash hit Orange Is the New Black, Cruz gains more fans with each appearance, playing cult favorite character Marisol “Flaca” Gonzales, a Smiths-loving, teardrop-tatted, molly kingpin-infatuated tough girl. And even though the 27-year-old Dominicana with a budding music career was once seen heating up Kourtney and Kim Take Miami (making out with Kourtney in a club, as one does), the way she tells it, she’s far more girl next door than scandal-magnet prison bully.
What was auditioning for Orange Is the New Black like?
I was working in nightlife and on my music, and I started to miss acting. The first audition I went to was for Flaca in Orange Is the New Black. It was literally two lines. Every other word was a bad word. The only description they had for the character was “feisty Latina.”
“Feisty Latina” doesn’t seem to begin to do that character justice.
She doesn’t represent the stereotype. Even her love of ’80s music shows an interesting kind of diversity.
Do you identify with Flaca at all?
Just like me, Flaca’s an Americanized Latin girl who speaks Spanish and was born in the States. It’s important to me that Hollywood is showing that.
Because—even to this day—I’m auditioning for characters who can’t speak English. It’s like, “Oh my god. Still?!”
You don’t seem very Flaca-like, at all. Do you channel anyone for the character?
I imagined a friend of mine who I worked with in nightlife. She had this really unique New York accent. Everything that she said was funny. She would be like, “No one messes with my three M’s: my Mama, my Money, and my Man.” I told her, “I’m going to play you on TV one day.” It’s just the power of the spoken word. This character came to me. They write as they go, so they slowly started writing me into the season.
What are the major differences between you and Flaca?
She’s definitely cooler than me. She says what’s on her mind and she doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She thinks that she’s brilliant. The thing that we have most in common is definitely our love for music. Flaca is in love with this Vespa-riding molly kingpin.
Is that your type?
When I did that scene, I was really sad, because my boyfriend at the time wasn’t giving me the attention that I wanted, and he would always leave me. We give these guys the benefit of the doubt but, in reality, they don’t care about you. You’ll come up with excuses for them. That came from a real place.
“I would get eaten
alive in jail.”
You gravitate toward bad boys?
Yeah. Flaca and I have similar taste in dudes.
Do you think you’d survive in jail?
I would get eaten alive in jail.
I’m friendly, and people would probably see that as weakness. I’m strong, but I’d definitely be scared. Even though working on Orange Is the New Black is nothing like prison, you do get to learn about what you can and can’t do.
You can’t control anything. I’ve learned not to judge men and women who are in prison because...you just never know. That’s what’s so great about this show and this story: You connect with each and every character, because they’re just normal people, like us.
Did you meet ex-cons to study your character?
Since working on the show, I’ve met with women who were actually in prison.
How was that?
After meeting women who had a second chance, you feel for them. I cried so hard. Your family is taken away from you. You can’t even be with your loved ones. I don’t know if I would survive. I’m such a family girl.
“After meeting women who had a second chance, you feel for them. I cried so hard.”
What do you hope happens to Flaca this season?
I still don’t even know why she’s in prison, so I’m just assuming things with [her boyfriend] and his drug dealing. She’s so in love with him that she could’ve done anything.
What’s been your favorite scene so far?
My favorite scene is the kissing scene between Flaca and Maritza.
We got to see Flaca’s vulnerability in that scene. She’s always fighting with people or trying to skip the bathroom line, so it was nice to see that she does have a heart. I asked [Orange Is the New Black author] Piper Kerman if there’s a real-life Flaca, because Flaca isn’t in the book. She said, “Yes, there’s a real Flaca...but she’s nicer than your character.”
Hair and Makeup by Claudio Belizario / Shot at the Empire Hotel