Hey everyone, Maleok here! I had the chance to catch up with the extraordinarily cool and talented Jonny Cruz! He was an absolute joy to chat with and I hope you guys enjoy this small insight into his work and his role as Lucio!
First off why don’t you tell me generally a little bit about yourself?
Jonny: I am Jonny Cruz, I’ve been an actor for a long time and I’ve done voice over for the last 4 years. I’m from Texas, and before that Puerto Rico and I currently live in Los Angeles. That’s where I reside now and that’s about as general as I can get it!
Maleok: So for those who know you exclusively as Lucio, what are some other projects you enjoyed that we can find you in?
Jonny: I did a Hitman game recently! I play a billionaire’s son who is also a rockstar who may or may not have killed his girlfriend, so you can target me in that if you want. I’m in the kids show Stinky and Dirty where I voice “Chopper” the helicopter. I’m also in Tom Clancy’s new game Wildlands which is coming out. Before that I was on television you could catch me on NCIS, I was on Robert Rodriguez’s Matador where I play a fun loving dude who’s just kinda hedonistic and got into all kinds of fun. But yea I’ve been acting for many years but I only recently got into the voice over game, which is treating me really well, and I’m just having fun with it!
Maleok: So is your background initially in acting and was this always your plan?
Jonny: So when I was in the seventh grade I took my first acting class. My teacher was very impressed with my work but I wanted to play basketball. I was horrible at basketball but that didn’t stop me from trying out every year till the eleventh grade. Never made it. However I did keep getting roles and stuff and I thought that was cool. My senior teacher Ms. Deason basically said “hey man you could really do this if you actually tried and focused on it”. I actually ended up getting a scholarship to UTA (University of Texas Arlington) and did some acting down there as well as film production. I started doing a lot of plays and some of my own work; You can find some of my early work at “itscoolwheels.com”, it’s the most ridiculous thing you will ever see but I stand by it! But yea I just always was doing it. I got an opportunity out in Texas for representation and they started sending me out. There was a Chevy commercial which was my first gig! If you talked to me back then I was such a snob like, “I’m a theater and film actor I won’t do your commercials” and then they showed me how much you got payed and then it was, “I will do your commercials.” *laughs* I did anything and everything and just kinda acting slutted my way around. It was good because I learned so many things and got to be in some direct to DVD action films and stuff, real cheesy. It was some stuff I’m not real proud of but you know I can look back and go, “That was fun”, I shot some people up and got blown up but it was fun! I was with a bunch of B movie actors and that was all in Texas. I got to kind go through that gambit where I was just doing my best and kinda “Lucking” into some stuff. Just doing the work and kept showing up. At some point I started to do comedy improv, which really helped, and then doing improv shows. Comedy became a real staple when it the training as an actor. I was twenty six when I decided to move to L.A, I was already a little older. When I came to L.A, because I had such a base of work and a few connections, I got set up with this manager who saw my reel and basically said, “You’re not just some yahoo who comes in without any history of work. You actually have credentials working with major motion pictures and stuff. We’ll rep you!”. I didn’t need to go to any more meetings than that. They set me up with an agent who took me on, a commercial agent who took me on, and a voice over agent. I didn’t have a voice reel so the voice over people had me read in the booth. They had me read Spanish which I was actually pretty terrible at but I faked my way through it. I didn’t realize at the time that I was very lucky to land a voice over agent without a demo reel or anything. Especially the one that I’m with now, Imperium 7, I’m very grateful that they brought me on. After that though I didn’t book anything with the m for two or three years man, and I would go in at least two or three times a month. I’m like man I suck at this you know what I mean. Finally I think I hit a stride with my voice and finding myself because I started booking voice over stuff. I liked that! 4 hours in a booth wasn’t bad vs 12-14 hour days sometimes on a set. I was like, “this is the life right here.” So that’s kinda my journey and now I have been focusing a little bit more on voice over at this particular moment in my life as I’m chasing other ventures. Voice over has been very helpful, where I can just send in auditions and go in for only a couple hours a day rather than the whole day.
Maleok: You did initially do a lot of television so do you have a preference of medium? Not so much based on your present circumstance but an overall preference between voice over and on camera work?
Jonny: There is something I learned about voice over in general. You have such an ability because there is no camera on you to do whatever I want with my face to generate the voice, you don’t have to do any good acting with your face. I can move in a certain way so that the way in which I talk because whatever I need, you can’t see me right now but I’m like snaking around you know?
Maleok: I know exactly what you’re talking about, I recently got to chat with the voice of Reinhardt, Darin De Paul, and he does the same thing, he channels the energy through his hand and “rides the wave of the line”.
Jonny: I actually got to work with him on “Stinky and Dirty.” We were in a room and I got to watch him work and yea, he’s great!
Maleok: So, preferred medium *attempts to get back on track*
Jonny: Ah yes preferred medium! Basically some reasons why I started really loving voice over; When I did Hitman I had to be a cool as ice rock star, then the next moment be a spoiled child crying and screaming and freaked out that I may or may not have killed my girlfriend but you’ll have to play the game! That was all in this zen state where the worlds are there and all I have to do is put the emotion on the page and bring that level to it. Everything is there for me so all I have to do is bring the performance and that was so Zen. I so enjoyed doing Hitman because I reached so many different levels of emotion. I also love doing comedy on camera, so those are my favorite mediums right now for sure. You know they do change because if you would have asked me ten years ago I would have answered *in posh British accent*, “I’m a serious actor.” *laughs*
Maleok: So the next question is very important, do you consider yourself a gamer and if so where did you start?
Jonny: Okay so, uh, So here it [goes]; There came a point in my life where you have that moment where I realized if I continue to game I’m going to gain 300 pounds and I’m not going to have a life because I have 0 ability to stop myself when I start. I’m coming back from older days, I’m talking Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. The only spring break I remember is the one where I played Ocarina of Time. It took me to this whole other level of adventure, but my problem is, I got every single one of the Skulltulas and every single heart, I didn’t have a life dude. I get so OCD if there is loot or whatever it is I’m OCD about getting every little piece of it. And I know that about myself so I was like “Oh my God dude you can’t be like this.”. Even before that in Mario 64 dude I was getting every star in the game I got up to like 117 I believe I think there are 126-127, And MY SISTER to scorch my heart, we had an argument one time, and she went into my room and deleted my game. Dude I seriously cried, I cried for a long time and I couldn’t touch Mario for awhile after that. I’m telling you man, that level of pain I had never felt. Years later I was able to pick it up again and ended up getting every single star in the game and I kinda looked back to my younger self just like, “I gotcha bro.” So at this point I’ve focused a lot of my energy into being an actor. It took a lot to lead myself away from playing games, I had to go cold turkey a little bit. I would get my fix by watching my friends play video games because I know if I touch that thing…It’s one of those things where if you had chocolates around you, you could watch your friend eat it but as soon as it’s uncovered and in your hand you’re done. So what I’ve been doing is I’ve been hanging around people and watching them play Overwatch from the perspective of a person who has an addiction and a problem. *laughs* I own it though, and I know that if I ever do Overwatch I have to have every piece of my life in steadiness so that I can just play and lose my mind. I might play for like a whole few months where I just let go and go hard.
Maleok: Moving on to working with Blizzard specifically, how has the experience with working with them been so far
Jonny: Man I feel very special and very honored that they took me on and have continued to bring me in. I’m just like, “You guys like me!”, I’m always excited whenever they contact me about things. The which they brought me in, it was under “Prometheus”, the name of the character was still Lucio and they had a real life picture of like a young hip Latino lookin’ kid. It was very passionate, excited, influences his network with positivity. I thought, “Yea I can do that!”, so I did it and I remember I got an email from my agent saying, “Hey the people from Overwatch really liked your read and they want you to come in.”, and I remember thinking that I hadn’t auditioned for anything called Overwatch. That’s when it all sunk in because I was like, “Overwatch…Overwatch?…OVERWATCH!!! Is this that huge Blizzard game that’s been in the works for a minute?!”, that’s when it hit me how awesome it was. Doing it has been just amazing to see how well it was received. I’ve been acting for so many years and this is easily the most well received thing I have ever done.
Maleok: *Phone buzzes as Anjali Bhimani (the voice of Symmetra) says “Symmetra says yo!” *all laugh*
Maleok: Now obviously Blizzard always has new voice lines for events coming out, how active are you with them?
Jonny: Oh man I think I’ve come in 6 or 7 times. They’ll bring me in a bunch and just brought me in recently again. They’re just great man. They have a voice over meetup happening real soon so I’m excited about that as well, I haven’t met any of the other voice over guys yet actually. So I’m really excited to go out and meet everyone finally and we’ll see what happens!
Maleok: Like we mentioned, the reception for Overwatch has been amazing. You also mentioned it’s the most well received thing you’ve ever been in, how does it make you feel to be a part of it?
Jonny: So my friends have always been around me as I’ve received rolls on television or in movies. After all that though I’ve never seen them so excited as when they found out I was Lucio in Overwatch. I had not seen that level of excitement for anything, they just never were phased. Now though they are just like, “Ah! You’re Lucio I’m playing you right now!”, that’s nuts. You know it’s funny because I’ll be in a group of people and someone will introduce me and be like, “Oh this is Jonny, he’s actually Lucio from Overwatch.”. Sometimes there’s a moment in the person’s face where they’re not really paying attention and then there’s just this slow head turn where they’re just like, “Wait…YOU’RE LUCIO???”. I have this moment where I see that people really love this game. The reception of gotten just online hitting me up has been really cool. It’s been my biggest accomplishment as an actor so far.
Maleok: So this is one of your first major, named, roles in a video game. Do you think that this opened you up personally to doing more voice over rolls when it hit?
Jonny: I was hoping to land something cool as far as voice over, that was the ideal. However when Blizzard hit that kinda made it a reality. When I got Overwatch then I started to get other stuff. It became my focus, my agent and manager brought me in for a lot more stuff and you can really be anything. That’s what I love about voiceover because on camera I got typecast as a lot of specific things and I felt I could only get so far. Voiceover let me be anything: I could be from the UK, or a Monster, or a Child. That’s why I became an actor in the first place, the ability to transform at any second. With film acting I felt like I sometimes had to be a certain thing every single time. It opened me up to the realization that I always wanted to be a character actor, and now I can really be a character actor portraying anything.
Maleok: So do you personally feel any sort of connection to Lucio as a character?
Jonny: I think what was funny about Lucio is that he is just kinda me a little bit hyped up and giving off that positive vibe. He was not that much of a stretch because his voice is the type of register I go to sometimes in my own life sometimes. I feel very connected to Lucio because usually in my group I’m the person who is always pushing people to look at the bright side and to show them that things are possible, and that these things are available to you if you just open your mind. Also me being a healer in some way, because Lucio is a healer, healing old beliefs and what you thinking about yourself and the world. That’s something I’ve always done so I resonated with that about Lucio on almost an ethereal level.
Maleok: How have fans treated you so far and how do you usually come across them?
Jonny: There is Twitter where fans hit me up, as well as on YouTube they will comment on some of my videos or on a video that I’ve commented on to tell me how much they appreciate Lucio. However in person I will come across them kinda randomly or someone will bring them to meet me. I’ll have people bring people up like, “Hey he plays Overwatch and is a big fan”, they are always super cool, man, and want to talk about voice acting and the game. They’ve all been super cool, man, and I would love to meet more, but I guess I’m just not in the right circles and I haven’t done any cons so I don’t really know what’s out there yet. I’m just getting a trickle in of what’s actually happening.
Maleok: I always like to explore this train of thought with voice actors, how does it make you feel that tens of thousands of people hear your voice everyday, and that Lucio is a lot of people’s favorite or main character?
Jonny: You just putting it like that has me like, “Whaaat…”. You know I don’t think about that, it’s not something I really put my brain around. I was working at Facebook and Freddie Prinze Jr. came in who I was a big fan of back in the day. Someone told him I was Lucio and he came up to me and said, “Hey I main Lucio!”, and I said, “I used to watch your movies!”. It was trippy dude, that was one of the things that made me realize that this is the real deal. Also the younger crowd I’ve noticed has a connection and a vibe like nothing I’ve ever seen. Teenagers and people in their early twenties have this excitement like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life. All these people playing, I don’t know man, I still can’t fathom being at a convention or something and people coming up and saying, “Hey you’re Lucio.”I do want to experience what the hell that’s like and go out to a convention or an Overwatch pro game, some Blizzard sponsored thing. I definitely would love to meet more of the fans and interact.
Maleok: So finally, do you think you will be acting and doing this for the rest of your life?
Jonny: I would love to be in this realm and heavily on the side of creating. That is definitely something that’s been on my heart, to create more. I would love to keep doing voice over. I would love to voice a cartoon, I love Rick & Morty *laughs* get me on Rick & Morty. I just want to stay in the world of creating I’m always down to do that, because I’ve always been doing it. So in a nutshell I would say absolutely!
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