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Jackie Cruz Talks About Being Comfortable With Her Sexuality And The Fun Time Filming A Nice Girl Like You [Exclusive Interview]

Based on a true story, A Nice Girl Like You follows Lucy Neal (Lucy Hale), a violinist who is thrown for a loop when she is dumped by her boyfriend after he accuses her of being “pornophobic.” In order to prove him wrong, Lucy creates a wild sex-to-do list, sending her and her best friends on a whirlwind and hysterical journey of self-discovery, friendship, and new love. One of Lucy’s friends is Nessa who is played by Jackie Cruz.  She is most known for her role as Marisol “Flaca” Gonzales on the award-winning Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black. I had the opportunity to talk with Jackie about her time filming the movie and bringing the conversation about sex to the big screen for women.

Nancy Tapia: It’s a privilege to have something to talk about that’s new. It’s very exciting right now. In a way, it’s kind of a great time to bring up projects.

Jackie Cruz: It’s a good thing we finished it before the whole quarantine thing. But we’ve kind of gotten stopped from working, which everybody’s lives stopped. I was telling the person before I interviewed with you that just being present and being grateful for right now is the thing that I’ve learned the most about quarantine. Just being at home, which I’m never at home, is kind of special in its own way, because in a world that I’m never really in, with my family, with staying home, with getting up early, with doing housework, and all that. Because I’m always on the go and, “What’s next? What’s next?” So, I just appreciate the moment right now and I’m very grateful for it.

Nancy Tapia: Yes, indeed.. I’m glad you’re looking at the positive of all this. Well, let’s talk about A Nice Girl Like You. Your character was so fun. Nessa is girly and experienced. Please tell us about your character.

Jackie Cruz: My character. Well, she has more of a sexual experience than Lucy’s character, Nessa. And she always shows off that she knows more than everyone, I guess. She’s kind of offended when Lucy doesn’t ask her for advice. I’m like, “Hello, I’m sitting here, you can ask me.” So it’s kind of cool to play a character that I don’t usually play. And something about me is, like in real life I’m a little shy when it comes to that. So it was really cool to be open about it. I kind of find myself too through the movie as well, because the sex list. I did a bunch of things that I never did before, like the sex shop, going to a class to learn how to do it right. You know what I mean? I’m like, “What the heck?”


Jackie Cruz as Nessa (Photo by R&C PMK)

Of course, my character knows everything, but then for me, I was learning things that I didn’t know. You know what I mean? So it was really cool to just… Women is a little taboo when we talk about sex or go to a sex shop or have those things in our drawer. People are just like, “What?” Like, “That’s weird. She must be a freak.” But it’s not true, it’s real life, that’s how we were made. And we’re sexual beings and it’s okay for a woman to express herself like a man does every day. You know what I mean?

Nancy Tapia: Yes. it kinda sounds like you personally went through your list too, along with Lucy.

Jackie Cruz: Oh, yeah. I definitely did. It’s really cool that Lucy’s character kind of finds herself through sex in a way, like exploring who she was. She never did that before and read cliterature, or whatever, exotic literature, which nobody talks about either.

It’s a movie for all types of women to explore and stimulate themselves and not make it taboo. It’s definitely interesting to watch and I love the characters. It’s like Mindy, we’re all different ages and we’re all different ethnicities and we’re talking about sex, and that’s the thing we have in common because it doesn’t change. You know?

Nancy Tapia: Yes, and it’s funny because you’re talking about stuff that you learned. I also, didn’t even know there was such a thing as cliterature.

Jackie Cruz: Yeah.

Nancy Tapia: Or that possibly a pornophobic being a word, or not.

Jackie Cruz: Yeah. I mean, I feel like when I was young, I was Christian and everything. Sex is after marriage and I’m like, “Yo, that didn’t happen for me.” I didn’t wait. So it’s like sex was always a bad thing in my head as a child. So it was always something that I was afraid to let go, even within myself. So it was really cool to read a script and kind of go through her stages on my own and be this character who wasn’t afraid to talk about it. 

Nancy Tapia: That’s one of the things I enjoyed about your character. That’s why I wanted you in your own words to explain your character. Nessa is very open and discusses her sexuality with comfort, which I think that women need to do more often. Because there’s a lot of us that are like Lucy.

Jackie Cruz: Oh yeah. Including me. You know what I mean? So, yeah. It was really cool to become Nessa. It was like I was Nessa already, but through the character, I opened up myself a little bit more. And it was a journey by not proving someone’s wrong by just not judging oneself or others when it comes to sex. 

Nancy Tapia: Yes. Tell me about your experiences of going to the sex shop for the film.

Jackie Cruz: Haha…oh, my God. That was the funniest day ever. Besides Lucy showing me how to give… Can I say blowjob?

Nancy Tapia: Yes! Of course you can!

Jackie Cruz: Lucy giving me tips on a blow job, which was the best moment. I can’t wait for the movie to come out because I have the best picture of us. And it’s on-screen too, so you’ll see it. It was just the best because we were like 16-year olds in there. I never went to a sex shop. We were literally, Mindy and I, were just looking at every single thing and we’re like, “What the hell does this do?” We’re turning it on, poking each other. And then surprising Lucy and poking her in the back. It was literally a teenage-like moment for us haha. You know what I mean? Because we don’t really, all three of us… I don’t know if Mindy has, but I think that it was all our first experience, just going in there and talking about what size to get and what to do and what does this do? Because I never really… I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed to do that, so it was really cool pretending to be someone else and asking the questions that I wanted to know. 

Nancy Tapia: So what was it like holding the Maserati of vibrators? Haha

Jackie Cruz: Haha..oh, my God.

Nancy Tapia: Haha…

Jackie Cruz: That was hilarious. I’m telling you, my hand couldn’t feel a thing after two days. So I don’t know if I’d buy that one haha.  

Nancy Tapia: Haha…

Jackie Cruz: I’m not the one to have those because I don’t want to ruin it for men. So for me, as Jackie, I feel like if I get one of those, men don’t have a chance. You know?

Nancy Tapia: Yes, I do and very true. 

Jackie Cruz: So I don’t really want to go there. Because then I feel like “Shit, I’m never going to be satisfied with a man.” So, for me, I was more interested in the sexy clothes and maybe the things that go inside the vagina to hold it in and make it tighter. 

Nancy Tapia: The balls? Haha

Jackie Cruz: Haha..yeah, the balls. I was more excited about that and trying to experience that. And instead of… Which I still haven’t, I still haven’t.  I actually, I took three vibrators. At first, they were on sale. But on set, I don’t want to say I stole, but I told them the next day, “Hey, I took two of these. I’ll bring them back if you want.” And he’s like, “No, just keep them. It’s fine.” They gifted them to us. It’s okay. But it was like this metal thing with a ball in the end. I’m just like, “What?”  I need to try this. But it was really, really cool to go home and experience it and then do the scene. You know? So it was really cool.

It was just a very unique kind of movie and a unique set. And everybody was very respectful to each other, except for Mindy and I. We were just like poking each other in the ear. 

Jackie Cruz and Mindy Cruz (Photo by R&C PMK)

Nancy Tapia: This is definitely a fun chick flick. But I have to ask you, what was it like working with Mindy Cohn? Most of us,  grew up watching Facts of Life from the 80s.

Jackie Cruz: I’m a huge fan, huge fan, huge, huge fan. I was in awe of her the whole time. And the crazy thing is that she became my best friend on day one. We’re like young spirits, old souls. And we just connected right away. I put her on my Live, she’s never been on Live before. And she’s like, “Oh, my God. This is so much fun.” And we were just, again, teenagers. And you would think that I would know how to dance on a strip pole. Nope! That was Mindy, she taught me.

Nancy Tapia: What? Haha

Jackie Cruz: Haha…Yes, Mindy was like, “No, Jackie. It’s like this.” And I’m like, “How the hell do you know how to dance on a pole?” You would think that my character, or Jackie, being Latina… I don’t know. People assume that Latinas are really sexual, but I’m not that girl.

Nancy Tapia: Right, like we are naturally born with rhythm!

Jackie Cruz: Yeah, yut, to be honest with you, I became more sexual and comfortable with my sexuality after the movie. I just did an interview earlier before you, and the guy was like, “I saw you perform and you were, it was Halloween, and honey, that performance, I was feeling myself.” And that was after shooting A Nice Girl Like You. You know, showing my body and feeling myself and singing my song. And usually, I’m super vulnerable because when I sing that’s who I am. When I’m someone else, like Nessa, I could be a freak. But myself, I don’t want people to judge me. But that’s the thing that the movie expresses, don’t judge someone through their porn, through them feeling themselves. You know what I mean? Actually, that’s healthy. Explore that for yourself, that would actually help you in life. Your fears are like bullies. In the book she says your fears are like bullies, stand up to them and they’ll disappear. So it was really cool to do that through my character.

Nancy Tapia: Well, we have time indoors so everybody, I think we should all explore. Haha..

Jackie Cruz: Mm-hmm. I mean, I suggest going to a blow job seminar, that shoot was brilliant. You saw what, the movie if you did, that moment was just like, “What?” And you know what’s crazy? Is that the seminar leader, which was amazing, because it was like, “Wait, how does she know all this?” You know what I mean? I have to be learning from her. You know what I mean? So Pricilla was the name of her character, played by Mindy Cohn. So it was just really, really cool. And working with such a dope-ass cast was so funny and just doing improv. I got to do improv with Mindy from Facts of Life, and then Lucy. Lucy is lovely. I can’t tell you, Lucy is so lovely. To work with her was just such a great experience. You would think because she was on this show and, no, Lucy is a joy to work with. I would have to say and it was really well cast.

Nancy Tapia: Well, you all had a great chemistry. You could just see it. It was very joyful to watch. I was laughing. I was watching the film by myself and I was like, “Oh, I wish I had another girl to enjoy this.” So I know people are going to enjoy this. Even guys, for sure, are going to get a kick out of it.

Jackie Cruz: Oh, for sure. It’s going to be amazing. It’s going to be amazing. And you know what’s great? I know, it was going to be my first theatrical release, which was going to be really dope. I’ve never really been on the big screen yet. I’m used to the small screen and the whole world getting to see you at the same time. So I love that. I love that the movie comes out and everyone can watch it. It’s on iTunes, it’s on Apple, it’s on Vudu, it’s on any streaming network.

So I’m excited. My family is going to come over Friday, we’re going to watch it. We’re going to have a little cocktail hour with A Nice Girl Like You cast on Zoom. So, we’re doing our own little thing, but it would have been fun to be all together and giggle and we’re going to have to do that virtually.

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Nancy Tapia: Yes, of course. And then one thing, just to start wrapping up, after filming this movie, learning from a bit and saying feeling more comfortable yourself. What do you hope girls take away from watching this movie? I know it’s a comedy, fun chick flick, but in reality it covers sexuality. Which is very important and sometimes is suppressed.

Jackie Cruz: Absolutely. I just want women to try new things and not judge themselves for it. It’s an exploration. It’s just, explore yourself, literally. There are things that you don’t know your body can do. I just love that the book, it opened my eyes to exploring sex acts that we never tried before. Like you said, reading erotica, it’s a natural way to stimulate your libido.  And also there was this sexpert and in the book that mentions older women who are not really that… I’m telling you, it’s a movie for all ages of women. That maybe you’re going through menopause that can help down there, and it’s called like a very private, intimate moisture. So there’s a lot of things that you learn and it makes you… You should read the book too. They couldn’t fit everything in the movie. 

Nancy Tapia: I definitely will have to look into it.

Jackie Cruz: Yeah, I think you just learn just to be comfortable in your own body and skin and being okay with feeling good and not judging that.  Like at the beginning, Lucy’s so judgmental over him watching porn and like, “Give it to me good.” And she’s like, “That’s what you want to hear, give it to me good?” There’s also bad porn and good porn, just like good carbs and bad carbs. 

Nancy Tapia: Yes, exactly. Well, thank you so much, Jackie. And congratulations on this project. I hope that once this is over and you have another film coming out on the big screen, we finally get to interview in-person.

Jackie Cruz: Absolutely. That is coming up, honey. It’s coming up because I’m actually filming a movie next week that hopefully will be a theatrical release.

Nancy Tapia: Anything you can share?

Jackie Cruz: Yeah. I believe it’s called Switchgrass After Midnight. It’s out there. I believe it’s on IMBD. But I get to work with Bruce Willis and Megan Fox and Emile Hirsch. But right now, I’m focusing on A Nice Girl Like You and Lucy Hale and Mindy. But it’s exciting that some of us are getting back to work. It’s going to be a little different. I heard that they test you first, you get checked every day. It’s going to be a unique way of filming. So I’m just looking forward to work again. I had so many friends, I’m also a singer and an artist. My album came out, Hija de Chaves, and I had this huge performance in Louisiana. I was going to open up for a Latin artist in the fair, so that didn’t work out. And I was going to go on some kind of tour and this movie was going to film before quarantine. So I’m really excited that they didn’t give up and they made it happen sooner than later.

Nancy Tapia: Yeah, a lot of changes, but I’m sure that everything little by little will start picking up for you. And if you don’t mind me asking, what artist were you going to be opening up for?

Jackie Cruz: Oh, you know what? I never got to find out. I never got to find out, because I got the gig. It was really well-paid. I have not made a dime off my music, so I was finally going to make a quarter of what I spent, maybe a penny of what I spent, on my music. Because my music is me, I’m betting on me. I’ve been blessed by Orange Is the New Black by being able to hire musicians and producers to work with me in the studio. Before that it was really hard. I had an EP in 2010 before Orange and I still owe them money. So it was really good to make music and make it through my own record label, which is Dulce Records. I’m not signed to anyone but me. Everything you see, every music video you see, is all produced by my film company, Unspoken Films. So it’s really cool to just be creative in my music and visually, and you should check it out.

I have a song that was released right before quarantine called, Be Bad. And it’s about the story of Lilith and my take on it. It’s really beautiful. You should watch it.

Nancy Tapia: Okay. Will definitely do. You’re a singer, actress, a former model, businesswoman. Congratulations!

Jackie Cruz: Thank you. My mom said I could do anything I want when I was six-years-old. She moved me here when I was 15 and left her career as a doctor so I could live up my dream. So I got to make her proud. And you know what’s crazy? Quarantine also made me want to go back to school to figure out the business. And, also, I want to go back for psychology. It’s the first time I ever mentioned it, so you’re the first to hear about it. But it’s in my head, going to school, whether it’s online, or whatever, because that’s what people are doing these days. People don’t know what they want to do when they’re young. And besides me, I was always wanting to be an artist, but now I’m behind the scenes too, and the business side of things, and I want to learn more about that too. Because like you said, I am a businesswoman. I partnered up with bars in New York and nail shops that I put my money in and invested in and try to be… I don’t know, I always try to help out other people’s dreams too, because it’s also my dream.

I love hosting and bringing people to the bar and taking care of their drinks and making sure everyone’s okay. That’s just who I am and what I like to do. And I’ve been blessed to have really amazing friends who own the Tao Group and I want to be like them. They’re literally… Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss, they do classes at Harvard because they started as two promoters who sold their company for a hundred million dollars to Madison Square Garden.

So I do think business, and that’s another whole part of me that I’ve been exploring my whole life. And I was a waitress, so I know how to do it all. So it’s really cool to be on the other side of things and I love people having fun. And that’s just who I am, whether it comes through my music or a film or dancing in a club. I love that.

Nancy Tapia: Well, thank you so much. This is an awesome way to wrap up. Very motivational, no limit to learning and you’re a perfect example of it.

Jackie Cruz: Oh, yeah. Thank you. I appreciate that. That means a lot.

Nancy Tapia: Of course. Congratulations. Thank you. And for next time, hopefully, an in-person interview for your other projects.

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