He’s loyal, he’s fun loving and he’s a man who wears his heart on his sleeve. Those are the words that best describe Joe Minoso’s character Joe Cruz on NBC’s Chicago Fire. For the past eight seasons, viewers of the Dick Wolf-created action drama have seen Cruz, who was a product of Chicago’s tough streets, grow as a firefighter and more importantly as a person.
Growing up, Minoso said that he became enthralled in acting when he went to see his girlfriend’s play when he was in high school. While watching the second act of the play, he wanted to be a part of it and decided to help.
“By the second act, I was so riveted by what I was watching that I was asking the guys moving the sets if they needed any help because I wanted to be involved in what was happening,” Minoso said. “I was so taken by it. I thought I was way too shy to be an actor so I joined the tech crew. A year later, there was an open audition for the role of Dracula, which I somehow miraculously booked. The second that I did a play, I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Minoso went on to college at Adelphi University in Garden City where he received his bachelor’s degree in fine arts and afterwards went on to Northern Illinois University, which is 55 miles west of Chicago, to pursue a master’s degree. After getting fed up with the harsh Chicago winters, Minoso decided to move to sunny Los Angeles to try his hand at acting only to be brought back to where it all started and call Chicago home once again.
“After ‘Snowmageddon’ in 2011, which was a giant snowstorm, I got fed up with Chicago winters and said, ‘I’m out of here’ and gave away everything I owned except for two suitcases and moved to Los Angeles with the hopes of starting out over there. Exactly two months later, I booked the role on Chicago Fire and it brought me right back to experience winter in a far more intimate way.”
In the season eight premiere, the entire firehouse and more importantly Cruz suffered a major loss when one of their own, fellow firefighter Otis Zvonecek, died in a massive fire. It is safe to say that Minoso’s heart wrenching performance of losing his best friend was definitely a tearjerker.
“That was a whole lot easier than I would want it to be because Yuri Sardarov, the gentleman who played Otis, is frankly one of my best friends,” Minoso said about how hard it was for him to portray such emotional scenes. “He is one of my closest friends and we were inseparable on set. When we found out that he was going to be gone, it was really easy to channel that into the character and channel that into the emotions of the character because I was going to miss him like crazy. It was going to be hard to continue down this road on this show without him. We were both brought in on the very same day to start training and we were the last two people cast. It was just the two of us together when we started doing our firefighter training. We’ve been together since day one and then we moved in together for a year during our first year on the show. We developed a really close bond and it’s still heartbreaking to not have him there.”
This season is a busy one for Cruz since he is also planning a wedding to his fiancée, Chloe.
“You’re going to get the chance to experience what it’s like for Joe Cruz preparing for a wedding,” Minoso said. “I think one of the things that came out of the death of Otis is Cruz felt he had to grow up a bit. The existence of Otis in Cruz’s life and vice versa gave them the permission to live sort of a man-child life. They weren’t necessarily looking to move into the next stage of life. Now that he’s engaged and he has to do all these things to get this wedding going, cold feet tends to set in and nerves kick in. I think you’re going to see more and more of that. Also, just him being the best firefighter that he can be. I think he’s eager to prove himself even more and I think he’s really buried himself in his work. With the exception of the loss of Otis, beyond that it’s been a really productive and effective year for Cruz. I think he’s diving himself into these things to not feel that pain and to not feel that loss as much. It’ll be interesting quite frankly.”
Minoso added, “There’s still more to come that I don’t even know. I’m more interested to see where we go once he’s married and how that will develop than I am getting to the wedding. We just [filmed] the wedding episode and it’s going to be a pretty big wedding.”
And with a show as intense as the flames that Firehouse 51 puts out every week, safety is always a top priority for the cast on set.
“Anytime you see an interior fire on Chicago Fire, that’s all real,” Minoso said. “It is controlled and they’re safe about it, but on average when we’re doing something like that and we have to do that real fire, you have pops [or] 30 seconds to get off a shot because after that things start to actually catch fire and burn. If anything, I would say eight seasons in, it’s just kind of tedious at this point because we’re so safe and our stunt team are incredible and they take such good care of us. So at this point, it’s all in a day’s work. Definitely when we first started out, it’s an adrenaline rush like you’ve never felt. I sort of understand a small level of what these firefighters go through and I would assume that the adrenaline that I feel is only a hundredfold when their lives are actually in peril. I can see why these guys are adrenaline junkies and why they like their jobs as much as they do.”
So what else is Minoso currently working on besides Chicago Fire?
“I’m actually in the process of trying to finalize details to direct a movie that would star Christian Stolte and it’s called The Last Hurrah,” Minoso said. “We’re pretty excited about it and we hope to film in the summer. Fingers crossed that everything goes as it should. We’ll probably be releasing it sometime in the winter of next year.”
Watch Chicago Fire on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.