During the third season of Orange Is the New Black, fans finally learned how Flaca—played by Dominican actress Jackie Cruz—landed in prison: The goth grammar geek sold counterfeit drugs to her high school classmates, which mysteriously caused a student to commit suicide, an act that led to her eventual arrest. But Cruz, who landed her role on the hit Netflix show on her very first New York audition, doesn’t believe her character deserves a prison sentence.
“She made a mistake but I thought she wasn’t selling real drugs, she wasn’t hurting anybody …We still don’t know what happened to the kid, but I don’t think it was fair,” Cruz said Thursday in an interview with Entertainment Weekly Radio. “So many people get away with murder, [and] come on, Flaca gets in prison because of lying? It was, I don’t know, fraud? I just thought it was so sad. She wanted more in life, and the ending was so heartbreaking.”
The amped-up storyline couldn’t have come at a better time. Cruz—who was recently promoted to series regular—had been anxiously awaiting her the chance to enact Flaca’s backstory, and in interim, had spun her own narrative about how the Smiths-loving rebel ended up incarcerated with some of television’s craziest characters.
“[My character] talk[s] a lot about my boyfriend Ian and how he never visits me and how he’s the king of Molly, [so] I thought that I got involved in his drug game and I took the fall for him,” shares Cruz. “That’s what I thought. So I thought I was in there for love.”
In addition to her work on the show, the 28-year-old is a motivational speaker (“Being a voice for a young Latina and inspiring other people is a huge deal”) and musician. She fronts what she describes as a “soulful rock” band and performs throughout New York City, where OITNB is taped. “I love doing acoustic sets,” she says.
But don’t expect her to leave Litchfield for a solo singing tour any time soon. “It doesn’t matter if I make money for it,” Cruz notes. “I don’t think I’ve made a dime from it actually, because my band is expensive so I actually have to pay them out of my own pocket! But I don’t care.”
Next up for Cruz? She’s currently taping the fourth season of OITNB and is working on a forthcoming EP. The NYC native is also wrapping up a project that’s sure to delight Latin fans: She’s planning to release a cover featuring one of Mexican American singer Selena’s most iconic hits. “I’m doing ‘Como La Flor,” says Cruz, who’s also taped an accompanying music video.
For more of our interview with Cruz, tune into Entertainment Weekly Radio (Sirius XM Ch. 105) on Thursday at 2 p.m. PST, or on demand here.