Joe Cruz (Joe Minoso) and his wife Chloe Allen (Kristen Gutoskie) are still adjusting to being first-time parents and the lack of sleep that accompanies it, since the birth of their son Brian (named after late fireman Brian “Otis” Zvonecek, who was Cruz’s best friend) in the premiere episode of season 10 of Chicago Fire.
But on tonight’s episode of Chicago Fire, the couple must adapt to a new family dynamic after they decided to foster 10-year-old Javi (Carlos S. Sanchez), who Cruz rescued and bonded with during a fire.
When Joe learned that Javi had no family in Chicago, he and Chloe agreed to take in the boy, who they thought only spoke Spanish, on a temporary basis, but on tonight’s episode, that time may come to an end if Javi’s aunt has been located.
In this exclusive interview, Minoso shares his thoughts that Cruz’s decision to take Javi in was a result of his heritage and upbringing and being able to identify with a kid who is alone in the world, but also because he’s a man with a big heart.
“Cruz definitely knows about feeling like a lost kid, a lost brown kid in the world,” Minoso said. “I think that that resonates with him in a very real way. And, yes, absolutely the fact that he’s a father now, he can’t help but have more of a feeling of wanting to be a provider to children who need it.”
That need to help other people is one of the reasons that Cruz became a fireman in the first place, and Minoso thinks that Chicago Fire is good at demonstrating people who need to help other people.
“Their key function in life is to be there for others,” he said. “And that’s why the storyline resonates so much with our fans because it is, I think at its core, that specifically. I need to surrender some of my opportunity and room and space for another person to grow and succeed and have a better opportunity at life as well. And so, I think that manifested in this arc with Cruz. It just goes to show you just how the whole show is about heart and giving of your heart to others.”
At the same time, it also allows Cruz to be a positive role model for the Latinx community, which is something that hits close to home for Minoso, who is aware that in the real world there are a lot of young men without fathers in the Latinx community. So, it is special to be able to show them Cruz, who comes from that same background where he was an underprivileged child raised by a single parent who he lost at a young age and then ultimately had to raise himself and is now a decorated elite firefighter who’s a father of potentially two now, as an example of what can potentially happen.
“I’ve been preaching that for forever,” Minoso said. “I’ve always said the fact that I get to play a Latinx literal hero who doesn’t have a problem wearing his heart on his sleeve is the biggest gift you could have as a Latinx actor. To be able to portray someone who is so noble and so true and so family-oriented and so giving of himself and so willing to show his emotions. A lot of those things are things that you don’t get to see especially portrayed in film and television for Latinx men in this country.”
Keep reading to find out about what Minoso has to say about Cruz’s journey since joining Chicago Fire, the scariest stunt he’s done, and the comings and goings of fellow cast members.
Cruz has had quite the journey since the show started. He began on truck and moved to squad. He was single until he found Chloe, a woman who loved him back. And along the way, he’s found more than a modicum of confidence. So, as an actor what has that been like for you?
Joe Minoso: What’s very strange about it is I would say more than anything is how much it’s mirrored my actual life. I was a journeyman actor in a lot of ways before I got this show. I literally was on unemployment before I got this show, and I was very, very single with no prospects whatsoever of having a wife. And over the course of the first five years, exactly like Cruz found Chloe, I found somebody who really loved me back in more ways than I could ever imagine, and made me believe in love all over again.
I got married, bought a home, and have four dogs, who are our children for sure. Joe Minoso Season 1 was living with Charlie Barnett and Yuri Sardarov, and partying until all hours of the night. Season 10 Joe Minoso is happily married in the suburbs and in bed by 9:30.
I would argue that Cruz has a lot of the same going on right now in his life. If he can even get any sleep because he’s got babies.
As part of squad, Cruz does a lot of scary things. What’s been the scariest for you personally? Maybe the underwater scenes at the beginning of the season?
Joe Minoso: Well, you’re clearly a mind reader. Yeah, absolutely. That was by far the scariest thing that they’ve put me up to do. And ultimately, at the end of Season 9 when they put us into that hole, we did months and months of scuba training to make sure that we were all fully prepared to be down in that tank for days at a time. And I was not interested. I don’t really do well in the water. I’m not really interested in this apparatus. And I didn’t think it was going to be comfortable. I really hated the whole idea.
And by the end of the season, I was so ready to come back for Season 10. Because we were so well prepared, and the crew and everything that was built around us was so amazing, it was like, “Okay.” It ended up being one of the most exciting things that I’ve gotten a chance to do.
But last season was in general a pretty scary season for me. It was also the highest that I had repelled when I had to save that guy from the helicopter. That was like six to seven stories up and I was just out there hanging on a rope, and I was a first-timer as well.
There’s a lot of stuff like that. But in general, on the day, something as simple as just climbing a ladder feels like, “Oh, my God! This is the scariest thing I’ve ever done.” Which is literally what happened the other day. I was like, “I don’t want to climb up this ladder, it’s windy out here today.” Yeah, it all depends on where you’re at, but our team is so great, you trust in them. And luckily, we’ve been pretty safe to this date.
Well, now you’re ready to go to the Caribbean and do scuba diving.
Joe Minoso: Exactly. I was actually talking about that with my wife. Basically, all I have to do is the open dive to get the certification and I’m like, “Well, if I do that, I think I’m going to do that in the Caribbean. I’m not going to bother with doing it in the quarry here in Chicago.”
There’s been a lot of cast changes since the show began. This season most recently with Jesse Spencer leaving. Miranda Rae Mayo was gone for a while and came back. And now Kara Killmer is gone. How does that affect your performance at all, or does it? Do you miss people? Does that make it more realistic because people come and go in real life? We understand that when Kara comes back, she may be bringing Jesse with her for a wedding.
Joe Minoso: We’ve had a long history of a lot of people coming and going on this show since the very beginning. There are those that personally you get quite attached to and there are those that you don’t have the luxury of working with them as much as you would given the storylines don’t really match up with those people as much you’d like. So, they come and go and it’s almost like you never saw them or you never knew they were there.
But with our regulars, with people who are here for a significant amount of time, it’s impossible to not feel an absence. Especially with a Kara, a Miranda, or a Jesse, they’re all such lively human beings and such energetic people to be around that it’s impossible not [to] feel that energy missing in the space. You can’t help but notice it.
Especially the last two years working in a COVID world, where you’re not even seeing your fellow actors’ faces until they’re actually rolling the cameras. That’s a weird experience and, in general, it created this weird distance-y kind of thing for all of our safety.
That I think has been weirder than everybody coming and going because I feel like we’re more used to that. It’s just part of the beast that is the show. It’s a world of many, many characters. And I think sometimes it’s a blessing that we have so many to play with, and sometimes it can be a burden because there’s just so many stories that we can tell, and who do you focus on most? But the great news is, we’re all here to have each other’s backs, and we’ll do that both on-screen and off. And that’s the best part about being an actor on this show.
Chicago Fire airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/8 c on NBC