Interview by Jana Letonja

Deja Monique Cruz recently starred in Netflix’s holiday rom-com ‘Christmas with You’ alongside Freddie Prinze Jr. and Aimee Garcia. Next she will be starring in the upcoming Disney+ series ‘The Crossover’, which is executive produced by the NBA legend LeBron James. ‘The Crossover’ premieres today (4th April).

photography by Dave Bailey

Deja, you’re starring in Disney+ series ‘The Crossover’, that is based on the book of the same name by Kwame Alexander. The series is about two brothers, basketball phenoms, and their lives on and off the court.  Tell us more about this series and the story we’ll be able to follow.

This series is not just a regular basketball diary, this story is a message about family and the way they bond together to meet life changing challenges.

In ‘The Crossover’ you’re playing Maya, a sharp as a tack, observant, perceptive, not afraid to speak her mind and one of Filthy and JB’s best friend. How would you describe Maya’s role in Filthy and JB’s life and story?

Maya, JB and Filthy are each other’s ride or die and will always have each other’s back. Maya’s never afraid to step up and be the voice of reason that the boys need. She tends to put her feelings on the back burner to make sure she is 100 % percent supportive for the boys.

The series is executive produced by the NBA legend LeBron James. How valuable do you think it is to have someone like him, a professional basketball player and a legend,  on the project?

LeBron James is invaluable and you really can’t put a price on his experience, knowledge and inspiration he brings to the table. 

Just this past holiday season we were able to see you in Netflix’s holiday rom-com ‘Christmas With You’, where you starred alongside Freddie Prinze Jr. and Aimee Garcia. Starring in a holiday rom-com must be a special feeling, knowing the holiday films bring such joy to the viewers. How was this experience for you?

Just the mention of ‘Christmas With You’ makes me smile. This movie was so special and memorable to our cast and crew in so many ways. I’ve always dreamed of filming a Christmas movie because my family loves Christmas.

Your first TV role was as a guest star on ‘Law & Order: SVU’, where you were able to tell the story of a strong victim and be a voice for others in that situation. What made this role so special to you?

This role was so powerful. And to be a voice for victims meant the world to me. These true stories are emotionally hard to tell. However, the message needs to be heard. 

When did you develop your interest in acting and what ignited it?

I was drawn into my high school drama class and tempted with games and snacks. It was in that class that I found my passion for acting and immediately enrolled into the advanced theater program for the remainder of high school. Shoutout to Ms Barber, our theatre teacher, for making a difference in my life.

Besides acting, you are also a talented singer and dancer. Tell us more about those two of your other passions. Would you ever consider also a career in music?

Singing and dancing is engraved into our family. It’s who we are. Shoutout to our grandpa, Harvey Mayo, for inspiring us with all the talent. I did have a dream that showed me in the studio with a microphone. I’ll keep dreaming. We’ll just have to wait and see.

You an interesting background as your ethnicity is Puerto Rican, Caucasian and African American. How do all these ethnicities blend perfectly together into your personality?

I’m also Cherokee Indian. All my ethnicities blend together to make my personality and it is a huge advantage,because I can understand and relate with the perspective of a variety of cultures. I can easily engage and connect with others. I’m blessed with this gift. 

Just recently, we’ve also been able to see you in the adventure movie ‘The Quest for Tom Sawyer’s Gold’, where you’ll be playing Lu, a brain with a dream to be a filmmaker. She is always viewing the world through her video camera. Have you ever thought about being a filmmaker yourself as well?

If you haven’t yet, get your copy now and get ready for a swashbuckling adventure the whole family can enjoy. I am so excited for everyone to see it. 

I have developed and produced my own YouTube channel, which I love. In the future, I would be interested in submerging myself into the world of professional directing and producing. 

You’ve also recently booked your first voice over role as Flo in ‘Carnival Jungle’. How excited are you for this project? And how different it is to be just lending a voice to a character? 

It’s so different and I don’t even recognize my own voice because the role of Flo is a little southern belle. Luckily, I was able to find a voice for her southern charm while filming ‘The Crossover’ in New Orleans. I love lending my voice to a character, it’s an experience where I can create my own environment and it really challenges the creativity of my mind.

Photo by Amanda Peixoto-Elkins