You might recognize actress Valerie Cruz from her recurring roles on True Blood, Dexter, Homeland and Nip/Tuck, on which she starred opposite TV hunks Julian McMahon, Michael C. Hall, Jimmy Smits and Alexander Skarsgard.
Her latest role, as FBI Agent Gina Mendez on FOX’s hit series The Following – it returned for its second season Sunday night – adds to her impressive resumé. It also officially places the 37-year-old stunner one degree closer to Kevin Bacon. She’s also working on a new Amazon series called Bosch based on the Michael Connelly books.
Here are five “degrees” to get you closer to knowing all about Cruz:
1. She’s shy when she first meets someone.
“I find large groups of new people especially challenging sometimes. Which always makes the first day on a new set interesting. It always feels like the first day at a new school,” says Cruz, who lucked out on The Following with Bacon as the show’s welcoming star. “He is one of those people you meet in person who really surpasses all expectations. He’s a warm and caring person, a consummate professional, and always makes you want to bring your absolute best to the table when you do a scene together … A real dream for any actor.”
2. She’s good at dying.
“I will never forget my death scene in 2004’s Cellular. It was my first big feature, and really my first big job after Nip/Tuck. [William H. Macy] had to shoot me and then interrogate me as I lay dying on the floor. When I finally ‘breathed my last breath’ and they yelled ‘Cut,’ he looked at me and said, ‘Hey now, that was some pretty good dying you just did there,’ ” Cruz recalls. “I got to go home and tell everyone that ‘William H. Macy thinks I die good!’ It kind of makes me laugh now thinking about it. I was so happy to have died that day,” Cruz tells PEOPLE.
3. Can you tell she’s Cuban?
“It’s a surprise to [some people],” says Cruz. “Most strangers always suspect I am Mediterranean or something of that nature. I think I have gotten it all as far as guesses are concerned, but rarely do people say, ‘Yes, that girl is Cubana!’ That is until they get to know me then there is certainly no hiding it.”
4. Her first on-screen kiss was with Nip/Tuck‘s Dr. Christian Troy.
“I remember being soooo nervous. At the time about every woman I knew fancied the pants off this man,” says Cruz. “So here is little ol’ me about to not just kiss him but have a full on shag-a-thon in the break-room of the office,” says Cruz, who adds that she and Julian McMahon had a little accident. “In the course of simulating standing sex, kissing and faking an orgasm, I went to put my hand over his mouth and one of my fingers went directly up his nose,” recalls Cruz. “And I mean really, really, really up his nose. We cut of course, and well, it just wasn’t that sexy. But it proved for a good laugh anyway.”
5. She’s back on the market.
Although she got engaged back in 2011, Cruz tells PEOPLE she never got married and says she’s single again and looking to mingle. “It didn’t really work out. Oddly enough we recently parted ways permanently. It just didn’t make sense. And now I’m currently single again in New York City!”