The actor also tells PEOPLE how his top-secret guest spot was kept under wraps

By Amanda Michelle Steiner
Updated February 16, 2015 06:35 PM
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Lewis Jacobs/AMC

Breaking Bad fans who tuned in to the premiere of Better Call Saul last week were rewarded for their loyalty to showrunner Vince Gillian and company.

In the last few seconds of the first episode, Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) made a jaw-dropping appearance.

In the next episode, “Mijo,” we saw a kinder, gentler Tuco … that is, one still prone to delivering vicious beatings and threats of murder, but still one willing to listen to reason. Pre-blue meth Tuco was practically a cuddly teddy bear in contrast to the man we saw in Breaking Bad, who killed his comrade for speaking out of turn.

In an interview with PEOPLE, Cruz, 53 – who has also starred in The Closer and Major Crimes – revealed why he doesn’t see Tuco as evil, and just how his top-secret role was kept a secret.

“I’ve never seen Tuco as a bad person,” Cruz tells PEOPLE. “I see Tuco as someone who, in his very core, is fair. You have to convince him, but he’s fair. He’ll listen to your argument. … By the time we get to Breaking Bad, his perception is altered by the fact that he’s using this blue meth.”

In “Mijo,” we saw No-Doze (Cesar Garcia) interact with Tuco in a way that got him killed years later.

“If you look at the scene,” Cruz says, “Tuco’s very calm when he corrects him. But in Breaking Bad, it’s all-out violence. His reaction is not only over the top, but he’s excited about it.”

On keeping his surprise guest appearance under wraps, Cruz believes it was just respect for Gilligan and his process – and some “cloak-and-dagger” tactics – that the news didn’t leak.

“They asked me to please not tell anyone, and when I went to the shoot, I was hidden under umbrellas,” he says. “I was in the hotel under an assumed name … No one could know I was there. It was like disappearing off the earth!”

He did tell one person about his side gig, though: His wife – “I had to swear her to secrecy, which she didn’t like.”

While Cruz will not be making another appearance on Saul this season, he’s open to the possibility of returning in the future; after all, the series earned a second season before the first even aired.

In other words, Gilligan’s Albuquerque isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Better Call Saul airs Mondays (10 p.m. ET) on AMC.