Raymond Cruz returned as Tuco in Monday's episode

Updated March 07, 2016 11:00 PM
Credit: Usula Coyote/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

Better Call Saul got a blast from the past (or technically from the future?) in Monday’s episode of the Breaking Bad spinoff.

Mike (Jonathan Banks) was tasked with helping Nacho (Michael Mando) get rid of a problem he can’t solve. And that problem is one very scary man in the Albuquerque drug scene, whom Nacho wants Mike to kill.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Monday’s Better Call Saul.

Tuco (Raymond Cruz) made his return to the series, with Mike opting not to kill the drug kingpin, but instead orchestrating his arrest by tricking Tuco into beating him in front of some cops. For Cruz, returning to play Tuco was as challenging as ever.

“Shooting it was vicious,” Cruz tells PEOPLE of the scene, which required him to throw “maybe 120 punches” at Banks.

“They’re yelling, ‘Just keep throwing them! Just keep throwing them!’ And I’m trying not to hit Jonathan,” says Cruz. “You have to be careful for that stuff. But you want to sell it. You want it to look real. There’s a special kind of violence with Tuco. It’s not normal. It’s exaggerated. It’s more vicious.”

The star admits that playing such a negative character can temporarily take it’s toll on him.

“My family is always happy when I’m not around [for parts such as Tuco],” says Cruz, who traveled to Albuquerque for the role. “Even my friends are like, ‘Woah man.’ Everyone can feel it. You can feel it watching the television. It bounces off the TV.”

Cruz, who was recently tapped for a Nisan Ad series featuring two of his idols (Mickey Rourke and Carl Weathers), relishes being considered a Hollywood tough guy. The star, 54, says keeping a strict physical regimen is key to maintaining his high-intensity roles.

“Playing Tuco is exhausting,” he says. “By the end of the day, 12-14 hours later, you feel like you’ve run up a bunch of hills. It’s super exhausting. Physically, mentally, emotionally.”

To keep in shape, the Major Crimes star does a boxing workout – jumping rope and running hills.

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“I do cardio and isometrics. I’ve always stayed in top physical shape and that’s the only way I can really do it,” says Cruz.

Though the Major Crimes star is looking forward to watching his episode of Better Call Saul, he’ll have to wait for DVR. On Monday while it was airing, he and his Major Crimes costars were in Dallas for a fundraiser for costar G.W. Bailey’s charity Sunshine Kids.

“It’s become our pet project. Our whole show, from the producers to the crew to the cast. Everyone has kind of embraced this charity,” Cruz says of Sunshine Kids, which raises money for children with cancer.

As for Cruz’s possible return to Better Call Saul in the future, the star says he’s open to it.

“You never know. I didn’t know I was going to come back for season 2,” says Cruz. “Then they came up with the storyline and the idea, so it was just great we were able to do it.”

Cruz can be found on Twitter @RealRaymondCruz. In addition to Major Crimes, he also has an upcoming role on DirecTV’s Full Circle.

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