'Chicago Fire's Joe Minoso Says Cruz 'Lost a Big, Big Part of Himself'

Meredith Jacobs
Q&A Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Chicago Fire is in mourning after losing one of its own, and no one's feeling that loss more than Cruz (Joe Minoso).

In the Season 8 premiere, viewers watched as Otis (Yuriy Sardarov) died of burns sustained during the mattress factory fire, with his best friend at his side. And as Minoso tells TV Insider, it was just as hard for him to say goodbye as it was for his character. "It was the very last scene that we would ever do together, as Cruz and Otis," he explains.

Here, Minoso previews how Cruz will be dealing with that loss moving forward and what to expect from the newest firefighter, the One Chicago crossover, and more this season.

Which scene in the premiere was hardest for you to film?

Joe Minoso: Quite frankly, that sequence where I see [Otis'] charred body for the first time. I have to give kudos to [executive producer/writer] Derek [Haas]. He was the one that said he envisioned it like it was such a physical blow that it pushed me back all the way.

'Chicago Fire' Shocker! EP Derek Haas on Why [Spoiler] Was Killed Off

'Chicago Fire' Shocker! EP Derek Haas on Why [Spoiler] Was Killed Off

The executive producer explains why the heart-wrenching decision was made, and what's next.

For me, the most difficult thing to do was hands down the scene where he actually dies and the last thing he says because that was reserved for the last thing Yuri shot. ... Having to actually say goodbye to Otis in the same breath as Joe is saying goodbye to Yuri was pretty hard. That was really taxing.

There was actually one moment where, in the episode, you see Yuri tilt his head and look at me. That didn't happen until the 10th or 15th take and the first time it happened, I had to run out of the room and collect myself because it was just all too real.

What did Cruz and Otis' friendship mean to you and to the show?

Yuri is my best friend, so it's a very mixed bag because I adore him, I love Yuri more than anything. I think Yuri was ready to explore new options, so I'm happy for him in that sense, but I'll forever miss Otis. I feel like our camaraderie and our chemistry was impalpable and it was always a joy to be able to do those kinds of comedic things with him. It felt like there was a real brother-in-arms and in a lot of ways, Joe Minoso the actor and Joe Cruz has lost that with Yuri/Otis gone.

(Adrian Burrows/NBC)

It'll mean a lot of changes, a lot of growing up for Cruz, and it'll certainly probably mean a lot of new type of work for me as an actor because they'll probably explore new facets of the character because he's now a man who is almost alone. He has his love in Chloe, but he's lost a big, big part of himself.

You mentioned Cruz has to grow up now. Is losing Otis going to change who Cruz is as a firefighter?

If anything, it's going to make him a more diligent firefighter, especially having lost him the way that he does. There's no way you can recover from something like that. So, when you're facing a new fire or a new challenge, you're going to shy away from it or you're going to take it head-on with a more laser focus given what you've lost in the past. We're going to see more of that laser focus from Cruz in terms of how he attacks not only fires and his job, but also his life in general.

Two Extreme Rescues, Plus Meet the New Firefighter on 'Chicago Fire' (PHOTOS)

Two Extreme Rescues, Plus Meet the New Firefighter on 'Chicago Fire' (PHOTOS)

'Shadowhunters' Alberto Rosende joins the cast as Blake Gallo.

How does this loss change things for the firehouse? It’s been a while since they lost someone during a call.

Derek and the rest of the writing staff were smart to put the teeth back into the show. One of the reasons the show is what it is is because there's this overwhelming sense of danger at any episode because of what the job entails. It had been a while since we'd lost one of our major guys, and the writing staff knew it was necessary to show the audience we're not afraid to face the reality of the world we built.

They couldn't have chosen a better character just because Otis is such a remarkably lovable human being and you want nothing but good things for him and he was at a place where so much was working. He was really happy with Lily. The second bar was doing really well. He was finally gaining respect from the rest of his firefighters. When you're telling good stories, that's usually the mark of someone who is going to be missed.

(Adrian Burrows/NBC)

And they're working without Brett, at least for now. Is it even harder for Cruz and for the others to not have her around after what's happened? Does everyone think it's a matter of time before she returns?

This is what I'm saying. How lonely is this guy? ... Cruz for sure thinks she's gone for good, and he's happy for her.

Having dated, it's great to see we were able to move into a place where we were just such good friends and really rooting for each other and that dynamic makes Cruz think, 'She's found what she needed and she's ready to move on, and so all the best to her.' I wouldn't necessarily blame her after what she went through, to be in this terrible accident and have her arm broken and right after having been proposed to.

Whether or not the rest of them are going to think so, it's a mixed bag. Some definitely don't want it and may find themselves trying to do what they can to get her to come back. Others will just find different ways to deal with her absence. It'll definitely be noticed. You can't have Brett go away and not feel it from everybody.

What's Next on 'Chicago Fire,' 'Med' & 'P.D.'? Disaster, Killers & New Characters

What's Next on 'Chicago Fire,' 'Med' & 'P.D.'? Disaster, Killers & New Characters

The One Chicago EPs tease how those cliffhangers will be resolved.

Any changes coming in Cruz and Chloe's relationship, perhaps from Cruz seeing that life is short?

It's all that's left in his life, so he's going to try to do everything he can to hold onto that because he values it with everything.

What does Cruz think of the newest member of the house, Blake Gallo?

There's a new focus in Cruz's life, and if you look, for example, at people like Casey or Severide, there's a distance now between themselves and the rest of the crew. ... You'll see some of that in Cruz, especially with Blake. He's a new kid and you worry. You can't help but now always have in the back of your mind just how dangerous it is because it's such a fresh wound and we don't want to see that happen, especially to somebody as young as Blake. ... America's going to love [Alberto Rosende] as a firefighter.

(Adrian Burrows/NBC)

Speaking of the job, can you preview some of the calls coming up? 

In Episode 2, we have some insane calls. In one of them, you'll get to meet Blake Gallo and you'll get to see real fast exactly what kind of guy he really is and what kind of firefighter he's going to prove to be.

Later on in the season, we have this giant crossover event that's all about this flesh-eating bacteria that has completely overtaken the city.

Are we going to see anything different from Cruz during the crossover?

You're going to see a more determined Cruz in general when it comes to these types of calls, but also you're going to see an opportunity for him to play with the people over at P.D. in a more determined light as well. He's getting more and more involved.

Where 8 One Chicago Romances Left Off (PHOTOS)

Where 8 One Chicago Romances Left Off (PHOTOS)

On 'Chicago Fire,' 'Med,' and 'P.D.,' the characters' love lives are just as dramatic as life-and-death situations.

Chicago Fire, Wednesdays, 9/8c, NBC