Cruz circled by flames

 By Rick Taylor, TÚlÚ Poche, 1992

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"I was afraid. I had already played dangerous scenes in Santa Barbara, but never as testing as this one. The heat was sometimes insupportable. My skin burned me, I was plugged by the flames. I was at the limits of what an actor can endure." The drama occurs in a center of education for maltreated children. While going to smoke a cigarette in a hiding-place in the basement, one of the boys, whose Cruz attends to in the show, throws a match in a waste basket and starts a terrible fire. Cruz and Mason launch out in the middle of the flames to save the boarders.

Weeks of meticulous preparation were necessary to direct the episode which held in emotion the American fans of Santa Barbara ."A thing is sure, I did not have to pretend horror or anguish ! The sceneries had been made in a fireproofed material, but were covered with a fine resin film extremely flammable."

To ensure the safety of the actors, the greatest precautions had been taken. "Everything have been well orchestrated and controlled. The scene where I escape with a child in the arms, for example, required two shots. I start with the child and I finish, encircled by the flames, with a mannequin. At this moment, the stage was surrounded by a whole security team armed of extinguishers, ready to intervene at the least problem. Enough to reassure. But, alone in the blasier, it was horrible."

To add to the suspense, Cruz, while advancing more in the fire, is victim of a terrible accident. A beam breaks down on him. The immobilized legs, he cannot disengage himself. Mason will come to help him in time, but Cruz has the two members broken. "For this scene, the producers did not want to take risks. I had been doubled. The make-up men came to smear me of black powder, imitating soot. Then, I was laid down under a plywood beam. But it was so light that I was not able to keep it on my legs. Someone had then the formidable idea to ballast it with bags of sand."

A Martinez, cleaned, relaxed, jokes now with Gordon Thomson. The intense atmosphere of the day left place to the laughter of an exhausted but relieved team. "Even if we know that all the safety measures had been taken, there is always this fraction of second when everything can fall over. My wife has besides just called me, she was not quiet all this day. She imagined the worst. All that I wish now, it is that the writers do not prepare us as soon another episode of this kind. The strong emotions, it is not very good for health !"

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