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MAJOR CRIMES WEEK: Jessica Meraz

You know the saying that all good things must come to an end? Well, that may indeed be the case for the TNT hit series Major Crimes. After five successful seasons on the network, it was recently announced that Season 6 of Major Crimes would be its final season on the network.

While that is the bad news, the good news is that there are still thirteen new episodes yet to air and they will begin on Tuesday, October 31st.

What better way to start off our Major Crimes Week than with the newest member of the squad, Camila Paige played by the wonderfully talented Jessica Meraz. Best known for her role as Natalie Ortiz on the series Chasing Life, she’s also appeared in series such as The Earliest Show, Baby Daddy and Sketchy.

We sit down with Jessica to talk about joining the cast of Major Crimes, what her first day on set was like and what we can look forward to with her character Camila Paige.

Pop Culture Principle – Had you watched the series before and if not, did you watch some of Major Crimes to prepare for the role of Camila Paige?

Jessica Meraz – Absolutely. I had heard of the show and I had actually auditioned for it a couple of times. Whenever I have an audition for an existing show, I like to watch several episodes. So, I’ve seen several episodes before and once I got the audition for this part, I watched even more of the most recent episodes and some from the beginning. Once, I got the part, I binged watched all the seasons of Major Crimes. So, I’ve now seen every episode of Major Crimes and the first season of The Closer. I am working my way through The Closer now.

Pop Culture Principle – What can you tell us about your character Camila Paige?

Jessica Meraz – Camila Paige is a tough and really smart detective who came from the Criminal Intelligence Division. She had an existing relationship with the new Assistant Chief Mason and she also had an existing relationship with Lt. Provenza from her childhood. That is where we kind of start off with Camila in the first episode of Season 6.

We learn that she met Provenza when her parents were killed by a drunk driver and Provenza found the killer and he remained close to the family during the trial process. Camila has five younger siblings and she raised them since she’s the oldest and didn’t have her parents to help her. She’s really got some grit as she’s had to navigate life for herself and her siblings.

She really likes to lead with her intelligence and not get too wrapped up in a lot of the drama. It can cause her to not seem to really work well with others because she’s pretty much focused on her own thing and what she’s kind of after.

Pop Culture Principle – Is your character able to fit in right away with the team or is there a hesitation by when it comes to making her a member of the team?

Jessica Meraz – I think it was similar to how it was in real life. They are a very established group of actors and they are a very established squad and having a new person come in, I think everyone is welcoming but suspicious. It’s kind of like dogs smelling each other. Both for Camila and for myself, we all were smelling each other for a little bit and then it was quickly love.

Pop Culture Principle – What was it like walking on the Major Crimes set for the first time and who was your very first scene with?

Jessica Meraz – That’s actually a funny story! My very first scene was on location, with the entire squad and it took place outside of a church. Well, we showed up at this church and this being my first scene, it was very intimidating. They had everything set up and waiting for us. It was a big crime scene with tons of extras in police gear, police cars and officers with police dogs. It’s a whole production and they call us out to set and we walk out like a bunch of badasses. It was my first scene and I was terrified.

Right when we got there, this huge swarm of bees made its way toward our set and you see all these bad ass cops walking toward the set and then instantly we all turn around and scream like little girls away from the set. We had to cancel the day and reschedule it and use an insurance day. So, they took me out to have a margarita lunch instead. That was my first day!

Pop Culture Principle – The sixth season hits the ground running with a case that involves three missing children. What can you tell us about this particular case?

Jessica Meraz – It’s about three missing boys from a Catholic school that go missing and the first five episodes of the season will focus on trying to figure out what happened. It brings in a lot of controversial issues, sensitive materials and it’s going to be really gut-wrenching.

Pop Culture Principle – What do you think is Camila’s biggest strength and her biggest weakness?

Jessica Meraz – I think her strength is that she’s got her eye on the prize. She goes by the book, she knows what she needs to do, she’s got really great instincts and when it comes to her job, she’s a bad ass. When it comes to her personal life, she comes from a selfless place. It’s about her siblings and it’s about keeping her emotions out of it.

I think her weakness would be identifying her own feelings and really being in touch with advancing her personal life. I don’t think she goes home to a loving relationship and I don’t think that area of her life is necessarily blossoming.

Pop Culture Principle – One of the big issues in Hollywood today has been diversity. Major Crimes has one of the most diverse casts on television with gender, race and so on. How important was that aspect for you joining the cast?

Jessica Meraz – it was really exciting. I’m a diverse person who is multi-ethnic. It’s really fun to go onto a set that is representing everybody. We all have these different points of views and we all relate as one. It’s a beautiful thing. The interesting thing about the show being so diverse is that it’s not thrown in your face so to speak. It just is and it doesn’t have to be a topic of conversation. It can exist and we can solve different issues if that is already something that we can all be ok with.

Pop Culture Principle – Major Crimes has a very loyal and vocal fandom and the cast and crew live tweet with the fans every episode. What are your thoughts on social media and will you live tweet with the rest of the cast and crew?

Jessica Meraz – Absolutely! I will definitely be live-tweeting with the fans. I’m not the best person on Twitter, but I’ll figure it out.

Pop Culture Principle – What have you enjoyed most about being a part of Major Crimes?

Jessica Meraz – That’s easy, the people. The relationships that I have made with the cast and crew have been a blessing. I say this all the time to Phillip Keene who plays Buzz. I’ve been on the show since May and they know me so well, I couldn’t imagine being on a series for thirteen seasons. We are so close and I don’t know how much closer you can get to people. They are such lovely human beings and we have so much fun just getting to work together and do what we love every day.

Michael Paul Chan and I are the best of friends and we have a great relationship. We are the little pigs on the show because we eat ice cream together every day and have such a good time. It’s a love affair between me and everyone on the set.

Pop Culture Principle – Major Crimes is known for some fantastic writing. As an actor, what is it like to come onto a series with such great writing?

Jessica Meraz – The writers are so smart. The writing really does everything for us and I just try to get out of the way. As I’m reading it, I find myself playing detective because I don’t know what’s going to happen. Even when the guest stars come on, I try to figure things out and even they don’t know.

It’s like a puzzle every time and it’s exciting. They are just so smart and everything means something and everything is worked out. We are really lucky to be a show where the writers are always on set in case we want to ask a question. There is no stone left unturned and there is no flower on set that doesn’t mean something or might be a clue. I’d love to sit in the writers’ room.

Pop Culture Principle – Do you find yourself thinking like a cop when you aren’t on the Major Crimes set?

Jessica Meraz – Totally! I got robbed about a month ago. My car was broken into and they stole some weird things like my registration and kind of messed up my car. I was on my way to work at 4:30 in the morning. The first thing I did was not touch the doorknob, I could see fingerprints. I went straight to work and asked for Mike Bercham, who is a producer and writer for the show and was also a bad ass LAPD detective and I got on the case! Sometimes when I drive by and see crime scenes, I want to jump out the car and find out what’s going on!

Pop Culture Principle – What can Major Crimes fans look forward to with the sixth season of the series?

Jessica Meraz – There is going to be a little bit of everything, which is really exciting. There is going to be crime solving, love stories and some really scary things happening. This season is not going to be lacking in emotion and there is going to be a lot of personal storylines going on as well as the cases.

Pop Culture Principle – What were your initial thoughts when you found out that Season 6 would be the final season on TNT?

Jessica Meraz – I was told that it was something that was always a possibility. Even when I got the part, they said that we don’t know when the last season will be and it could be this one. It was heartbreaking, but it wasn’t a huge shock and that goes to the transparency that James Duff and Mike Robin keep with us. All we can do is hope and there is never any certainty as far as the show being done. I have a hard time believing that it is the end because the fans are so loyal to the show

A big thank you to Jessica Meraz for taking the time to talk with us. The final season of Major Crimes begins on Tuesday, October 31st at 9/8c only on TNT.

If you would like to keep up with all of Jessica's latest news and projects, you can visit her official Facebook page here. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram @jessicameraz.

**Major Crimes photos courtesy of TNT**

**All other photos courtesy of The Riker Brothers**

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