LOS ANGELES — Carter Cruise told XBIZ she’s no stranger to big crowds, but standing in front of the adult industry was a different kind of thrill.
“I’ve been performing on stage since I was very young and I’ve always been taught that the audience is that fourth wall — you don’t ever really look into the audience,” said Cruise, who won the 2015 XBIZ Best New Starlet trophy on Jan. 15 at the 13th annual XBIZ Awards.
“When I was up there, honestly my legs were shaking and I was just trying to get through it and make a semi-intelligent speech. It was just a blur of lights.”
And it was only the beginning of a memorable night at the JW Marriott for the 23-year-old native of Cary, N.C. Less than 30 minutes after she accepted that award, she was announced as the winner of Best Actress – Feature Movie for her lead role in “Second Chances” for New Sensations.
In “Second Chances,” Cruise plays a college student faced with the return of the man who once broke her heart.
“I felt like there was no way I was going to get both,” Cruise said, joking that during her red-carpet interview before the show she admitted, “I really want both.”
“They asked me, ‘If you had to pick one, which would it be?’ I said ‘I really just want to get both. I know I’m being so greedy, I just really want them!’ And they were just laughing at me. I really didn’t think I would get both. Oh my god, I was already so excited I was a lot more flustered when I got up there for the second award.”
Cruise later won a third individual honor, Best Actress – All-Girl Release for her role in “Lesbian Vampire Academy” for Hustler Video. She actually was a last-minute replacement in the ensemble cast.
“I was not supposed to be in that movie,” Cruise revealed. “My agent [Mark Spiegler] called me and told me you have to be there in like an hour. I hadn’t even eaten. … That was back when I had just moved to California and I was only working once in a while and no one really knew who I was.”
They know now.
Her first showcase title, “Meet Carter” from Digital Sin that was released last July, also received the 2015 XBIZ Award for Best All-Sex Release, putting the finishing touch on a historic evening for the former Hooters girl and lifeguard. Cruise is the first performer to win two XBIZ acting awards and Best New Starlet on the same night.
“It’s been a couple weeks and honestly, it still hasn’t sunk in,” Cruise said. “It’s really an amazing feeling. It wasn’t so much getting the awards and having a trophy that felt good. It was that when I started in this industry I created a list of goals I had and I’ve been so excited over the past year to check off quite a few of those.
“With awards there are so many things that can happen. You can work as hard as you can and it doesn’t mean you can check off that box. It’s really an overwhelming feeling. Not only had I accomplished my goals, I felt really honored that people in the industry felt I deserved that. I’m grateful.
“I work so hard and sometimes I don’t know that other people are paying attention. I’m very focused and I keep my head to the ground. I guess I just didn’t realize that other people saw how much I wanted it and how much I worked for it.”
Jacky St. James, who directed Cruise’s award-winning performance in “Second Chances,” recognized her talent early on.
“I said this before and I’ll say it again, she gives her guts to everything,” St. James, the 2015 XBIZ Director of the Year, told XBIZ. “She goes balls out. She doesn’t have that ‘oh, it’s just porn, I don’t have to work hard’ attitude. She has a great attitude every time she comes to set. She loves having sex. She’s always on time.
“Whether she’s doing a faux-cest scene or a major feature she has that drive and desire to be the best at everything, no matter how small or how grand. She is a shining example of how a performer should be.”
Cruise already has racked up more than 100 credits since her porn debut in August 2013, approaching features, parodies, vignettes, all-sex and gonzo assignments with equal gusto. But she said it was her role in “Second Chances” that instilled new confidence in her acting ability.
“It’s really been interesting that porn has helped me become so much more of a better actress,” Cruise said. “I’ve always been self-conscious about looking stupid or doing things wrong, but ‘Second Chances’ was my first really acting intensive role in porn.”
She said tapping into a range of emotions — “screaming, crying, being funny” — during “Second Chances” all within a four-day span was a challenge.
“When we did the scene of me pretending to be drunk, I had never done that before. I’ve never had to act drunk,” Cruise continued. “I knew Jacky, but some of the actors I was working with I only had met them that day. A year ago I might’ve frozen up and I don’t think I would’ve been as comfortable.
“You might say, well my asshole is on the Internet, what’s the big deal if I look a little silly pretending to be drunk? But being able to let go and get into character and not worry about how I looked, that was really cool.”
Cruise may have won an armload of awards in January, but she said the rest of this year is all about pushing forward with projects such as her official website.
“And as for porn, I just want to dominate this year,” Cruise said. “I plan on doing everything I haven’t done. Whatever I have left to check off that list, I’m doing it.”
Cruise last month released her first music single, a collaboration with the duo Styles & Complete and Crichy Crich called “Dunnit.” The starlet did vocals on the catchy track that already has more than 120,000 plays.
“I’m excited about how well it’s doing,” she said. “It’s tough to try and balance everything I’m trying to do, but right now my focus is still in adult. I really want to ride this wave from the awards and continue building my brand and success in the industry. Music is always a hobby.”
That hobby will take her to the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, in March, when she’ll play her first show as a DJ.
There are plenty more movies in the works, too, namely another showcase called “All Access Carter Cruise” for Airerose Entertainment, the XBIZ Best New Studio for which she is the official brand ambassador.
In “All Access,” which will be released in early April, Cruise performs with Aidra Fox on a mountaintop in the desert; throws down with fellow XBIZ Award-winners Adriana Chechik and James Deen in a scene she called “one of my favorites”; squares off with Ramon Nomar; and gets D.P.’ed by Toni Ribas and Nomar.
“It’s like a reality-based showcase in the sense that all of the BTS is super real,” Cruise said, noting that a lot of the footage is “just me on my iPhone, a lot of times not even made up because I just woke up.”
Cruise on Wednesday shot a scene with Maddy O’Reilly for Keiran Lee and Brazzers where she peed on O’Reilly for the first time. She said it’s something she and Lee have joked about doing for months.
“I’ve been pushing my comfort zone since I got back from Christmas,” Cruise said. “I’ve never done that on camera before. I drank so much water. I had a huge water baby.”
Cruise also has set her sights on writing and directing her own movie as well as blogging about her experiences.
“There’s a new generation of porn stars now and I feel like a good representation of that new generation, being a girl who is not just a porn star, but a sexual woman who is also interested in and talented at other things,” she said. “I really want to build an online presence for that and personally challenge people’s stigmas and perceptions about our industry through writing and blogging.”