Natalie Zea is more than just a pretty face. Delivering standout roles both on television and the silver screen, this multi-faceted actress has quickly established herself as one of Hollywood’s brightest up-and-coming stars. Whether she is starring alongside Timothy Olyphant in FX’s hit series ‘Justified’ or starring in her new thriller, ‘InSight,’ 2011 is shaping up to be her most amazing year yet. In the new film, Zea plays an ER nurse named Kaitlyn. While tending to a young stabbing victim, she is accidentally electrocuted by the defibrillator that is used in an effort to save the woman’s life. Almost immediately she starts to experience the victim’s terrifying memories. Kaitlyn turns to family, friends, and the police, but no one takes her seriously. She decides to take it upon herself to solve the crime – as the terrifying visions threaten her sanity. She teams up with the detective (Sean Patrick Flanery) on the case and weaves her way through the victim’s past to discover the brutal truth. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with this rising star to discuss her roots in the entertainment industry, bringing her character in ‘InSight’ from script to screen, the challenges involved and much more!
What got you started on journey in the entertainment industry?
I was an only child and was alone a lot as a kid, so i had to entertain myself, so I had a propensity for it early on. Then, when I was a freshman in high school, my cousin, who was in the theater department, encouraged me to take a drama class. The drama teacher, Evelyn Jones, noticed I had some natural ability and began nurturing it and i fell in love with the process.
Who would you cite as your biggest influence as an actress?
There’s no one person that comes to mind. I think it’s because I’m drawn to certain performances, as opposed to certain performers. We’re all inconsistent, as actors, and sometimes we’re on our game more than other times. Bill Murray in ‘Lost in Translation’ comes to mind, or Jim Carrey in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, or Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in ‘Before Sunset’ and of course Bette Davis in ‘All About Eve’.
One of your latest projects is ‘InSight’. Tell us about your character in the film and what attracted you to this very interesting role?
I’m drawn to the darkness. On the surface, she seems like a pretty straight forward character. And then you get the whole story. And that little twist is what drives the colors and the layers of the character throughout the movie.
What is your process for bringing a character such as this from the script to the screen?
Normally, I would say that I don’t have a process, but i’ve recently discovered I do. Although, it’s not something that can be described in words. I’m not big on research or backstory as I think those things get in the way of the moment. And really all that’s important to me is telling the truth. And I can’t tell the truth if I’m thinking about where this character went to elementary school.
What do you feel that you brought to the character that may not have been in the script originally or even in the man you know?
I have to say that the biggest challenge of this character was not being able to infuse any humor into her. I tend to try and find some sort of levity to any character I play and with Kaitlyn it simply wasn’t an option. so rather than finding something that wasn’t on the page, my challenge was to stay true to how this girl was written.
They say that each role is a learning experience for an actor. What did you learn about yourself/your craft on this film?
I’m an aspiring filmmaker, so I try to take away as much knowledge – whether it be noting something that works or taking note of what went wrong – from every film set as I can. We shot this thing in 15 days and that can be tough on the actors – well, on everyone- and I wonder how something like that affects performance. Maybe the adrenaline adds to it, or maybe it hinders it. It’s hard to know.
What do you think director Richard Gabai brought to the table for a project like ‘InSight’?
Richard is a very ballsy guy! His ambition is impressive. He took a film that was shot for almost no money by hollywood standards and made it look like a multi-million dollar studio film. I don’t know many people who can do that.
Your role in the film is very intense. Where there any moments during the filming that provided a break from that intensity? Were there any funny moments on set or was it all business, all the time!
When I’m working, I always have a tv series that I watch between shots and at lunch as a way to separate myself from what i’m doing on set. Maybe not the wisest choice, but with this particularly movie, I chose ‘Breaking Bad’. Oops. At least it kept me in the right mood! And yes, when you work this closely with a crew, there is a very special bond that’s formed. The wardrobe and hair and make-up departments’ were a huge part of making me laugh and keeping me sane throughout the process.
You have been amazing on FX’s ‘Justified’. As an actor, how satisfying has the role of “Winona Hawkins” been for you as an actor?
I will say that this role is challenging in ways I never anticipated it to be. I often times don’t really understand what she wants, and that can be difficult, because that’s sort of acting 101 “what does my character want in this scene”. She’s proven to be a pretty polarizing character which is thrilling for me. I love the passion – whether it be love or hate – people have for her and I do love her complexities, even though, sometimes her inconsistencies drive me crazy!
Any word if we can we look forward to seeing more of your character in Season three of the series?
I will be continuing on in Season 3.
You have played such a wide variety of roles in your career. Is there a part or a specific genre that you would like to tackle in the years to come?
Comedy, comedy, comedy. It’s funny, I’ve done plenty of comedic roles – DIRTY SEXY MONEY, HUNG, THE OTHER GUYS, CALIFORNICATION – and yet when I meet with producers and say that I’m interested in doing more comedy they’re always shocked. I’m the sort of go to drama girl. If you want a bitchy DA, I’m your woman (although, I’ve put a moratorium on that. No more bitchy DA for me – I’ve reached my quota). But if you look at my resume I’ve done just as much comedy as I have drama. And I personally think i’m better at it. I have so much more fun exploring a comedic character than I do a straight up dramatic one. There’s more freedom there.
How do you feel that you have evolved as an actor over the years?
Oh, god, I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like I’ve devolved, you know? I’ve become a better technical actor over the years, which isn’t always a good thing. When you find you’re acting for the camera and not staying in the scene. I do feel like I’ve become more informed about how things are made. The technical side of things. T.V. is tough, because it’s easy to get lazy and to half ass things, so I’m constantly on myself not to phone it in.
What is the best piece of advice that someone has given you along the way in your career?
Do not read about yourself online. Genius advice. I have a filter I call googleMom. My parents have a google alert on me and will occasionally send me stuff that’s either flattering or outrageously funny. Otherwise it’s none of my damn business.
That being said, do you have an advice for anyone who would like to get involved in the entertainment industry?
See above. Seriously, I can’t say it enough. STAY OFF THE INTERWEBS!
What other projects are on the horizon for you that we should be on the lookout for?
I start work on an indie feature called ‘Sweet Talk’ in a few weeks. It’s a really cute little love strory, with different time periods as backdrops. Actors’ catnip. Then I go back to ‘Justified’ in October. Then I’m producing and acting in a movie that I wrote – it’s been seven years in the making! – in the spring. We start pre-production for that in January and I’m both scared to death and so excited I can’t contain myself.
Anything that you would like to say to the fans before I let you go?
Only that I love them!
Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you! We wish you all the best!
Check out the official website for ‘InSight’ at www.insightthemovie.com and remember that the film hits theaters on September 2nd, 2011!