Natalie Zea says she prefers doing comedies, but her characters in two high-profile dramas find themselves in peril this week.
"Oh, God, I know. I gotta get away from this," she said Friday with a chuckle. "I've got to go do some sort of slapstick comedy!"
The laughs will have to wait, at least on the small screen. In Fox's "The Following," she plays Claire Matthews, the former wife of serial killer and cult creator Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) and former lover of the man who put him away, FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon). Last week Joe started killing off women sharing Claire's name in the hopes of guilting her into joining him and their son, whom he has kidnapped. Joe's plan may just pay off in the appropriately titled "Guilt," airing at 8 p.m. March 25.
At 9 p.m. March 26, Zea reprises her role as Winona Hawkins, ex-wife of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in FX's "Justified." Winona hasn't been seen much this season, but in the episode, titled "Peace of Mind," we learn more about her and Raylan's unborn child. And if you watch Zea's final scene in the episode carefully, you may notice something else.
"Things get hairy," the actress teased. (And that's all we can say about that. Check back here for more after Tuesday's episode.)
Below is an edited transcript of my phone chat with Zea from her home in L.A. on Friday, just a day after she wrapped production on Season 1 of "The Following" in New York City. After that I've added excerpts from our conversation earlier in the season when we talked about her preference for comedy and the indie film she's written, a dark comedy she hopes to film soon.
This is a big week for Claire.
Is it? Is it? [Laughs.] ... Honestly, I feel like this is the beginning of Claire's storyline. But I think for me, after this episode is when the ball really gets rolling. So yeah, this is the sort of precursor to "new Claire."
Last week Joe started killing off Claire Matthewses. And she doesn't know about it, but I suspect she finds out about it this week and she's probably not feeling so good about it?
I think she's got so much going on that ... she probably forgets about it in a few minutes. [Laughs.]
When last we talked you mentioned the guilt she feels about not realizing Joe was a killer while they were married. (See "Guilt" heading below for more.) Does learning of these killings pile on to that guilt?
Of course, yeah. That is not necessarily explored in the episode, but toward the end it's a huge moment. There's a really, really big kind of revelation for her about that. So yes, it's been building and we do see a payoff eventually, but it's later on.
A friend of mine has a theory that Claire is actually part of Joe's plan--
Everybody has that theory! You know what my favorite theory was? That Claire was Roderick. That was dope. [Laughs.] Whoever started that rumor, you're hired.
So any truth to her being with Joe?
Why would you ask that? It's so ridiculous when you guys ask me that. [Laughs.] Like you're going to be the one I tell.
One must try Natalie. You also talked last time about how your backstory about her didn't end up jibing with Kevin's and you didn't really know Claire yet. (See "Knowing Claire" heading below.) Have you gotten to know her better?
I have and I think a lot of that is that she was so difficult for me because of what I perceived as her lack of edge. She seemed so sort of pure, and I had never really played that before. What we're getting to now is that she's had it [but] it's just been hidden.
I think that's a combination of things. It's a combination of the circumstances she's about to be put in and also [show creator] Kevin Williamson getting to know how I work a little better and how that strength is going to come out whether it's supposed to or not. So he might as well use it, I guess. It's been sort of easier to find her that way.
Did you discover her around the time these episodes were being filmed?
Actually toward the end of Episode 10 [Monday's episode].
I'm going to assume she decides to go with Joe. Do you think she has much fear about that, considering she knows Joe will do nothing to harm her?
Yeah, as I've said in the past, she has an advantage over everyone else because he's kind of played his cards in terms of him wanting no harm to come to her. So she can be a little more brave than some [others].
Now, he has surrounded himself with caraazy people, so obviously there's no guarantee that any number of those [acolytes] will go off and do their deals. But I don't even think she's thinking about that right now. She knows that [Joe] the puppet master is pretty safe, so she's going to use that to her advantage.
She's still just all about her son and getting him back.
Yep, that's it.