Natalie Zea: 'The Following' Defies Expectations

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Natalie Zea: 'The Following' Defies Expectations

Last week The Following terrified over 10 million viewers with its pilot episode, but you best believe me when I say that you ain't seen nothing yet!

Not only does tonight's second episode begin to shine a light on my favorite storyline, but it deepens every character's backstory and reveals previously unseen connections. Like with Claire Matthews and Ryan Hardy, whose hinted at history comes into full view over the next two episodes as Claire continues to fret over her abducted son while avoiding all dark corners.

Earlier this month, I caught up with Natalie Zea to talk about her attraction to Claire and The Following at The Television Critics Association Press Tour.

ETonline: When you read this script, what made you want to play Claire?
Natalie Zea: I have to say it was less about the character and more about the script as a whole. I was so confused by what I was reading; was it a film script, a pilot script or episode 207 of some amazing TV show? Kevin Williamson was able to avoid the trap that so many writers fall in of setting up characters and the world; he was able to make sure we knew all that information without it being predictable. As a reader, it's so refreshing to be kept so on your toes. I couldn't quite figure it out, which is what anyone who has read 15 million pilot scripts, like I have, wants to see. Make me question everything that's going on.

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ETonline: The next few episodes see Claire stressing about her son's abduction -- did any part of you yearn for more to do up front, or did you feel like it was all working towards something greater?
Zea: All that is very intentionally prolonged. The brilliance of it is that the audience will feel the frustration just as much, so when we all collectively -- the actress, the audience, the character -- decide that enough is enough, it's earned. It's hard to play and challenging, but I don't dig ditches for a living, so ...

ETonline: And sometimes you make out with Kevin Bacon, so...
Zea: With Ren from Footloose...

ETonline: Did you have that moment of "I'm kissing Ren" with those flashbacks?
Zea: Oh yeah. I had a giggle fit ... not in his presence because I'm able to keep it together and we had become so friendly throughout the course of preparing to shoot. It wasn't like other projects where "Nice to meet you, take your top off" happens on day one. But we'd known each other for months, so I was kind of surprised by my reaction.

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ETonline: This is the most terrifying show I've ever seen -- are you good with scary stuff?
Zea: Yeah. It doesn't stay with me. I don't know if that means there's something wrong with me, but I'm able to separate pretty well. I tend to get more caught up in relationship dramas. I get really attached to those worlds and those characters, whether I'm playing them or watching them. Like, I've gotten sucked into many episodes of Breaking Bad or Mad Men. As a TV actor, all you want is to be on a show that makes people call into work sick so they can stay home and watch. That's the sign of a good show.

ETonline: Is there anything about the scripts that click with audiences that stands out to you in the script reading phase?
Zea: Oh God, I have no idea what makes people watch what they do. My taste is starting to line up with the public's much more now, but there was a time when any show I watched was canceled two episodes in. I was such a show killer. But, it's pure luck. There have been no scripts that I've read and gone after because "It's the one." Instead, I'm going after scripts because of a role, or I find it compelling, or the synergy works well. I never try to pick a hit because I'm the worst to ask.

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ETonline: Looking ahead, what are you excited for people to see this season with The Following?
Zea: I'm excited for them to be proven wrong. I think a lot of people are going in with expectations that are, not bad, but wrong. I did it too -- I assumed this show would be about one thing and have been proven wrong time and time again. The reality of what they're going to get is so much better. If you can surprise people, and turn the tables on them ... that's really cool.

The Following airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Fox.


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