After two years in Harmony, Natalie Zea makes her last appearance as Gwen on Friday, October 4. Natalie took the opportunity to say goodbye to her fans, as well as reflect on her time at "Passions," her favorite scenes as Gwen, and her own "master plan" for the future.
Why did you make the decision to leave "Passions"?
It had always been part of the master plan. When I first started, I thought that if things were really, really good at the end of the two years and that I just couldn't imagine leaving than I would stay. Otherwise, I knew I would move on.
You mention a "master plan." What is the "master plan"?
It always changes! In the beginning, it was about doing stage work in New York. But I wasn't getting the opportunities to do that. Instead, I was being seen more as an indie film girl. Of course, I wasn't going to kick that out of bed, but it wasn't what I had started out focusing on. I went with it-and it was frustrating at times, and satisfying at times. I sort of infiltrated that group of up-and-coming independent filmmakers. I know that's waiting for me, and it's very tempting to go back to it. It's a scary step to not go back to the comfort zone of New York, knowing I would be embraced.
Why are you choosing to stay in LA, rather than go back to that comfort zone?
For one reason, it would be too easy to go back. Not to mention, who wants to pack everything back up again after two years? Also, I'm here-I might as well take advantage of it. I want to give LA a chance. I've decided to stay here and play the game for a year. If I'm over it after a year, I'll go back to New York and I know that work is waiting for me there.
Ideally, what kind of work would you like to do?
I'll preface by saying I don't say "no" to a lot! But ideally, I'd like to do good roles in great movies as opposed to big roles in bad movies. Even if that means two scenes in a really well-written, well-directed film. That's way more satisfying to me than doing "American Pie 8!" But I don't get to pick and choose just yet-so hopefully things will fall in the right places. I'm also really itching to get back on stage. LA theater is in a really bad state-it's almost completely dead. I know I cannot single-handedly revive theater in LA, but I hoping to produce a play here in February. The play is called "Baby With the Bathwater," by Christopher Durang. It's one of my favorite plays ever written. It's a very dark comedy. There's a role in it that I've always wanted to play, but it's not the kind of role that I think any casting director would picture me in. But it really is perfect for me, so I'm just going to have to cast myself! If I'm going to produce the play though, the caliber has to be extraordinary...or I won't go near it.
What do you take with you from your two years here?
The comfort level you get from being in front of the camera so much in daytime is priceless. The camera is a very scary monster for me and you have to be in front of it enough to forget about it. I also made a lot of wonderful friends. I think it was really important for me to meet a group of actors who are not only beautiful physically, but also fabulous people.
Over the years, what were your favorite scenes as Gwen?
The stuff I enjoyed the most was when we were in the cabin and Theresa gave birth. I felt like Gwen was a fully-rounded character, who had a goal and was serving a purpose. As a performer, it was really gratifying to take that stuff and spend time working on it. It was fun because it was the first day the three characters were actually working together.
And the scene of Ethan, Gwen, and Theresa singing the theme song has become a classic!
You mean the scene that I blocked out? I can't watch it! I've been tempted to watch a few times, but I have no control over my feet-they walk out of the room! It was probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. We all made a pact to not take it seriously at all. I suggested to Travis (Schuldt, ex-Ethan) jokingly that he should do a high kick, and he did it. You just can't do that and expect me to keep a straight face! And of course they gave me, the non-singer, the most words!
What was your last day like?
I was nervous. I had two little scenes with Eric (Martsolf, Ethan) at the end of the day. I walked into my dressing room and there were two big bouquets of flowers. I lost it. I am a huge crier in the first place. I was very happy with my decision-but that day was very ceremonial and strange. After my scenes, Roy announced it was a "Passions" wrap for me and everyone applauded. I began to weep a little. There were lots of hugs and kisses and cards. You never know how much you're liked until you leave. I went back to my room and silently wept a bit. It was just quiet and sweet. I bought a bottle of champagne on my way home that night. My beau and I drank champagne and talked. It was very lovely. It ended up on a good note.
What are your immediate plans?
I bought a piano yesterday and took my first lesson. It's really exciting. It's like being twelve again. I am so elated-I get giddy when I talk about it.
Do you have any message for the fans that have supported you on "Passions"?
The fans have all been so wonderful. Everyone has been so supportive and understanding. It's so nice as an artist to have that support team cheering you on, especially when you don't know them personally! I'm still getting emails from people who say they'll miss me but understand why I'm leaving. That's so nice to hear.