Dirty Sexy Money
Natalie Zea is an actress perhaps best known for her role of Gwen Winthrop on the NBC daytime soap opera “Passions,” which she played from 2000 to 2002, and for playing spoiled socialite Karen Darling on the ABC drama series “Dirty Sexy Money” (2007-2009). Zea has also played regular roles on the short lived series “Eyes” (2005) and the FX show “Justified” (2010-2011) as well as recurring roles in “The Shield” (2004), “Hung” (2009) and “The Defenders” (2010). Her film credits include “Macbeth in Manhattan” (1999), “From a Place of Darkness” (2008) and “The Other Guys” (2010). Zea got her start on stage in New York after graduating high school.
Currently, Zea lives in Los Angeles, California. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, surfing and sewing. She was named one of Maxim magazine's “Hot 100 of 2008.”
Childhood and Family:
Natalie Zea was born on March 17, 1975, in Houston, Texas. She was raised an only child by her chiropractor parents in Monahans, Texas. She graduated from Monahans High School in 1993 and then moved to New York to attend The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, from which she later earned a BFA in Theater. Natalie also studied at the University of Texas Summer Theater Program and Eastern New Mexico University Summer Academy of Dramatic Arts.
“I've had a goal and a vision for what I want to do and there's not been a question that I'm going to do it. It's driven me silently. I'm proud of myself for trusting my goals enough to go with them. I've done things by myself and I've done okay.” Natalie Zea
Natalie Zea knew that she wanted to become an actress and in high school, her drama teacher took her under her wing but an accident at age 17 almost cut short her dreams. While walking home from a party on New Year's Eve, she was hit by a drunk driver and broke her pelvis, nose and leg. She spent the majority of her senior year in the hospital. After high school graduation, she left Texas for New York to become a stage actress.
Zea landed work in various off-Broadway productions, including “The Three Sisters,” “A Midsummer Night's Dream” and “The Lights.” She also appeared in “Measure for Measure” for the Women's Shakespeare Company, “Steps” for Raw Space New York, and Tony Kushner's “The Illusion,” for The Lone Star Ensemble. In addition, she serves as a board member and producer for The Lone Star Ensemble.
After completing a two year study at New York’s The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, Zea made the transformation to film work. In 1995, she was cast in the short film “Boys Don't Cry,” by Kimberly Peirce. The film was developed into a full length feature in 1999, which starred Hilary Swank and Chloë Sevigny. Zea also had an unaccredited part in the movie. Also in 1999, she landed a role in “Macbeth in Manhattan,” a dramatic film directed and co-written by Greg Lombardo that starred Gloria Reuben, David Lansbury and Nick Gregory, and costarred with Kerr Smith and Daniel Cosgrove in the comedy “Lucid Days in Hell,” by John Brenkus. During this period, Zea also appeared in commercials for Dove, Snickers, Hellman's and Lucky Strike.
Entering the new millennium, Zea made her TV series debut with a guest role on the short lived series “D.C” (2000). She did not experience her first brush with fame until she was cast as businesswoman and socialite Gwen Hotchkiss Winthrop on the NBC soap opera “Passions” (1999-2008), created by James E. Reilly. She was on the series from November 15, 2000, to October 3, 2002. Commenting about leaving “Passions,” she stated, “Although I enjoyed my experience and learned quite a bit, especially initially, I know that the best thing for my career and my craft is to pursue new challenges so after some deliberation, an amicable parting of ways seemed to be the best decision.”
Zea also portrayed Needra Fenway in an episode of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” called “Gentle, Gentle” (2001) and appeared as a ghost in the “MDs” episode titled “R.I.P.” (2002). Two years later, she had the reoccurring role of Lauren Riley on the series “The Shield” (FX Networks, 2002-2008). She returned to series television as a regular on the ABC series “Eyes” (2005), playing Trish Agermeyer. Starring Tim Daly, the show, however, was cancelled after five episodes.
Next up for Zea, she guest starred in “Two and a Half Men” (2005, as Colleen), “Freddie” (2006, as Sally), “Without a Trace” (2006, as Jennifer Nichols) and “Just Legal” (2006) before taking the regular role of Karen Darling on the series “Dirty Sexy Money,” opposite Peter Krause, Donald Sutherland, Jill Clayburgh, William Baldwin, Glenn Fitzgerald, Seth Gabel, Samaire Armstrong, Zoe McLellan, Lucy Liu and Blair Underwood. The show, created by Craig Wright, ran on ABC from September 26, 2007, to August 8, 2009.
In 2008, Zea was cast with Travis Schuldt, John Savage and Bronson Pinchot in the thriller “From a Place of Darkness,” which was co-written and directed by Douglas A. Raine. After the cancellation of “Dirty Sexy Money,” she played the recurring role of Jemma in the series “Hung,” which debuted on HBO on June 28, 2009. She also guest starred as Sophie Cullen in an episode of the supernatural drama “Medium.”
Zea next played the regular role of Winona Hawkins on the series “Justified,” which premiered on FX on March 16, 2010. The first season finale aired on June 8, 2010. The second season is set to begin on February 9, 2011. During September to October 2010, the actress played the role of Meredith Kramer on CBS’ legal drama “The Defenders,” starring James Belushi, Jerry O'Connell, Jurnee Smollett and Tanya Fischer. She appeared in three episodes, including the pilot, which aired on September 22, 2010.
On the big screen, Zea appeared in the comedy “The Other Guys” (2010), which was directed, co-written and co-produced by Adam McKay and starred Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Steve Coogan and Michael Keaton. The film debuted at No. 1 at the box office and earned primarily positive reviews from critics.
Zea is scheduled to star as a nurse in the upcoming film “InSight” (2011), by director Richard Gabai. Costars of the film include Sean Patrick Flanery, Angeline-Rose Troy, Adam Baldwin, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Veronica Cartwright, Christopher Lloyd and Juliet Landau.
“I'm dying to get behind a camera if someone will just give me one. There's just something about the creative control that you just don't get as an actor.” Natalie Zoe (on wanting to direct)