Natalie Zea wakes up in another world below "La Brea." Photo courtesy of NBC
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Natalie Zea said NBC's new series, La Brea, premiering Tuesday, may be her last chance to play an action hero. Zea, 46, stars as Eve Harris, a mother who falls into a sinkhole and emerges in a fantastical world below.
"There's a small window to get to be an action star," Zea told UPI in a phone interview. "So why not go for it?"
When the survivors awaken in the world below, they begin to explore their new environment. The grassy plains and forests are populated by prehistoric birds and vicious wolves.
Zea said Eve takes a leadership role among the survivors and finds an ally in Sam (Jon Seda), a doctor.
"I wouldn't say they partner up," Zea said. "But they act as the mom and dad of the group and take on the leadership positions they end up performing."
Zea said her natural tendency would be to follow people like Eve, and that La Brea directors sometimes had to remind her she was playing the show's hero.
"I'm a happy follower, so sometimes they would have to nudge me and remind me, 'No, you're the hero here. You're the leader.'" Zea said. "Oh, OK, got it, check."
Eve's son, Josh (Jack Martin) is in the sinkhole with her. Zea said Eve's maternal instincts influence her leadership.
"A lot of what Eve does is point out why a plan is maybe not the best, or perhaps we should consider the safety of said plan," Zea said. "She's always trying to keep people safe and make sure everybody's protected."
Eve's daughter, Izzy (Zyra Gorecki), made it to safety on the surface with her father, Gavin (Eoin Macken). Zea said the family separation lends dramatic weight to La Brea's more fantastical elements.
"The heart of the show is this yearning that these four people are feeling for each other," Zea said. "It definitely grounds the show."
For 20 years, Zea has had regular roles on dramas like Passions, Dirty Sexy Money and The Following. On Justified, she played Raylan Givens' (Timothy Olyphant) ex-wife, Winona Hawkins.
Raylan handled most of the action on Justified. Zea said La Brea is more intense for her than the peril in which Winona found herself.
"I had to just sit with a gun pointed at me," Zea said of her role on Justified. "This is much more active, definitely much more running than I'm used to or care for."
Zea said she and her castmates experienced the real effects of acting running around from scene to scene in La Brea.
"When you fake being out of breath, you get very light headed and very dizzy very quickly," Zea said. "We were all walking around set seeing stars because we were hyperventilating."
Zea wrapped up the TBS comedy The Detour in 2019 after four seasons, and appeared in nine episodes of the CBS comedy, The Unicorn. She said she thought comedy was going to be her wheelhouse moving forward and that she would return to the genre when she loses the stamina for action shows.
"My husband so deftly pointed out that I can be funny forever," Zea said.
La Brea airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EDT on NBC.