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Natalie Zea says survival trumps romance, emotions in S2 of 'La Brea'

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Season 2 of "La Brea," starring Natalie Zea and Nicholas Gonzalez, premieres on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of NBC
Season 2 of "La Brea," starring Natalie Zea and Nicholas Gonzalez, premieres on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of NBC

NEW YORK, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Natalie Zea says the characters involved in the La Brea love triangle are more concerned with escaping prehistoric beasts and getting back to their own time than they are about who ends up with whom.

Season 2 of the sci-fi drama premieres Tuesday on NBC. It is about what happens when a sinkhole opens up in Los Angeles, dropping dozens of people, buildings and vehicles into 10,000 BC.

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Among the time travelers are Eve Harris (Zea) and her teenage son, Josh (Jack Martin). In Season 1, Eve's estranged, former military pilot husband, Gavin (Eoin Macken), and daughter Izzy (Zyra Gorecki) try to transport themselves into the past to reunite their family.

The second season sees Josh mistakenly teleported to 1988, while Gavin and Izzy make it to Eve's primeval timeline, but thousands of miles away from them with no easy mode of transportation in sight.

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Another of the show's twists is that Eve has a new love interest, who just happens to be Gavin's best friend Levi (Nicholas Gonzalez). Now that Eve realizes Gavin's claims about time travel aren't delusions, she is understandably torn between the two men.

"I feel like we cooperate very well under the circumstances," Zea said about Eve, Gavin and Levi in a recent virtual press conference.

"When the stakes are literal life and death, you tend to kind of put that bull[expletive] aside ‑‑ initially, at least ‑‑ to make sure everybody stays alive," she said. "Then you get to toy around with emotions. But I'm very proud of how mature our characters handle themselves."

Macken described the characters' predicament as a "crazy situation."

"They're actually going to put surviving ahead of any of their emotional complexities and those kind of dynamics between them," Macken added. "But, then, I think there's always a moment when it's a good time to have those conversations."

"I just love to look at him and wonder how he feels about everything at any given moment," Gonzalez offered, referring to Levi. "We have to set all this stuff aside. And it's got to be tough."

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Zea likes the idea that the object of the men's affections is an ordinary woman who surprises everyone -- even herself -- when it comes to overcoming seemingly impossible challenges.

"She's sort of been fed this narrative most of her adult life that she is this regular person who gets up, eats breakfast, goes to work, comes home, goes to bed," she said.

"Then she's put in this extraordinary situation and has to, all by herself, undue the narrative that's been fed to her for so many years to survive. She's got no choice," the actress emphasized, noting she valiantly confronts both internal and external forces. "I like being able to play it as a woman, and I like her flaws."

Similarly, Martin said Josh's storyline is about "agency and self‑actualization."

"What I really like is he's been thrown under this really accelerated timeline, where he's forced to grow at a rate much faster than most 17‑year‑olds," the actor said.

"He was raised in a family that was heavy on responsibility and loyalty and a lot of these strong values. And prior to the events of this show, he felt betrayed by his dad, which made him question those things.

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"But as we saw over the course of Season 1, he realized that his view on it was wrong, and that sent him on a new journey on which he is forced to take on more responsibility."

Gonzalez described Levi as a man with a good moral compass dating someone he probably shouldn't.

"He's a guy of principles and is upstanding, very trustworthy," he said. "And then, here he is, put in this position, as we all know, of having an affair with Eve. And it just gets more difficult from there, you know? Here's someone who's, obviously, a bit of a protector.

"Like Gavin, he's very well-trained. They [both] feel saddled with keeping everybody safe and putting themselves aside. But that's very hard to do when I'm also faced with the woman I love."

Martin said one of his favorite plot complications of the show is how characters like his sometimes jump into an unfamiliar era and meet people, such as Gavin, who will be important to him later in his life, but who is much younger when he meets him now in an earlier timeline.

"People are in times that maybe they shouldn't be in, and you end up having to imagine, sometimes, even your own family members when they're not the age they should be and it can completely change the dynamic," Martin said.

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Macken said the cast doesn't learn too far in advance what will happen to their characters. This means they can't share too much because it could spoil twists later on down the line.

"We sort of feel like the characters, in a way, where we're on this journey and adventure, and you're not sure where it's going to go from episode to episode," he said.

"So, it's become this fun, action‑packed experience for all of us. From an acting point of view, you're also sort of figuring out the character's journey as the audience is going through the story."

Showrunner David Appelbaum said that, despite La Brea's over-the-top premise, its creative team tries to infuse the drama with as many real-life challenges as possible, such as having amputee Izzy become separated from her prosthetic leg while she is in prehistoric times.

"It was an idea in the writers' room, but we certainly consulted with Zyra about how it would play out," Appelbaum recalled.

"It was really weird also just thinking about being in 10,000 B.C. and having a fake leg and all of the garbage that goes with it," Gorecki emphasized. "But David was really awesome about asking exactly what would happen if that were the case, if something did happen to your leg in 10,000 B.C."

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Gorecki said this season was "totally different" from Season 1, which largely saw her rooted in contemporary California, running around with her father and trying to figure out what happened to Eve and Josh and how they could bring them back home.

This time around, the actress worked with green screen and special effects that would be magically added later in the production after her scenes were filmed.

Gorecki admitted it was a challenge to react to ancient creatures and other perils one can't actually see beyond their imagination.

"Being afraid of something that isn't there is wild," she said. "Both physically and emotionally, she's having a very difficult time. So the goal is, obviously, they land in Seattle, they're trying to make it back to L.A., right?

"That's a very long walk. That's a very long walk with two completely‑there legs, let alone one leg and a dad who's got a lot of issues."

Jon Seda, Chiké Okonkwo, Veronica St. Clair, Rohan Mirchandaney, Lily Santiago, Josh McKenzie, Tonantzin Carmelo and Michelle Vergara Moore co-star.

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