Natalie Zea is an American actress best known for playing key roles in soap operas such as ‘Passions’ and ‘Dirty Sexy Money.’ She was born and raised in Texas. She comes from a family of chiropractors, with her parents and grandparents indulged in the profession. She however, had very different plans altogether. Following her high school graduation, she enrolled into American Musical and Dramatic Academy, in New York City. Apart from appearing in many commercial advertisements in the mid-1990s, she also did theatrical plays. She made her screen debut in 1999, playing a small role in the film titled ‘Macbeth in Manhattan.’ She, however, had a much more successful career in television, appearing in series’ such as ‘D.C.’ and ‘MDs’ during the early phase of her career. In 2000, she had her major acting breakthrough when she appeared playing Gwen Winthrop, also known as Gwen Hotchkiss, in the soap opera titled ‘Passions.’ She further went on starring in series’ such as ‘Dirty Sexy Money,’ ‘Eyes’ and ‘The Shield.’ More recently, she was seen playing supporting roles in series’ such as ‘Californication,’ ‘Justified’ and ‘The Detour.’ While her film career is practically non-existent, she has recently worked in films such as ‘Grey Lady’ and ‘Too Late.’
Childhood & Early Life
Natalie Zea was born on March 17, 1975, in Houston, Texas, to Jennifer and Danny Lee Zea. She had no family history in show business. In-fact, her entire family was full of professional chiropractors, including both her parents and grandparents.
When she was a teenager, her parents divorced and both her parents married to people from the UK. When she was 13 years old, she also spent some time in United Kingdom.
She had become interested in performance arts during her teenage years. She completed her high school graduation from Monahans, Texas, graduating in 1993. She further enrolled into the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City and graduated in 1995.
Following her graduation, although she immediately began getting roles in television, there was a brief period when she had to do odd jobs to make money. She has worked as a hostess in the Planet Hollywood in New York during a summer.
She also did theatre on the side and auditioned for roles in films and television series.’
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She began appearing in the Off-Broadway productions of ‘The Three Sisters’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and gave many auditions for roles in films and television series.’
She eventually made her on-screen debut in 1999 with the film titled ‘Macbeth in Manhattan,’ the film adaptation of the famous Shakespeare play titled ‘Macbeth.’ In the same year, she appeared playing a key role as Naomi in the independent comedy film titled ‘Lucid Days in Hell.’
In 2000, she made her television debut playing a guest role in the episode titled ‘Blame’ of the series titled ‘D.C.’ She followed with more supporting roles in series’ such as ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’ and ‘MDs.’
In 2000 however, she also earned the first major break of her acting career when she was hired to play a main role as Gwen Hotchkiss, in the hit soap opera titled ‘Passions.’ She took the role from Liza Huber and played it until 2002 and remained the last actor to play the role of a strong/independent businesswoman.
In 2004, she appeared playing a recurring role as Lauren Riley in 5 episodes of the crime drama series titled ‘The Shield.’ The long running series was a commercial and critical hit.
After making a guest appearance in ‘Two and a Half Men’ in 2005, she appeared playing one of the key roles as Trish Agermeyer in the crime drama series titled ‘Eyes.’ The series however failed critically and commercially and was cancelled after airing of 12 episodes of first season.
In 2006, she appeared playing guest roles in series’ such as ‘Freddie,’ ‘Without a Trace’ and ’Just Legal.’
She had yet another huge career breakthrough in 2007 when she appeared playing one of the key recurring roles as Karen Darling in the drama series titled ‘Dirty Sexy Money.’ She reprised her role in 23 episodes of the series, until 2009.
While her television career moved ahead with a good pace, her film career practically halted. She did limited film throughout the 1990s. One of her more remarkable films was 2010’s ‘The Other Guys,’ a buddy cop movie in which she played a supporting role as Christinith. The film was a critical and commercial success.
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In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Natalie was seen making guest appearances in a number of series such as ‘Franklin & Bash,’ ‘Royal Pains’ and ‘Person of Interest.’
In 2011, she earned the first leading film role of career in the mystery thriller film titled ‘InSight.’The film was a massive critical and commercial failure. Natalie followed in the same year appearing in short films such as ‘The Sexy Dark Ages’ and ‘Method.’
In 2012, she appeared playing a recurring role as Carrie in the comedy drama series titled ‘Californication.’ She reprised her role for four episodes in the series, which was a critical success.
Around the same time, she was also being seen essaying a major role as Winona Hawkins in the crime drama series titled ‘Justified.’ She appeared as the regular cast member of the series in the first three seasons. However in the later 3 seasons, she played a recurring cast member. She had appeared in a total of 44 episodes of the series.
In 2013, she was also signed to play a main role as Claire Matthews in the crime thriller series titled ‘The Following.’ However, after first season, her role became a recurring role.
Next, she appeared playing a recurring role in the series titled ‘Under the Dome’ and also appeared in the pilot episode of the series titled ‘The Rebels.’
In the more recent years, she has appeared as a regular cast member of the series titled ‘Members Only,’ wherein she has appeared playing Mickey Holmes-Harris.
In 2016, she appeared playing a major role as Robin Randall in the series titled ‘The Detour.’ She also directed two episodes of the series.
Family & Personal Life
Natalie Zea began dating actor Travis Schuldt while she was working in the soap opera titled ‘Passions.’ They both were co-stars on the show and dated for more than 10 years. They got married in 2014, in Hawaii.
In June 2015, Natalie announced being pregnant with her first child. Their daughter, Reygan, was born in October 2015.
Natalie did drugs in her late teens. She admitted that once she went to visit her dentist while tripping on acid.
She is associated with a charity named ‘Because I’m a Girl’ and donated the money collected through her baby shower to the charity.