Natalie Zea : Karen Darling
Date Of Birth: March 17th, 1975 Hometown: Harris County, Texas
The ideal career was never a question for Natalie Zea (pronounced “Z”) — the acting bug bit her as early as she can remember. Born to chiropractor parents, Zea grew up an only child in the sleepy town of Monahans, Texas.
Zea’s high school drama teacher took her under her wing, but fate almost put an end to Zea’s goals when she was hit by a drunk driver while walking home from a party on New Year’s Eve, shattering her pelvis, nose and leg. She was 17 at the time, and the bulk of her senior year was spent in a hospital bed. Instead of retreating within herself during recovery, Zea used this time to focus on her dreams of moving to New York to become a stage actress.
After graduation, she wasted no time in fleeing to the Big Apple on a prestigious scholarship to the American Music and Dramatic Academy. She completed the program in two years and immediately earned the role of Lana Tisdel in the original cast of Kimberly Peirce’s “Boys Don’t Cry,” the basis of the Academy Award winning film. A steady stream of commercial and voiceover work followed, along with the role of Samantha in “Macbeth in Manhattan,” with John Glover.
When Zea’s agent convinced her to audition for the role of Gwen Hotchkiss Winthrop on NBC’s “Passions,” she was reluctant. It would mean taking over the role from Susan Lucci’s daughter, Liza Huber, and relocating to Los Angeles. A New Yorker through and through, she nevertheless won the role and moved California, which she has called home ever since.
After two years with “Passions,” Zea returned to her theatre roots and helped develop LA’s Lone Star Ensemble, in which she serves on the Board of Directors. Her production of “Illusion,” Tony Kushner’s adaptation of Corneille’s 17th century French satire, “L’Illusion Comique,” received rave reviews from the Los Angeles Times, earning the company a “Ones to Watch” nod. Her resume continued to grow with guest starring roles on hits like “CSI,” “Two and a Half Men” and “Without a Trace,” and a recurring role on FX’s “The Shield.” Next came a starring role on ABC’s drama “Eyes” with Timothy Daly, Eric Mabius and Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon.
Zea currently resides in Los Angeles and spends her free time dancing, surfing, and sewing, well on the way to the career she dreamed of as a child in Texas.