For 'The Last Ship' Star Bridget Regan, Slowing Down Isn't an Option (Exclusive)

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Don’t tell Bridget Regan to take a day off. 

“I’ve got that thing in me where I get really anxious and restless if I’m not working. I drive my agents and managers nuts because I’m like, ‘It’s Tuesday. I’m free. Can I get a job?’” Regan, star of TNT’s The Last Ship, says with a laugh. “I don’t like to stop. I don’t like to slow down.”

The 35-year-old actress is no stranger to juggling at least three or four television shows at any given time. Just last year, Regan was at one point balancing her duties on The Last Ship with Jane the Virgin and the since-canceled Agent Carter. Asked what inspires Regan to have the drive to stay hungry and strive for more, her reasoning is simple.

“I’m fortunate that I get to do what I love and love what I do, and when I’m not working, I do feel like there’s something missing,” Regan explains, sharing that her husband, Eamon O’Sullivan, has had to remind her to take a step back and enjoy the downtime. “We wrapped season five of Last Ship [recently] and I’m going crazy because I want to paint this room, I want to wallpaper that room, I want to knock out this wall and work on the house. And [my husband]’s like, ‘Can you just chill?’ I struggle with turning on the chill switch.”

What has become Regan’s calling card is her penchant for playing fierce, confident women throughout her career -- from The Last Ship’s Sasha Cooper, a badass ex-Navy Intelligence Officer, to Jane the Virgin’s Rose, the twisted yet empathetic schemer, to Agent Carter’s Dottie, the psychopathic Russian assassin. 

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“I always like playing a character that has something that I don’t, that I get to bring something up to the surface or bring something to the front of my personality that might be at 10 percent. But with Sasha or Rose or Dottie, with them, it’s at 110 percent,” she says. 

Regan recalled a piece of advice from her days in acting school at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts that she often goes back to when it comes to picking characters -- especially the ones that don’t come as naturally. 

“You always bring yourself to the role. We’re human and therefore, I believe, we’re capable of everything. Therefore, I believe everything is inside all of us,” she says. “If you’re playing a vicious murderer, you have to go there and find that part of yourself that relates. That’s our job as actors, to empathize with every character you play, even if they’re villains, even if what they’re doing is unattractive or unappealing. I’ve been fortunate to have [played] some really lovable [and not so] lovable characters.”

But the one character that holds sentimental resonance is a role Regan played nearly a decade ago now: Legend of the Seeker’s Kahlan Amnell. Booking that job -- the first significant series regular TV role of her career -- taught her a key lesson.

“There was something about it from the very beginning -- there was ease to it for me. And I’ve always felt that with things that are right, that are meant to be in your life, there’s an ease to it. It just happens. It flows. And that was one of those things that was all meant to be,” she says, affectionately calling Kahlan her “first love," though admitting that taking that job "was a total risk."

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Bridget Regan in action as Sasha Cooper in "The Last Ship."

TNT

“I have to say, it feels like as you get older and as, personally, I develop and change, it’s exciting to see what the roles offer you differently, [and especially] after I became a mother, how that changes my approach to the work,” says Regan, who welcomed her daughter, Frankie Jean, in December 2010. “I look up to those people who have been in the long haul and are consistent and grow and do lots of different kinds of roles, not boxed into one sort of thing. For me, the next thing, I’m not sure what it’s going to be long-term, and I’m always looking out for the next thing to be different than what I did the last time.”

With filming on The Last Ship done for now (season five likely launches in 2018), Regan is gearing up for a memorable return to Jane the Virgin (she’ll appear in the season four premiere) and has already lined up her next gig, a rom-com TV movie she begins work on shortly in Vancouver. Sometimes, though, being in demand has its downsides. Earlier this year, Regan was forced to vacate her Grey’s Anatomy gig portraying Megan Hunt due to scheduling conflicts with The Last Ship, and admits it was difficult to let that chapter go. Timeless' Timeless’ Abigail Spencer has replaced her on the ABC drama.

“To be totally honest, it was a huge bummer. I was totally devastated when it couldn’t work out,” Regan sighs. “It was a scheduling thing that both sides were trying to work out, but it came down to eight days where both productions needed me for those days in a row, and there was no way around it. I haven’t yet watched the premiere, but I know that Abigail will be amazing in that role. She’s super talented and I have full confidence that she’ll bring it to life in a way that the fans are engaged by and happy with.”

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“One door closes, another one opens,” she says, choosing to look at the silver lining. “I have to believe in that because that’s certainly not the first heartbreak that I’ve had in my career. My goodness, I’ve had so many close calls to so many brilliant, great things. If I sat and thought about all those heartbreaks that didn’t go my way, I would be pretty depressed.”

As for Regan’s hopes for the next five years, she doesn’t have a grand plan or a goal she’s set her sights on. Really, it’s all about staying on the path she’s been on since the start of her career. “I want to keep playing complicated, interesting characters that are empowering to women. It’s pretty simple,” she admits. But Regan, a self-proclaimed fan of TV who's currently obsessed with Outlander and RuPaul’s Drag Race, is making a point to lean into projects with a healthy female presence in front of and behind the camera. 

“It feels like a really great time to be an actress working in this industry, because each project that comes out that has a leading woman, they keep doing well and performing well,” Regan says in the aftermath of blockbuster successes like Wonder Woman and Big Little Lies. “It brings the next one and then the next one. It feels like it’s a good time to be a lady.”

The two-hour season four finale of The Last Ship airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on TNT.