Natalie Zea Previews A Whole New Claire


We've all heard stories about mothers who have lifted cars off their children in moments of sheer parental panic, and according to Natalie Zea, The Following is about to show fans what Claire Matthews is really made of.

Beginning with tonight's episode and carrying through the final five chapters of season one, Joe Carroll will push his ex-wife to the breaking point, turning her into an entirely different person. That was just one of the tantalizing teasers Zea dropped when we chatted on the phone about tonight's game-changing The Following!

ETonline: When we last spoke, you'd only filmed one episode of the show, but we were both excited by the promise of that pilot. What's it been like to see the show live up to, and in some ways exceed, that?

Natalie Zea: Well, to be honest, my expectations were right on target. It's funny because people were nervous in anticipating what would happen, but I wasn't. I knew. It's not like I've been doing this for a thousand years, but I've been doing it for at least 100 and there are some sure things out there. They're few and far between, but this was always one of them in my mind.

ETonline: Claire's been M.I.A. while in witness protection for a few weeks. In tonight's episode, where do we find her?

Zea: She's holed up in a "secure" location -- and I use quotes around the word secure because that won't work out. Ryan makes it his business to make sure her safety isn't compromised, and from there, they have quite an adventure.

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ETonline: Claire was very opposed to The F.B.I. disrupting her life in the beginning. Now that she's seen how omnipresent Joe's followers are, does she understand the need for protection?

Zea: Honestly, we never address that because when you see her tonight, the matter at hand is that her security has been comprised and they have to figure out what to do. It's funny because we kept talking about what she's been doing this whole time and landed on painting her nails [laughs]. That was a popular answer because I am notorious for being a nail actress. I am very meticulous about what kind of nails my characters have and Claire's just go to sh*t.

ETonline: You are? How long have you been doing that?

Zea: A while. I know it might seem a little superficial, but every actor has their thing. Some people focus on the walk, but for me, it's all about the nails and the voice. Those are the two most important things.

ETonline: I get that -- shows how they allocate their time. For example, I'm sure Karen Darling [Zea's Dirty Sexy Money character] had great nails.

Zea: Oh, her nails were amazing! On Justified, I do a thing where whenever Winona is going to get in trouble, she has red nails. But I got messed up because of the timing and it didn't work out this time [Zea is back for the March 26 and April 2 episodes of FX's drama]. It's a little O.C.D. of me, but yeah, Claire must have been so bored. Couldn't even read a book. She was probably just staring at the wall. Poor thing.

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ETonline: Given the fact Joe has Joey, would Claire voluntarily return to him simply to be reunited with her son?

Zea: Yeah, I could see that. That makes sense. She just wants to get her kid back. If you haven't heard [laughs]. If it's not evident from the screaming, she just wants to find her son. The means by which that happens is so secondary for her. I don't think she's thinking about her own safety beyond the fact if she's dead she can't take care of Joey. But, honestly, it's all about the kid.

ETonline: Would Claire kill for Joey?

Zea: That would be a question for somebody who has a child. I think that is an instinct for a lot of parents, especially mothers -- I don't know anything about that. I mean, I dig my cats, but I don't think I’d kill for them. Who knows what someone is capable of after they've been pushed around as much as Claire has, and what makes this world so addictive is there are no absolutes.

ETonline: Tonight looks to be a huge episode for Claire. What excites you about it?

Zea: This is the beginning of a real shift for her. From this point forward, she's almost a different person. She becomes more of a central focus in the world of the show, and she does have a major shift in attitude after tonight in the overall essence of who she is.

The Following
airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Fox.