If you're following Fox's "The Following," you know well and good that, when it comes to the main characters, who's good and who's evil remains a giant question mark.
The same is true for the actors, especially Natalie Zea, who plays Claire Matthews, the ex-wife of big baddie Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) and ex-girlfriend of alcoholic good boy Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon). In fact, Zea occasionally turns to her co-stars for theories.
So, we did the same. We hit up the 37-year-old actress for some answers about what might just be television's most twisty drama.
How much did they fill you in on the mythology before you took the part?
Actually, I needed information before accepting the part because, for instance, someone like Valorie Curry [who plays nasty nanny Emma] -- her part in the pilot is teeny-tiny. We almost have to get some more background before agreeing to sign on to something for seven years when there's so little to work with in the first episode. So, while the bits and pieces I had in the pilot were definitely filled with information, there wasn't a lot there about where it would go or where it had been. So I had a lot of questions going into it that Kevin Williamson was very, very cool about answering. And not a lot of showrunners or show creators would do that.
Yeah, it seems like they're always trying to keep these things a secret, even from the actors.
Well, I'll let you in on a little secret -- the reason for that is because they don't have a plan, generally. I won't name any names, but I've done a couple of shows where once the pilot got picked up, the creators openly said, "I have no idea where we're going."
So are you saying there's a seven-year plan for this show?
I have no idea how long the plan is and I honestly don't know if the plan has been altered … I'm on Episode 12 now, and it's altered a bit from what I knew it was going to be. But I think the core, the heart of the story, it's still there. It's just gone in some interesting directions, some unusual tangents that I don't think we expected.
Have you seen people's reactions and theories online at all?
No. I really try and stay away from that. It's a dangerous, dangerous place for an actor.
A lot of people don't trust Claire.
Oh, good! Yeah, you know. That's never occurred to me until, again, Valorie Curry. Considering the part she's playing, she kind of has to think in these terms. She came up to me and she said, "You know, obviously, Claire's in on all this." And I was very casual and cool about it and said, "Oh, god, no. Of course she's not in on it. That's crazy." And she walked away and I had a mini panic attack. I ran to Kevin Bacon and said, "Valorie just said something that really disturbed me." And he said, "No, that can't be the case. Can it?"
So he planted the seed, but I can't say either way. But I would be really surprised if she were ultimately a bad guy. But that doesn't mean she can't turn into a bad guy, but I think her intentions have always been pure from the beginning.
Do you know or has it been explained yet why Claire and Ryan split after two months? That seems so short!
Yeah, you will see. I don't think we go too much in depth, because I think it would be way too early to be giving that kind of stuff away, but you certainly see the impetus for it. It's not this sort of drastic moment in the relationship -- it's a little more mysterious.
Does Ryan's drinking have anything to do with it?
No. Well, I mean, maybe on a peripheral level. But no. She's not going to be this nagging shrew who needs him to get off the bottle and watch "The Bachelor" with her. It's a lot simpler and more pure than that.
Have you tried on the Edgar Allan Poe mask?
Once you took this and you knew there was this big Edgar Allan Poe reference, did you study the writer?
It didn't even occur to me. I mean, what is that? What kind of method actor am I? Not even a little bit.
In writing my character history, I did touch on the idea of her also being a professor of literature, because we don't really know what she taught, and I'm assuming that she taught something similar to Joe, that they were at least in the same department. My theory was that she was his TA because there is quite an age difference … I fancy her as having been his subordinate and she got kind of sucked in like everybody else did and was crushing, and they ended up having this great intellectual connection. I don't know how she didn't see the other stuff, but maybe she was blinded by his charm and his accent.
With Kevin Williamson as the showrunner, are you hoping for any "Dawson's Creek" or "Vampire Diaries" guest stars?
As far as "Dawson's Creek" goes, I think they're all pretty tremendous and I don't know if anyone could've predicted how successful those kids would be. So I think we'd pretty much be fine to have any of them.
Oh, come on. Pick one.
I'm friendly with Kerr Smith, so it would be nice to be able to hang out with him.
We feel like he'd make a good disciple!
I think so. I mean, all the disciples are really pretty.
Watch last week's episode:
"The Following" airs Mondays at 9 PM on Fox.