Natalie Zea is an American actress best known for her role as the second Gwen Hotchkiss on the soap opera Passions, playing the role from 2000-2002.
She also starred as Professor Claire Matthews, Joe Carroll's ex-wife, Joey Matthews' mother and Ryan Hardy's former lover, in the psychological thriller television series The Following, from 2013-2014.
Since voluntarily quitting her role in Passions, Zea has guest starred on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, MDs, Two and a Half Men, Freddie, Without a Trace and Just Legal.
She also starred on the drama series Dirty Sexy Money (2007-2009) and as Winona Hawkins, the ex-wife of Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), on the drama series Justified, from 2010-2012.
The ideal career was never a question for 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.
Upon graduation she began working in numerous student-directed and small independent films, including the short film version of Boys Don't Cry, on which the Academy Award-winning feature was based. She played the part of Lana, who was later portrayed by Chloe Sevigny.
After paying her dues in several national TV commercials and voice overs, (Snickers and Dove, Lucky Strike and Hellman's), she had an opportunity to work with John Glover and Gloria Rueben in a film adaptation of Shakespeare's MacBeth set in present day, titled MacBeth in Manhattan.
She was then cast in a guest starring role opposite Merle Paul Gossolar in the short-lived Dick Wolf series D.C.
In the Spring of 2000, Natalie starred as Isabella in an all female version of Measure for Measure with the Women's Shakespeare Company, for which she received rave reviews from the New York Times and various other publications.
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 to 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. She also had a significant recurring role on The Shield (5 episodes in 2004) and was a leading cast member of Eyes, in all 12 episodes (only five were shown in the US before the show was cancelled, but numerous other countries - including South Africa - aired the full 12 episodes).
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.