Natalie Zea from The Detour on TBS speaks with Awards Daily’s Megan McLachlan about what’s in store for Season 4 of the comedy series, why she decided to sit in the director’s chair, and how she held her family hostage on set (not really!).
The Parkers are unlike any sitcom family you’ve seen before. For one thing, they don’t have an iconic house (they’re always on the run!); they misspelled their son’s name on his birth certificate (poor Jareb); and they accidentally officiate weddings between old men and teenagers (don’t ask!).
The Detour returns for Season 4 on Tuesday, June 18 at 10:30 p.m. ET, and after four seasons, daughter Delilah (Ashley Gerasimovich) has had it with the family, which includes father Nate (Jason Jones), brother Jared/Jareb (Liam Carroll), and mother Robin (Natalie Zea).
I had a chance to chat with Zea, who has some hilarious stuff going on this season, including playing her twin sister Bluejay and opposite her real-life husband (Travis Schuldt). She also takes the director’s chair for an episode.
Awards Daily: Season 4 of The Detour finds the Parkers in search of their daughter, Delilah, who ran away from them. Do you think Robin and Nate are good parents?
Natalie Zea: I do. Anybody who hasn’t made some major or minor fuck-ups as a parent is not actually a real person. Obviously for comedy’s sake, sometimes the hijinks are a bit more extreme than one would accept in real life, but at their core, they love their children and try their best to make sure that their children are safe. It certainly rattles their ideas or beliefs of maybe how they’ve done as parents once they realize that they’ve lost one. That’s a part of the breakdown we see amongst them this season is that as long as they were always together, no one was hurt, everybody was healthy, no one was starving. Then once they get separated from the core four, you see that there are some cracks in the foundation.
AD: It’s weird not seeing Delilah with the core four, because she’s so integral to the show. It seems like did you a lot of filming in different locations this season. The first episode opens in Paraguay.
NZ: It actually wasn’t all that different from seasons past because the show travels every season so we’re never in the same location twice. We’re used to it. It doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly difficult, but it wasn’t unique to Season 4. We were just in a place we’d never been before like always.
AD: Which is what I love about this show. A family sitcom, but not a typical family. I know you directed an episode last season and you direct an episode this season. How did you develop an interest in directing? Is it something you always wanted to do?
NZ: No, and it’s not necessarily something I love, to be quite honest. But it is something that is the natural progression as an actor. We all have expiration dates. We’re not all going to be Helen Mirren unfortunately, and there’s gonna come a point where the transition needs to happen, if you want to stay in the business. Once that time comes, some people are going to get into another line of work. I don’t know how to do anything else, and this is the only line of work that I have any kind of knowledge of, so it’s just the beginning of making sure I have a foundation in other arenas within the same industry, so that I don’t hit a certain age and realize—shit—I don’t have any money or a career. As an actor, it’s really hard to get a foot in the door [for directing], so you have to demand it and the best way to do that is to demand an episode on the show that you are currently working on because they like to make their actors happy. So it’s a good way to get a couple things on the resume and hopefully you can take the next step and work on a show that you don’t act on.
AD: I love that honesty. I’ve never had anybody tell me that before. I don’t like thinking about actors having expiration dates.
NZ: I don’t either, girl!
AD: That just makes me sad.
NZ: The hustling that’s happening behind the scenes for most actors is something that a lot of people just don’t know about. I think that maybe the common misconception is that when we’re not acting, we’re sitting by the pool—which we are—but we can’t be doing that eight hours a day for six months out of the year. We’re all hustling, we’re all pitching pilots, films. I take meeting after meeting for directing, I have people who send scripts to me about attaching myself as a producer. There are so many things that you don’t see because for that stuff to actually come through and get to the end point, which is an announcement on Deadline.com, there are so many steps that have to be taken, and often in the middle of those steps, something is taken off the table and you have to start all over again. We’re all still pounding the pavement and doing the hustle. Just because we’ve got a nice cushy day job—we can’t stop because this job could go away tomorrow.
AD: What’s it like to both direct and act on The Detour? You directed an episode last year and this year. Was that challenging?
NZ: Last year, there was a little more taken into consideration in terms of having me in the episode. The episode I was given to direct, my character was sick and not really part of the main action. Once that particular episode was assigned to me, there were some rewrites done so that I would be off camera even more so, so I could not be bothered. But in that episode, I also had to wear a 300-pound prosthetic outside doing an action sequence, so it was like, thanks. (Laughs.) This season, I’m in a lot of the episode [I direct], but that wasn’t the challenge. One of the bigger challenges, and there were a lot, was that we were shooting at least 75 percent of the episode on an airplane, and we actually shot on real airplanes. Everything was exactly what you see when you get on an airplane and to get camera equipment in there and the crew and the logistics of who could be on the tarmac when and how many people—it was supremely unpleasant. The certain logistics of those kinds of things were way more challenging and not as fun as acting. At least when I was acting, I could take a break.
AD: You play two roles this season, Bluejay and Robin. What was that like?
NZ: That was such a smash and grab. We shot those episodes in a record amount of time. Most productions would have to take weeks to do that and we took a few days. There wasn’t a lot of time to think about it or reflect on it, so I can’t even really speak to what it was like because I don’t really remember. What happens when you shoot twins, and I don’t know that a lot of people know this, even actors may not know, is that you have to do everything twice and that means multiple takes of everything twice, so your day gets extended by double every time you are shooting scenes the twins have to be in. So that was a particular challenge, especially because no one really accounted for that. We were shooting the scenes as if we only had to do that once, so everything was on hyper speed. That’s why it was such a blur because there was no time to find any nuance or rehearse. What you see is just kind of happening in the moment.
AD: Your husband (Travis Schuldt) appears with you this season, too.
NZ: That was a request I made so I could see him and my daughter because he wasn’t gonna come to Calgary. So I called up Jason [Jones] and said, ‘Could you do me a solid, because I really wanna see these guys?’ It was sort of a forced visit, because it was two episodes. I kind of got to hold them hostage a little bit for longer than they probably would have, so it worked out great for me.
AD: You and your husband met on NBC’s soap opera Passions. Was this the first time you had collaborated since then?
NZ: No, we did a movie over 10 years ago. We’d been dating for several years, and I had auditioned for the film, and a few days later, he was like, ‘Hey, I think I’m auditioning for this movie that you auditioned for the other day.’ So he auditioned, he gets the lead role, and I’m told that I didn’t get the job. A few days later, I got a call saying that the girl that they wanted dropped out and that I was their second choice—would I still want to do it? And I’m like yeah, sure, of course. The director didn’t know that we were a couple, and we went for the table read, and afterwards we pulled him aside and told him we were dating in real life. He got panicky. The director was very concerned that it was going to be an issue, in case we actually broke up during the shooting. So we had to reassure him that we really liked each other, that we’d known each other for a very long time.
AD: You’ve been on a lot of shows with a cult following (Dirty Sexy Money, Justified), but which show do you get the most questions about?
NZ: I have a very special level of celebrity. I’m not a household name, but a lot of people know my face so everybody thinks that they either go to yoga with me or occasionally feel like we’re friends with the same people. I rarely get approached and when I do it’s always by people who are so incredibly polite and considerate and always say, ‘Sorry to bother you,’ and it’s like, ‘Oh, god, you have no idea, you’re not bothering me.’ It’s always like, ‘I love you on Justified, I think you’re great, have a great day.’ My fans are just delightful.
Season 4 of The Detour starts Tuesday, June 18 on TBS.