SAN DIEGO — Reporters had the chance to teleconference and interview Natalie Morales about "White Collar,” shortly after we chatted up Tiffani Theissen.
QUESTION: They had a female costar, an FBI agent, in the pilot, Diane, and then she mysteriously disappears, and then you appear as Lauren Cruz. Do you happen to know the dynamics there?
NATALIE MORALES: Well, it’s not the same role. It’s a completely different role, and I actually don’t know what exactly went on because that was before I sort ofâ€¦ I think I’ve heard Jeff Eastin, the executive producer, sort of explain that there was a scheduling conflict with the actress. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but I know that Lauren Cruz was always intended to be a completely different role from the Diana character.
QUESTION: You have quite an ensemble of outfits in the first episode. Are we going to see more of your wardrobe?
NM: I know!
That particular episode was based around Fashion Week and that’s why there were the fancy dresses, but I believe that Lauren does a lot of undercover work, which is where the different outfits come from, because, basically, if you see her in the office she’s in her button-down shirt and jacket, all FBI gear, but yeah, I think that undercover stuff you’ll see more often. It’s very fun to do because you get to sort of play a different character playing a character so, yes, you know, you’ll see a lot more of that.
QUESTION: What about this particular role brought you to the show?
NM: Well, honestly, I read the pilot and it was one of the best pilots I’ve ever read in my entire life, and I just thought that it was just something I really wanted to be a part of, and I got lucky that I got the role, you know. Everybody behind the project is so completely all about it, and it’s really, really fun and refreshing to have a cast that really gets along, and everybody is great, and it’s just like I couldn’t be luckier, to be honest with you. It’s really, really fun.
QUESTION: You’re surrounded by a lot of handsome men. When you first started working with them did you find it was a bit of instant chemistry or did it take a bit of time for you all to gel?
NM: Absolutely, it’s just chemistry. Matt and Tim, who I spend most of my time with — unfortunately I don’t have any scenes with Willie — Matt, Tim and I just laugh all day long, and it’s pretty much happened since the first two seconds we met so we really get along very well, and it’s been a great time.
QUESTION: You do a lot of Twittering. Is that something that you find is really important to you so that you can stay connected with your fandom? And what is the significance of it that’s so important to you?
NM: I don’t know if there’s any significance, except that I’m bored a lot, I guess, and I like to talk a lot of crap. I don’t know. There’s no significance behind it, except that it’s fun and I guess it’s sort of a social experiment, you know?
QUESTION: Is there anything physical that you had to train for for your role on this show?
NM: Well, we’ve done a little bit of tactical training. We had a really cool guy that’s a SWAT team member come in and sort of show us the ropes on what you would do busting into a house and the searching for people and all that kind of stuff, which is cool. I love that stuff. It’s a little different holding a Glock than it is holding an alien zapper gun so it’s a cool bit of training. I think I can pretty much just make up what I was doing with “The Middleman” guns, that actual procedure, the stuff like this that I needed to learn.
QUESTION: Obviously we know that Neal has a girlfriend, and we know that he’s very much into her and finding her, but your character and his character, you’re getting quite chummy recently, so what’s the deal there?
NM: Yes, you picked up on something there. I think that Neal and Lauren definitely have some chemistry going on, and, you know, right now his head is all around Kate and what’s happening with Kate, but I think that Lauren, despite the fact that it’s someone that she should keep her eye on in not the “I like you” way, it’s hard for her not to, you know?
So I think, not that what I just said made any kind of sense, I hope you understood that; the oddest way to phrase something ever. God, I can’t believe this is being transcripted, but yes, I think that there is something there for sure, and I hope and believe that it will develop in the future.
QUESTION: Now how did your role on White Collar compare to your time with “The Middleman?”
NM: Well, I think Wendy was sort of a college-aged rebel artist who was sarcastic and funny, but yet rooted in this kind of pure love for the people around her; likely, seeing her mother and then her boyfriend, and even The Middleman, and I think it was a different character in essence, and I think Lauren is a little bit more mysterious. She’s a little more guarded and I think she’s more of an overachiever, whereas Wendy was just incredibly talented without knowing it. Lauren fought hard to get to where she is, and therefore is very guarded and very protective of what she has and who she is. I think that’s the difference I see. I don’t know the trend, like, to hold it. Maybe Lauren is just grown-up Wendy. I don’t know. That’s how I see it.
QUESTION: What’s the latest on Wall Street II?
NM: I just wrapped my stuff. I think they wrap the entire movie next week, and I’m told that it comes out in April so hopefully it’ll get cut out and you’ll see it. I am basically the office bitch. Fortunately the roles that I’ve gotten to play this year have all been completely different so they’ll be fun, yes, for you guys to watch, hopefully.
QUESTION: Where would you like to see your character go in terms of next season?
NM: That’s an interesting question. I don’t know. I think we have some incredible minds writing the show, and I definitely leave it up to them to create my character. Sometimes they don’t tell me everything in my character. For example, on the USA website it says that Lauren speaks eight languages, which I didn’t know until I read that so that might be interesting and hopefully coming in another episode in the future. I think I’d like to see her relationship with Neal, and maybe some of Lauren’s personal life and what she’s really like. We don’t really know a lot about her yet, where she comes from, who she is and what she does when she’s not at work so I think that would be interesting to see.
BLAST’S CONCEPTION ALLEN: The chemistry between Neal and Agent Cruz — I know we don’t know that much about her back history, but what would you say is her fascination with him? What you think draws her to him, other than work.
NM: Well, I think there’s something about how intelligent he is, which is completely on par with how intelligent she is. I don’t think that Lauren finds a lot of guys who can keep up with her, you know? And Neal not only can keep up with her, but can sort of keep her guessing, and that’s rare for her, I think. I mean she went to Quantico, she went to Cambridge, she’s up there in her class. She’s a smart girl so I think that’s what’s interesting, and also there’s a little bit of a smooth bad boy thing that every girl likes, you know?
BLAST: When you found out you had the role, did you draw any inspiration from previous films or television characters that kind of made you go, “Ohh, this is kind of like this character,” that drew you to the character?
NM: That’s interesting. No, actually I didn’t really base it on anything. Immediately when I read about the character, I just kind of really got a sense of it, and I really related to it very quickly. I almost felt like I knew exactly what I should do. I didn’t really think about basing it on anybody.
BLAST: We just recently talked with Tiffani Thiessen, and she talked about the great chemistry on the set. I know that you haven’t had that many scenes with her, but are we going to see much more of the female relationships? Like interactions among each other, even though it’s predominately mostly about the boys?
NM: Well, so far I’ve only had one scene with Tiffani in which I didn’t have any actual lines with her, but we just say hi to each other and then leave so at this point they know each other. The two characters know each other, but I don’t think that they hang out much because she’s just one of Peter’s coworkers. I’m not really a friend of Elizabeth’s. I think that you’ll probably see more interaction of each of us with the boys, but I don’t know that it’s that much with each other. We just are in different worlds, but who knows? Who knows what they’ll write the next couple episodes. I have no idea.
BLAST: And how far along do you think your character is going to get with — I know the ads between Neal and Agent Cruz romantically — but as far as story lines apart from the romance? Like how thick of a relationship are they going to build just as far as the dynamics? Any interesting plot lines?
NM: I really can’t answer that. I have no idea what they’re planning on doing. I know what they’ve told me so far and what you guys have seen so far. There is something there, but who knows what will happen?
QUESTION: It seems like even though you play a bad-ass character, you have humorous overtones to all of your characters. Do you like being cast in humorous roles?
NM: Absolutely. It’s so fun. It’s the best part of my job is to get to be funny, you know?
QUESTION: Do you feel that you’ve been recognized on the street?
NM: I have. You know, it’s also New York so when people look at me strangely I don’t know if they’re recognizing me or if they’re just looking at me strangely.
QUESTION: I’m not sure if you’re familiar with “Burn Notice,” but I see a lot of similarities with “White Collar” starting out. Just like I saw “Burn Notice” starting out with the two male leads, and then the female who becomes a stronger character as the seasons progress, and I almost see “White Collar” as taking that sort of bent, too, with a concentration of the two male leads, but I have a feeling over a period of time not only is your character going to be developed, but I think it’s going to be such that you probably will become the third actor on that show, and I think it works because of the comedy. In fact, a lot of shows on channels today work because of the comedy — “Burn Notice” on USA or “Chuck” on NBC. So I think the formula for success is there, so my question to you is this: As you’re going to get more popular, and it started with “The Middleman,” is it going to go to your head?
NM: Oh, can’t you tell? My head is so huge. I don’t know. To be honest with you there’s nobody that scares me more than fame, and I know that’s really a stupid thing to say in this career. I just really love what I do. Hopefully I just get to be that weird character in a bunch of stuff that works all the time; where people are like, “I know that girl from somewhere. Wasn’t she in that thing?” So that’s kind of my goal.