Here’s the transcript from the conference call interview with the most recent cast addition for White Collar, Natalie Morales:
Q: I did want to know something, because they did have 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? Not that I’m complaining, mind you. It was just an interesting change. They got rid of her and then you were sort of her replacement, but I think you play the role much differently than the one who played…
N. 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 of…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.
Q: You have quite an ensemble of outfits in the first episode. Are we going to see more of your wardrobe?
N. Morales: 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.
Q: I have to say I miss The Middleman so it’s good to see you on TV again.
N. Morales: Oh, well, thank you. I miss The Middleman, too, although this is a blast, but I loved that show as well.
Q: Yes, and you have really short hair now.
N. Morales: Yes, I do. Well, I always kind of had short hair, didn’t I?
Q: It was longer and blacker.
N. Morales: Yes, that’s true. It was a little darker.
Q: What about this particular role brought you to the show?
N. Morales: 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.
Q: You’re surrounded by a lot of handsome men…
N. Morales: Sure am.
Q: So 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?
N. Morales: 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.
Q: Also, 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?
N. Morales: 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?
Q: You do connect a lot with your fans.
N. Morales: It is fun, and it’s cool to get to talk to people and hear their responses back because, you know, it’s people you would never normally speak to because you don’t know them so it is fun. I think it’s an interesting new tool that exists out there to communicate with the world.
Q: Is there anything physical that you had to train for for your role on this show?
N. Morales: 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.
Q: Obviously we know that Neal has a girlfriend, and we know that he’s very much into her and finding her, but if you think you and your character and his character, you’re getting quite chummy recently, so what’s the deal there?
N. Morales: Yes, you picked up on something there, Joshua. 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.
Q: Now some of my colleagues had mentioned The Middleman, and we all loved The Middleman. I’m just wondering, are you the type of actress, have you been attracted previously to action-type roles? Have you been into shooting guns or anything like that?
N. Morales: Well, seriously that is so fun. There’s an episode of The Middleman where I shot a machinegun inside, I think, it was an old electric plant, which couldn’t have been all that safe, but it was sure fun. On this particular show I haven’t actually gotten to shoot anything. Hopefully that will happen soon, but I do enjoy the action. A lot of what I’ve done in my short career has been physical comedy so it’s interesting to get into other physical stuff that I can’t look silly doing.
Q: Now how did your role on White Collar compare to your time with The Middleman?
N. Morales: 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.
Q: Would you say they’re both bad asses, though?
N. Morales: Oh, yes. I mean, not to say that any single role I would play wouldn’t be a bad ass, but no, I think we both kind of are in there, and right, one is more rooted in reality I suppose, and the other one, you know, shoots aliens.
Q: Going back to the Lauren/Neal future relationship maybe, do you think that will ever happen? I’m assuming she’ll always be suspicious because he’s a conman. Right?
N. Morales: I think so, but there’s something attractive about that. As a woman, there’s something attractive about what you can’t have and what you know very little about, especially when you have chemistry with that and you get along with it, so I think that it’s something intriguing for Lauren, and also for Neal, because they are so similar, yet come from completely different paths. You know?
Q: What’s the latest on Wall Street II?
N. Morales: 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.
Q: Then what do you play?
N. Morales: I am basically the office bitch.
Q: Another bad ass.
N. Morales: Yes. Well, I mean, 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.
Q: I had a question that came in on Twitter, actually, and it may sound familiar. What kind of research did you do to make Lauren so f’ing bad ass?
N. Morales: We did a little bit of tactical training, and I don’t know, my mom was kind of a bad ass so I take a lot from her.
Q: So you’re drawing on maternal guests there.
N. Morales: Yes. Is that like a flip-flop across the room whenever I was being bad or talking back? That’s when I was a bad ass, yes.
Q: What would be your ideal – I guess it wouldn’t be ideal because you would be trying to solve a crime – but if you could go out on a case, what would you want to do? What would you want to follow?
N. Morales: I actually really love conspiracies and cons and stuff like that. I love really smart crime. If I was an FBI agent, this is exactly what kind of stuff I’d be doing. Although I don’t know that the white collar division in real life is all that interesting. I don’t know that they get that many murders.
Q: Doubt that.
N. Morales: Yes, probably not, but I do love, like, the whole forgeries and all that stuff, especially art stuff. I think that’s so interesting, and I think I’d like to figure out bank robbers, maybe because I want to learn how to rob a bank.
Q: Oh, you heard it here first. Like it’s never happened.
N. Morales: Yes, yes.
Q: Do you find yourself when in your places, like when you go to an art gallery or something, do you find yourself like really studying the pieces now and going, “Okay. Now is that legit? Can I tell?”
N. Morales: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I find myself second guessing a lot of things. Like whenever I see like a ComEd van outside, I always think that it’s surrealist. I’m always like studying it and wondering what it really is. To be honest, there are so many things in the world that we don’t realize walking back and forth that we miss all of these things. Like the guy next to you could be undercover, you know, at any second so I think about that stuff a lot, and you can see by Twitter that I have a lot of time on my hands so maybe that’s just me.
Q: How is it on the set these days considering that you guys are blowing everybody else out of the water?
N. Morales: Oh, well. Well, thanks. It’s great. It’s good to know that people like the show so that improves morale, even though it was already as high as it could have possibly been. We have a blast on set. We do not stop laughing. We joke around that there should be some sort of karaoke or musical at the set because that’s all we do every time the camera cuts so we have a blast on set.
Q: To me that’s one of those things that should be on the DVD of the first season.
N. Morales: Oh, I hope there’s a little reel because there would be a lot of really funny stuff on there.
Q: Where would you like to see your character go in terms of like next season?
N. Morales: 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.
Q: I think that would be interesting to see, too. Also, like the previous question about the fashion statement from the fashion episode, is to see more style because you look very FBI-ish, you know, the straight suit kind of person on the show, but it’s more about seeing the guys, because it is primarily a show about guys, and everybody’s talking about the bromance. But the women actually make the counterpoint. And to me it’s very much about let’s see where they can pull in the women more and showing you off fashion-wise because, you know, obviously Matt Bomer has got some great clothes.
N. Morales: Matt Bomer has great everything.
Q: Compared to what I’m hearing from the comments of my readership is that everybody is in love with him. They want those blue eyes.
N. Morales: Yes. Well, he’s great. I think that they’re trying to find diverse ways to sort of, like you said, have his counterpart, the boys, and I think you’ll see a lot more of that coming up.
Q: I wonder what you were doing when you found out that your role got extended?
N. Morales: I was on set, and my manager called me, and then I high fived everybody. It was great fun.
Q: And what is it about your character that you like the most?
N. Morales: I like her snarkiness the most. I like that she is sarcastic and funny. That’s my favorite part about that character. Not only is she smart, but she can be silly, too. You know, she can have fun at work.
Q: Would you be interested in producing an episode?
N. Morales: I’d be interested in anything I’m going to do with the show. I’d love to direct some day. I don’t know if that’s in the future, but yes, definitely.
Q: And do you have a favorite scene from any of the first three episodes that we’ve seen so far?
N. Morales: Well, I think one of my favorite scenes from the last episode is probably the scene in the file room with Neal. I like that one.
Q: Do you know when we’ll find out about your character’s back story? Probably in this season or next season?
N. Morales: I’m not really sure. We still have a few episodes to shoot in this season, too. I don’t know what’s happening.
Q: You mentioned obviously 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? Like what you think draws her to him, other than obviously work, because there are all these…things.
N. Morales: 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?
Q: 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, Ew, this is kind of like this character, the show, that drew you to the character?
N. Morales: 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.
Q: 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?
N. Morales: 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.
Q: 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 storylines apart from the romance? Like how thick of a relationship are they going to build just as far as the dynamics? I mean, any interesting plot lines?
N. Morales: 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?
Q: As a fan of The Middleman and White Collar, I have to say that I think both shows are extremely smart, extremely witty and extremely funny; those are not always the same things. With the difference in the style and the more subtle wit of White Collar, was it harder for you to get into that than The Middleman or did it play to your strengths do you think?
N. Morales: You know, I think The Middleman being more of a comedy was sort of a little bit easier for me because it’s more of what I’m used to doing, and also The Middleman was sort of this crazy world so anything that I did could be explained. In this there are procedures for things. There are ways that FBI agents do things; there are ways that they say things, you know? So there are a lot more of a controlled aspect to the Lauren character and to White Collar than there was to The Middleman so in that aspect it was a little bit easier for me to get into Wendy than it was for Lauren, but yeah, I agree with you and thank you for the compliments.
Q: Jeff Eastin is always making a point of saying that when Neal and Peter are together they are the smartest guys in the room. Now would you say it would be fair that if all of the main characters of the show, including your character, Elizabeth and Mozzie, if all five of you were in the room you would be the five smartest people in the room?
N. Morales: Well, yes. Like you said, “Smartest guys in the room.” I think that definitely all of the characters have their own strengths, and yes, I would agree with that statement. I think that Neal, Lauren, Mozzie, Elizabeth and Peter can all really keep up with each other. You know, they’re all playing on the same level.
Q: You’re taking part in the cons more and more as the series progresses, I would assume, because obviously Lauren Cruz is good at that, as well as of being the traditional FBI agent. Are there any particular cons that you think were better carried off or are there any…
N. Morales: By cons do you mean like undercover things?
Q: The undercover work, yes.
N. Morales: Well, if I don’t say so myself, I think I’m believable as a model so first one that’s pretty good. It kind of worked out the best. I think the last undercover thing you saw was where I played his business manager, and that didn’t work out so great, but not through any fault of mine or Neal’s, so yeah, I mean I think you’ll see more of those things, and I hope so. I like doing the undercover stuff.
Q: I did want to know if any of your Middleman costars might be making a guest appearance on White Collar, or do you know of any special guests you’re going to on?
N. Morales: Oh, gosh. Wouldn’t that be great? I don’t know of any upcoming guests, and I don’t know if any of them are going to be on the show. I’d love it, though. They’re all fantastic actors. Yes, but I mean we shoot in New York and they’re all in L.A. so it would be hard on that aspect, but yes.
Q: I did some checking on your filmography to prepare for this interview. I saw that you just completed Boldly Going Nowhere, an ’09 TV movie.
N. Morales: That was a pilot I did, actually, gosh, last year, right after The Middleman, I think, maybe almost two years ago. It was for FOX. It’s written by the Always Sunny guys, who are fantastic. I love them to death. I don’t really know if that’s going anywhere or what’s happening with that. I have no idea.
Q: Could you tell us a little bit maybe about the plot of that? I was just curious what it was about.
N. Morales: It’s sort of like The Office in space. It’s a space show, but it’s a comedy.
Q: 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?
N. Morales: Absolutely. It’s so fun. It’s the best part of my job is to get to be funny, you know?
Q: You did mention that you were hoping to get with the White Collar first season DVD set, the bloopers. Could you tell us maybe one or two of those bloopers that you had?
N. Morales: I don’t even know what they’ve kept the camera on so I have no idea what could be in there. I just know we have a blast on set and we’re always laughing, you know. We have a lot of dialogue, and sometimes we mess it up and sometimes it’s really funny when we do.
Q: Were there are a lot of retakes and things like that?
N. Morales: Well, you know, not so much that as it’s just such a fun energy on set that, even though we all take the show and our jobs very seriously, we all have a lot of fun with it, too, so it should be a good blooper reel if there is one.
Q: If you made the transition, I guess, from California to New York? Have there been any changes that have occurred, I mean, with your lifestyle? Because the two cities are somewhat different.
N. Morales: Yes, they are. Well, it’s cold here now, and I don’t particularly love the cold being from Miami. I don’t really have a lot of winter clothes so I ended up just putting on a bunch of things that don’t match and looking a little bit homeless, but I’m sort of getting adjusted to it. I like living here because there’s always something to do in New York City, and it’s such an exciting place to live, especially at this point in my life so it’s fun to live here. I haven’t moved here; I’m just living here while we’re doing the show.
Q: I had another question based on the fact that you guys are shooting in New York. You’re not really a cop show like the other ones that are seen these days, but you really make use of the city as a real backdrop.
N. Morales: Absolutely. How could you not? You know, the city is definitely another character on our show, and in New York it doesn’t matter what you’re shooting; like if you’re shooting a trashcan, it looks amazing, you know? Because it’s like you can’t really fake this stuff. Honestly, sometimes we’re on sets, we’re in places, last week we were at this insane house on the Upper West Side. I was looking at the monitors and I was like, “This looks like we built it. It doesn’t look real. This is such a beautiful, enormous, unbelievable house that it looks fake,” and these things really exist in New York, you know. We shot off the top of 30 Rock, and we’ve shot in a million different places, and at Central Park, and you can’t fake that, and why not use it as much as we can? It’s so beautiful to shoot here. Every image is kind of ridiculous looking.
Q: It is, I mean, because I recognize Washington Park and Washington Square. And I recognize other things that I’ve seen, and I sit there and think what must it have been like when you were in L.A., working there compared to working in New York, and the difference in terms of the mindset of how you have to shift.
N. Morales: Yeah. Well, we actually didn’t do that much location on The Middleman. We did a lot of stuff on set. And here it’s mostly on location, except for when we’re at the FBI or when we’re at someone’s house, and those are on set, but everywhere else, like we do one episode in seven days, and we spend four of those days, at least, somewhere else.
Q: How long have those days been?
N. Morales: Pretty long. They’re pretty long days. I am not one to complain because this is not like The Middleman for me. Matt and Tim are the ones with a crazy amount of lines and the pages to do everyday, so I’ve been lucky on this one, but yes, they’re very long days.
Q: I know that when Jeff Eastin was interviewed he commented about getting some input from Matt Nix from Burn Notice, and about how he’s kind of essentially one of the characters that he wrote, which is Tim’s character, and I really find it interesting to see how much White Collar is burning up in terms of people’s visibility; where Burn Notice took about a full season, this one seems to have skyrocketed right out of the gate.
N. Morales: Well, we’re very sort of lucky that USA totally backs us up and did a lot of advertising before our show came out, so it was very out there that our show was in on premiere, where we were very lucky, in effect, with them, and it’s great to have a network that really supports your show and backs you up like that. So I think that that might have been what happened.
Q: And do you feel that you’ve been recognized on the street?
N. Morales: I have. You know, it’s also New York so when people look at me strangely I don’t if they’re recognizing me if they’re just looking at me strangely.
Q: In the little free time that you have what do you do?
N. Morales: I mostly just sit around and play guitar, I think.
Q: What do you play? Are you self taught? Are you a musician?
N. Morales: Yes. I’m not very good. I just like to play it a lot.
Q: 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?
N. Morales: 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.
Q: I definitely see this show taking off just like Burn Notice, and Burn Notice is now more popular than ever before.
N. Morales: I love Burn Notice. Burn Notice is one of my favorite shows. Those guys are great. I’ve been on that set a few times, and they’re all awesome. I’m very happy for them.
Q: That’s right, because they film in Florida. Right?
N. Morales: It’s only my hometown.
[Photo: ©2009 NBC Universal Inc. All Rights Reserved]