Bringing her joyous light and performance to the role of Natasha on NASHVILLE,has caught more than one eye on the show. Thus, it was no surprise to see how fast Natasha swept Mayor Teddy Conrad off his feet. Even Teddy, who has had his fair share of relationships where things were perhaps less than ideal, seems to know a true find when he sees it — and Natasha is truly special. She radiates beauty and intelligence, which is due to woman who portrays her.
In an exclusive interview, startalked about how incredibly fun it has been bringing Natasha to life on NASHVILLE, as well as sharing a bit about her philosophy that has helped her shine with such love and confidence that it has added an extra sparkle to the role and her experience working on the show.
What initially drew you to working on NASHVILLE and the role of Natasha?
MONIQUA: To be honest, it was a little bit of a surprise for me. The general breakdown just said that Natasha was a very smart, strong woman — and obviously, characters like that are harder to come by. So that was really attractive. It said that she had a Master’s Degree in British History, which she says in the first episode, and that was pretty much all it said. So the reveal about her being an escort and all that business was a surprise to me, as well. It was a pretty nice juicy turn of events, actually. The one thing you can sort of bet on with Callie Khouri is she has her hands on creating strong, smart women who are also beautiful and very capable. And this role is just interesting, it is a little bit edgier for NASHVILLE. So that’s been really exciting. And who knows what is going to happen. They really don’t say too much. They keep a lot of it under wraps. But it has been a really nice ride and a great experience working with Eric Close, especially. We have great chemistry and he is a really wonderful, generous actor. So it’s really been such a blessing.
Eric seems like someone who wants to laugh a lot when he’s not on screen. It is probably fun working with someone that lighthearted.
MONIQUA: I was just telling a friend of mine this, what is so great — when you’re playing someone’s love interest, you don’t know each other and you’re like, “Oh, now I have to make out with this person” — and Eric was so great. He’s been doing television for so long and he gets it. So on my first day on set, he made a beeline for me and was like, “Hi, I’m Eric Close. Let’s get to know each other ’cause we have to make out later.” (Laughs) He was just keeping it really light and fun. He is also really about getting to know you. They created the relationship really quickly, so we really had to be able to show that chemistry and everything to make it believable for the audience. So it was just lovely because we hit off immediately and really just got on so well with each other. So creating that relationship was really easy working with him. That was fantastic.
What is going on with Natasha and Teddy? Is it purely physical or is there something more going on?
MONIQUA: I think in the episode with them at the CMA’s really revealed that there is definitely more of a connection between the two of them. There is so much we don’t know about Natasha: why does she do what she does? She is really very smart and very capable. So we really don’t know why. Is it just a means to an end for her? Is she doing it for a very specific purpose and then doing something else? We really don’t know. But it’s clear, especially in that third episode, that they really like each other. (Laughs) That fact that she gives him a “freebie” — that is not something a high-paid escort would really do, unless there was more to it. I think she is just as surprised by his reaction, being jealous. That causes her pause. As Natasha, it was definitely like, “Oh, and I was concerned I was having these feelings.” But clearly, he is having them too. It kind of took things to a different place for her.
It kind of seems like she might view Teddy like her white-knight, like he can rescue her a little bit.
MONIQUA: He is the mayor and he is a together guy. I think some people do not have the best opinion of Teddy after his last few relationships. But you see that he is really coming out of his shell in this relationship. There is something about him trusting a little bit different and he is really seeming to find himself. Plus, the chemistry. The chemistry between Teddy and Natasha is really different than what he has had in his previous relationships. So definitely. For her, Natasha sees very high-powered men in general. Like the guy that she is with at the CMAs, he is head of this big media network. But there’s something just so lovely in Teddy and Natasha’s connection. Teddy is being really real with her. She is smart, she is funny, and she listens well, and she is clearly wanting a real relationship with someone. So absolutely. Natasha is like, “Wait a minute — he’s the mayor and he’s actually a lovely guy.” So as much as he is thinking, before he found out that she’s a high-paid escort — he’s thinking, “She’s the whole package.” So I think they both have this image of each other. But when he finds out that Natasha is an escort, I think that changes. But clearly he is still feeling their chemistry. He calls her after anyway. So definitely. He’s the mayor, he’s a lovely guy, he’s a family man. Any woman would be crazy to not want to explore that. (Laughs)
Do you feel that you have been blessed by this role that is unfolding in all these interesting areas?
MONIQUA: Absolutely. The role in the first couple of episodes was a little smaller, but these last two are bigger. I’m doing a sixth episode at the beginning of January. So we’ll see what happens. I don’t know what’s going to happen in January. (Laughs) But it has been nice seeing these twists and turns and just how they are relating to each other. Episode 8 was a really fun, cool, meaty episode to play opposite of Eric. The writer, Geoffrey Nauffts, came in specially because Eric was directing that episode. It was just an awesome collaborative experience. Geoffrey really saw that this relationship had way more layers than what we had seen in the first couple of episodes, and that is where you start to really see it — where they are both surprised by these other feelings that they have for each other. Like, clearly, it is not just a professional relationship. So I am just as curious to see what happens next. It has been just a great experience. I’ve been really fortunate. I don’t think all sets are like this. I can only speak to the ones that I’ve worked on. But I have had just great luck having such chemistry with my co-stars and being on such fantastic sets that are so welcoming and generous. Working on NASHVILLE has been so much fun. Nashville is such an amazing city and it is so welcoming and happy to have the production there. Everyone on set — it’s like a family. It is really, really cool.
What was it like portraying the CMA’s? It seems like it would be big experience even portraying it.
MONIQUA: Oh my gosh! It was a full red carpet, tons of people, lightbulbs going off. So it really seemed real. I’ve been to a ton of red carpets and it was such a great reenactment of it. It really looked amazing. That episode was so fantastic and it was directed so well by Eric. Obviously, it was on a smaller scale than the actual CMA, like when they are filming everyone coming in there is this huge crowd, but then the crowd just ends. They had a huge crowd out there. In the city of Nashville, everyone was just so excited just to be a part of it. I think that energy really shows itself in that episode. So it was really fun to see everyone so dressed up and giving speeches. The music is so wonderful on the show. Everyone is so talented. They do their own singing. I don’t know if everyone knows that — that all the performers are really performing and they are doing their own singing. There is no ad-libbing or somebody else is signing, or anything like that. The actors that are working on the show are so talented, top to bottom. That was really fun for me to see. I play a supporting character, so I got to sneak in and watch those scenes being filmed. That was really fun.
You are a singer, as well. Has NASHVILLE invited you to sing?
MONIQUA: I do sing, but I don’t know how that would work for my character: the singing hooker?! (Laughs)
It’s NASHVILLE! Everybody sings on the show.
MONIQUA: I know! It would be hilarious. There was this one guy on set who kept joking about, “Oh, I heard in the next episode that Natasha is going to sing Teddy a power-ballad.” But, alas, no. That has not happened. But wouldn’t that be great? She could just serenade him or something. But Teddy doesn’t get to sing either. Maybe that’s why they matched us up. (Laughs) And you know, the Jeff Fordham character is singing in an upcoming episode. It’s true that Oliver Hudson did have a band in college. That will a pretty cool episode to see. So they are opening it up to characters who haven’t been seen singing before. What a great show. I would love that. It would be so fun to sing on the show. I don’t know how that would work for my character. But, hey, let’s put it out there!
If you were to sit across the table from your character, Natasha, what real world advice would you offer her?
MONIQUA: It’s funny because I’ve had to create my own backstory for her. My thought is that she is not doing the escort thing forever. She chose to do it for a specific reason, like she’s trying to get ahead financially and pay something off. She, obviously, got herself through college. So, for me, I would tell her, or anyone who is doing something like this — and as women, how do you separate your emotions from the physical, and it’s the oldest profession in the world — but I would have to say: “Hey, let’s wrap it up and get on with your real life.” That’s the part I want to know: what does Natasha really want? Does she want true love? Does she want a real relationship? And in the back of my head that is sort of how I have been playing her — that this is just something she is doing at this moment in time. I’d be curious to see if they end up exploring that. So, for me, I’d say: “Let’s wrap it up and get to it. Let’s get to the good stuff, which is love in a relationship.” That would really be my advice.
That is good advice for anybody because anybody can get caught up in some of these little worlds we live in and we have to step out and say, “what’s real?”
MONIQUA: Absolutely! I’m sure you’ve reminded yourself and I remind myself of that all the time. I think that’s what is so interesting about how the NASHVILLE role even came to me. I had recently just kind of changed my approach to acting and my perspective about it, ’cause I did feel like I was just so singularly focused, and I thought, “There is so much that I’m missing in life.” I really wanted to be of service to people and give back in an interesting way. I’m actually getting my holistic medicine certification, right now, and as soon as I found that other thing — being of service to people — and just shifting my energy and thinking around, that’s when this amazing opportunity on NASHVILLE came my way. So I do think we have to remind ourselves: what else is important to us in life? What else do we really want? Do you want to get married? Do you want to have a family? I think that we as humans, that is what we are here for: to have true love in our lives. I think that is true for all humans. But you are right, we absolutely do get caught up on the rat-race. All of a sudden, you realize 5 years have passed and you think, “Hey, wait a minute, what just happened?” So that would be my advice for Natasha and everybody: “Stop and smell the roses.”
That is true for everybody on NASHVILLE. They all seem to be battling to choose between their professional world and their personal live and it has a big toll on them.
MONIQUA: Absolutely. The one thing again that I was saying about the amazing Callie Khouri, the one thing she is showing and something that has been really prominent this season with Connie Britton’s character Rayna is: balancing it and having it all. Rayna’s been doing it and it’s been hard on her because she has been missing some things, like what is happening with her children, but she is an amazing parent and she is clearly an amazing businesswoman and a huge talent in the world. So Rayna is managing all that: relationships, family, career. I think that is something that is really important. It shows that you can do it. There are going to be moments where one thing is taking over and it’s really about finding balance in your life. But I think, as women, it is important to show that you can have each — you can be an amazing parent and you can have a rewarding career. It does take that effort to keep things balanced, but it is possible — especially if you’re beautiful and talented.
Sounds like you’re going to do well in holistic medicine with that positive attitude!
MONIQUA: Thank you! I’m very passionate about it. It’s been really interesting, the more people I talk to — even on set everyone is like, “oh my gosh, I’ll be your first client!” — so many people are striving to find balance in their lives and be more in tune. I think food, for women especially, is where I’m leaning towards. Women have a love/hate relationship with food and we’re sort of programming that way. So I want to teach people to understand their bodies and be more in tune because “food is not a four-letter word.” I really want to teach people to: love your body and what you put in it. I think the more in tune you are, the more you love yourself from the inside-out that’s when you’ll be attracting amazing things that you really want in your life. I really feel that is how NASHVILLE came to me. I’ve done years of hard work and all of those things too, so I’m not saying: don’t take action. But there was something about just where I was in my life at that particular moment and things shifted. That’s when this amazing, amazing opportunity came my way. For Thanksgiving this year, I had so much to be thankful for. I am so grateful.
To see where the unexpected relationship between Natasha and Teddy is heading and if it does lead to genuine true love, be sure to tune in for an all new episode of NASHVILLE on Wednesday, December 10th at 10:00 p.m. on ABC.