Natalie Knepp is a perfect step back in time portraying the ostentation Eugenia Bankhead, sister of the silent movie star, Tallulah in the new Amazon Series, Z: The Beginning of Everything. The ultra-talented Knepp is no stranger to the limelight with multiple roles under her belt. Knepp sat down with us to talk about her iconic role, offers advice for young actresses, theater and what she has in store.
What actually made you get into acting?
My mom was a director in the theater in Ohio, where I grew up right outside of Cleveland. So I grew up in the theatre. I was always around backstage with all the actors and everything but I never really got into acting when I was younger. I was a musician, I played the Harp growing up, my mom also plays the harp so I grew up a musician so I always had love for music and art and theatre and everything in general. But it wasn’t really until I was about 15 years old, that I got that bug. So I said to my mom I think I want to audition for a play. I had auditioned at Weathervane Playhouse in Akron, Ohio. I auditioned for Romeo and Juliet there and I got the role. And it started off into this classic world where I fell in love with Shakespeare from that I did this incredible play and we had great reviews and everything. My mother and I knew about Interlochen Arts Academy. A boarding arts high school in upper Michigan. And knew about because of music and thought maybe I could apply and see if I get into there theatre program. They had 7 openings in the program and I was one of thousands that got in. It was such a huge honor. at that age to be accepted knowing nothing about theatre. And I just went and worked so hard. I made sure I was a great student, like you go to public school and you just go. With interlochen your surrounded by some of the best artists in the entire world so I got really involved with the theatre and fell in love with the classic, Chekov, Ibsen and Shakespeare. it kind of went from there and I fell in love with the theatre and then fell in love with the camera and got involved with television, film, and thats kind of where I am at this point in my life.
What has been one of your favorite characters to play?
I have to say, I think my favorite role that I ever got to do on TV was The Good Wife. I got to play this incredible guest star role named Laura Peck. I remember from day one getting on that set with Julianna Margulies, Christne Baranski, and Josh Charles. They were just my champions every single second through it. It was a very difficult role to portray because she’s not this cry whiny thing that you usually see on Law and Order like they are victims. She wasn’t a victim. Something had happened to her and she was trying to, in the best way she could tell her story without getting emotional. It was such a journey like a dissection of a character going deeper and deeper every single day on set. Still truly will say its one of my favorite set experiences down to the director to all the actors. We just had a blast creating this memorable character that I forever say is one of my favorite roles to play.
That’s very cool and it is one of our favorite shows.
I love The Good Wife, it’s so good! Julianna is to die for.
We sobbed for most of the last season.
Did you? I love that they are doing a spinoff. Those writers are everything. When you have such great writing to work with it, it makes ana actors job so much easier to go in and just play with the words.
Any dreams roles you’d ultimately like to play?
Classical? As in Shakespeare?
Well, let’s see. I’ve been in so many different shows, I’d love to- my favorite Shakespeare show that I ever did get to do was in Clevland Shakespeare Festival when I was in college was in Cymbeline and I played Imogen which was a dream role for me many years ago. I’ve said this to my mom before, if I was going to do a Shakespeare play would love to do if anything, I’d love to do Juliet again, I’ve always been connected to that character and I’ve always said that Imogen in Cymbeline and Postumas is Romeo and Juliet if they never died at the end of the play and went off together is kind of where Cymbeline starts. That’s what I’ve always thought. I did it when I was 20, I think thinking back I’d love to be able to tackle Imogen again knowing what I know now or being a more seasoned actor now being able to dive back into a role like that. Because Cymbeline is truly my favorite Shakespeare play.
So let’s talk about Z, what drew you to the show?
Well I grew up with a mother who was an english teacher so I grew up with all of the classics which was F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, T.S. Elliott. We were avid readers in my home. So for me, I remember when I first started the audition for it, I called my mom immediately and was like “Oh my god, mom they are doing a show about Zelda Fitzgerald.” and she was like “What?” You know something like, these are like if there is any place it’s going to hit home its the scholars of american literature the english teachers, so my mother was like “Who are you going in for?” and I said “Eugenia Bankhead” “Tallulah’s sister?” and it was just this moment. I love Talulah Bankhead and classic actresses. We were always watching old movies. So for the two of us we were always be with giddy with joy to play a girl that misbehaves so iconic and certain literature these were the people that surrounded F. Scott which were eventually written into his stories and caused his stories to happen. So it was fun to get to go in and play in this world but also make it believable and real within the time period we are living in now. It was just so exciting to play a Bankhead sister. They bring debauchery and at the same time there is a self indulgence they made fashionable during that time where me and Christina Bennett Lind that plays Talulah got to capture. That was the best thing, I get to play a Bankhead sister like are you kidding me? Could this be more cool?
Tell us a little bit about your character Eugenia Bankhead since a lot of people unfortunately don’t know old hollywood.
Well you know Talulah Bankhead, I mean she was the most famous actress in the early days and she was a stage actress. You know I think she got into the film and tv world in that time was silent films. So you see in the show when she says to Zelda, it’s far easier then working on the stage, you don’t have to memorize lines. Eugenia was her right hand woman, she was her best friend she was always by her side every step of the way and thats something that really resonates with me. Just because they are your best friend no matter how they treat you. If she was busy and needed someone to trust. She needed someone to be there. It was also interesting going through and trying to research. Back in the 20’s they didn’t have social media, they didn’t have google so there was no way to- Eugenia wasn’t much written about her besides a few letters that you can find that she wrote to her sister. Other then that my research can from researching Talulah what her life was like. Eugenia was a part of the entire thing. It was debauchery, they did a lot of drugs, they drank a lot, and smoked a lot of cigarettes. It’s such a different time then what we live in now were health is all the rage. Back then it was all about glamour, wealth, celebrity, and self indulgence, It was made to be fashinable.
Did you find it hard to portray her, with such little information?
I didn’t just because I was creating a character even though she’s a real person in history. I was pretty much going off of nothing and I got to work with the incredible Christina Bennett Lynn, and her delicious Tallulah Bankhead. Coming to set me and Christina Bennett Lind going through it together. going through the relationship and these characters together and something these people can watch and get and say I see the relationship. Thats what its really about, bring a esscense of these people to life and how they would walk in a room and these people will gasp. Cause its Tallulah Bankhead and even Zelda said in the show nobody would know Eugenia if it wasn’t for Talllauh but the truth is Tallulah wouldn’t have been able to really do it if she didn’t have Eugenia right there with her so it’s kind of a balancing act in that way. It was to create this other worldly character who is somebody thats very grounded in truth and someone who actually lived.
Since your mom was an english teacher, do you have a favorite F. Scott Fitzgerald novel?
The Great Gatsby was my favorite novel growing up. It was an interesting thing when we got this because this is The Great Gatsby, I’m going to be living the Great Gatsby. You can’t actually put yourself in a novel but this is the show to do it. I grew up loving that novel so it was kind of fun to actually go inside of it.
Any advice for budding actresses?
I think anyone coming into the business. I always say to young actors that outside of it being fun getting to dissect scripts and dissect words remember that its a business, you have to market yourself and what brand you are. It’s tough to say that, its tough to stay real but also know this is a business you want to make sure you put your best foot forward. Every single day you’re doing smart work that your working hard and smart. Patience, it’s about staying power and staying in it and sticking with it. It’s not an easy business. I’ve seen a lot of really talented people leave the industry because they get frustrated. You just need to keep pushing forward take everyones reviews and everything with a grain of salt. Everyone has an option but you gotta stay true to yourself and know what you want and follow through with it.
Anything planned for the future, that you can share with us?
I have a couple of things cooking right now. I also have a show that I wrote and plan to star in that we are pitching to networks. That’s really exciting.
If you want to learn more about Natalie, head to her website here.
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