“Every single time I open a script I’m like, ‘Oh my God, we can’t do this,'” says Natalie Zea about the increasingly outlandish storylines of her TBS comedy “The Detour,” but “nine times out of 10 we get away with it.” Zea plays Robin, who endured an ill-fated road trip with her family in season one and an equally dysfunctional move to New York City in season two, which concluded on April 25. This year she’s being entered for Emmy consideration for Best Comedy Actress, up from the supporting category where she was submitted in 2016. The misadventures for her and her on-screen family are set to continue: TBS officially renewed “The Detour” for a third season.
Season two was especially consequential for Robin as viewers learned a lot more about her checkered past, including several aliases, an illicit business as a green-card bride, an estranged con-man father (James Cromwell) and a secret ex-husband whom she discovered she was actually still married to (Jeffrey Vincent Parise). All of that was news to her husband Nate (Jason Jones) and her two children (Liam Carroll and Ashley Gerasimovich).
“It was nice to take that baton and get to be the conduit for this family and the source material for the wacky adventures of season two,” says Zea about the increased focus on her character this year. Being able to play such dynamic and often dark role is a significant part of what drew her to the show in the first place. “I had never encountered anything like that, especially in a comedy,” she explained. “The first thing [Jones] said to me when I spoke to him was, ‘The one thing I want to be very clear about with the Robin character is that I’m not interested in likability.’ And I said, ‘I’ll take it. That’s all you had to say.'”
Zea was rewarded this year with a wild array of storylines that also included the stolen buttocks of a Saddam Hussein statue, an investigation by the US Postal Inspection Service (led by a zealous Laura Benanti), and a journey to Cuba to retrieve her kidnapped children. But for Zea the highlight of the season was the episode “The Tub,” which features a home birth and a series of “ridiculous, disgusting, wonderful, frank, horrible things happening in every scene. And in different degrees — some are psychologically horrible and some are physically horrible … It’s such a fine piece of television in my opinion.”
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