"Under the Dome's" Natalie Martinez is perhaps best known for her supporting part in 2012's "End of Watch" and a recurring role as Detective Jamie Lovato in "CSI: NY," but the high-concept CBS drama is sure to be the actress' breakout role as Linda, one of the few police officers left in small-town Chester's Mill when an impenetrable dome seals the population off from the outside world.
Below, Martinez discusses the challenges of being a cop in a town where the laws are rapidly starting to seem less important, and how she thinks she would handle a worst-case scenario similar to the ones presented in many of Stephen King's novels.
What do viewers need to know about your character, Linda?
Linda starts off as a deputy and a small town girl. I'm from here and I've had to grow up in this town -- I know everybody, so you see me as a deputy and someone who's been a little sheltered and shown the ways by Duke, the sheriff in town. And all of a sudden this dome comes down, and you're going to start to see her become this independent, strong woman who goes into the belly of the beast and faces this problem head on, from the teachings that she had from her sheriff. She's very strong-willed and a very determined and focused person. She starts off as the underdog and makes her way out, up to the top.
Her fiance is trapped on the other side of the dome -- I'm guessing that makes the whole situation even more challenging for her?
Right. I was supposed to get married and I go through troubles through the fact that we had so many things planned. One of the craziest things about this show is that you realize, this dome comes down and it's not necessarily about the dome as much as it is about what happens to everybody's lives once you get trapped. You thought you had until tomorrow to do something and it turns out you don't. So I think it affects her in the sense that she was hoping to do this and do that, [so she] put a couple more hours in [at work] so that she can go on a honeymoon ... And all of a sudden this happens. So I think that's devastating, that she never got to do the things she wanted to do. And she's missing her loved one as well. Not only that, but the craziness that's happening in the dome -- the last thing you're worrying about is your wedding dress coming in the mail. People are dying, there's a dome, there's fire, there's explosions. There's all these crazy things, but I think that's what's difficult with each one of us as characters -- you realize what means something to us and you start to learn people's real character once shit hits the fan.
What's the dynamic like in the police station in the midst of the chaos? I'm guessing a lot of action happens there, since they're on the front lines for this event.
There is some action there. I don't know how much I can give away, but things do end up really going down, and I lose people, and I gain some people as well. I think this show makes people think, when these post-apocalyptic things happen, what would you do? Would you just lose it and freak out and panic? Or do you stay on your feet, grounded, and figure something out? I think that's the dynamic with everybody here. Are they going to lose themselves or are they going to be their better self? You start to see these people of power, and there's not many of us because there was a parade going on in the first episode, so everyone's in the next town over, all the firemen -- my fiance's a firefighter. There's very few deputies left, to the point where I become sheriff. I was clearly not ready to be sheriff yet, but I have to take it up. So I think the dynamics inside the police station are constantly changing depending on how far we go and depending on who the new people are.
I'm assuming the situation means that you have to bring in new deputies?
Yeah, there'll be new deputies. And that's something between Dean [Norris] and I as well because Big Jim is trying to control everything and Linda's not having it. What you have is the good cop, bad cop kind of thing. And with this show in particular, I wouldn't say there are actually bad guys and good guys. There's a little bit of everything, because sometimes to be good, you've got to be bad. And the bad people have a little good in them as well. So Jim and I, he's a councilman so he's that public figure, and I'm a police officer, so I have that public authority, so it's us going back and forth because he sees this as an opportunity to really rule. So I have to prove myself in a lot of ways.
What do you think you would do if a dome dropped and trapped this town now? Would you be a first responder or would you stay locked up safe with your family?
No, I think I'm a first responder. I go camping and I was like, "I want to learn how to build a fire, just in case the world comes to an end." [Laughs.] I'm that kind of person. My family lives in Miami and I always envision myself, if something happens, it'd be like "The Day After Tomorrow" where I walk across country to find my family. That would be the kind of person I would be. I feel like I wouldn't be as scared. If it happens, it happens. You face it.
Post-apocalyptic shows and series dealing with these extreme scenarios are increasingly common. Do you watch any of them, like "Revolution" or "The Walking Dead"?
Yeah. I've seen an episode or two of "Revolution," but I do watch "Walking Dead" and I like this kind of stuff. I really like to see what people would do. My favorite thing about it is that you can root for someone the whole time and all of a sudden, they show you their true colors, and you're like, "What? I didn't expect that!" "The Walking Dead," you have The Governor. Like, "He's cool, he's cool," then all of a sudden, you're like, "Oh my God, he's twisted. He's psycho!" You get involved with these characters, you get involved in their lives, you hope for them to survive. I do like these kind of shows and I feel like that's a new genre that we're kind of heading into. We're kind of getting out of the whole vampire, supernatural stuff and going into post-apocalypse. But I feel like that's the constant change, you know?
Do you think that Stephen kind of got it right? Do you think that if a dome did drop somewhere that people would respond the way Chester's Mill is responding in the show?
That's the thing, it's so subjective. You can't say that this is right or wrong unless it happens, because at the end of the day, I can say, "I'm strong, I'll go to Miami and find my family." And [it happens] and I'll probably just be in a fetal position for months. [Laughs.] You really don't know what's inside of you. You can assume, and I think that's what's so great about these shows and that's what the audience likes about them: You never know what's going to happen. It keeps you on your toes and you can relate to it. You can be like, "Man, what would I do? What would happen to me or my family if this happened?"
"Under the Dome" premieres Monday, June 24 at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.