From guest spots to playing lead on NBC's 'Abby's', Cuban-American actress Natalie Morales is ready for her place at the big table
From a guest spot on 'CSI: Miami' in 2006 to playing the lead in NBC's new series 'Abby's', actress Natalie Morales has come a long way in her career.
Morales, who is of Cuban descent, was born in Miami, Florida in 1985 and attended St. Agatha Catholic School and Southwest Miami Senior High School before taking part in part in the University of Miami's Dow Jones Minority High School Journalism Workshop.
Morales started appearing on screens from 2006 onwards, and is best known for her roles on 'The Grinder' and 'Parks and Recreation'.
Following her passion for acting and theatre, Morales attended theatre courses at Miami Dade College and Florida International University.
While not much is known about the 34-year-old's early life (she is an intensely private person), she began her career in the entertainment industry with a guest appearance on 'CSI: Miami' in 2006. In the same year, Morales played a character in the video game version of MTV's reality TV series 'Pimp My Ride.'
The actress got her big break as the lead in ABC series 'The Middleman', which was adapted from a comic book of same name.
In an interview with Slice of SciFi, Morales revealed that it was a month-long process before she could land the role of Wendy Watson. She said it was a nerve-wracking experience but she managed to land the role in the 2008 series. Sadly it ran for only one season before it got canceled.
Following 'The Middleman,' Morales went on to appear in USA Network's 'White Collar' that ran from 2009 to 2014. She played the role of Lauren Cruz, a junior FBI agent, but was removed from the show after just one season. However, she was lucky enough to land a gig immediately after in NBC's 'Parks and Recreation,' in which she played the recurring role of Lucy, the girlfriend of Aziz Ansari's Tom Haverford.
As she gradually built up an acting CV, Morales took to social media in 2017 to reveal that she is queer, sharing that "telling you I’m queer might not be a big deal these days, things are still pretty bad out there for people like me."
Writing for Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, Morales revealed, "I am not attracted specifically to any type of gender. I’m attracted to people. Each person is their own incredible, massive universe. That is what I am attracted to; that is what I want to know, want to love, want to defend, want to take care of. I don’t like labeling myself, or anyone else, but if it’s easier for you to understand me, what I’m saying is that I’m queer. What queer means to me is just simply that I’m not straight. That’s all. It’s not scary, even though that word used to be really, really scary to me. I know this isn’t some big, life-shattering revelation that everyone will be shocked by. The reason I decided to share this with you and with the world is because even though me telling you I’m queer might not be a big deal these days, things are still pretty bad out there for people like me."
Apart from her work on TV, Morales appeared in a number of acclaimed movies, including Oliver Stone's 2010 film 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleep' and 'Going the Distance'.
However, apart from her short-lived big break in 2008's 'The Middleman', Morales has mostly played supporting or guest roles in movies and series like 'Trophy Wife', 'The Grinder', and 'Santa Clarita Diet'.
But things are about to change for her with her lead role for NBC's 'Abby's', which is being touted as one of the very few shows being led by a Cuban-American actor.
In an interview with Brit & Co, Morales talked about it, saying that though she saw some Latinas usually playing the part of a maid or a seductress or other stereotypes, she didn't see any Cubans on TV while growing up.
Another thing that makes Morales and the role she plays on 'Abby's' stand out is that her character Abby is bi-sexual. Talking about the importance of that aspect especially for someone from the LGBTQ community, Morales told Brit and Co, "It’s huge! It’s a super-huge deal. As a kid, I thought whatever was on regular network TV was kind of what was “normal” in America — what a family looked like in America, what a relationship looked like in America. And if I had seen Abby’s when I was a kid, and I had seen a happy, healthy, bisexual woman leading a show, and it was just one of many cool things about her, it would have blown my mind. And I’m sure it’ll blow people’s minds now. … Let’s say you don’t know anybody who’s bi, and suddenly they’re in your house and they’re your friend. You know, 'Will & Grace' did so, so much to move the needle over, because it put very funny, very gay people on the screen in your home every week, and they became your buddies. It’s important to keep doing that. We have to make the world of TV truly reflect what America looks like."
In 'Abby's' Morales plays a bar owner, who has found her true calling, hosting friends and newcomers alike. A no-nonsense person, Abby is ex-military, having served two tours as a staff sergeant in the Marines.
'Abby's' premieres on NBC on March 28. Check your local listings for more information.