Nathalie Kelley on How Exiting 'Dynasty' Led to 'Baker and the Beauty'

Nathalie Kelley The Baker and the Beauty
Q&A
ABC/Francisco Roman

The Baker and the Beauty sounds like it could be the title for a reality cooking show that pits former beauty contestants against one another, but it’s not. The scripted series tells the tale of the blossoming romance between Nathalie Kelley’s Noa, a beautiful supermodel, and Victor Rasuk’s Daniel, a (you guessed it) baker!

The show’s actually an ensemble piece that includes numerous characters including Daniel’s younger sister Natalie (Belissa Escobedo) — who thinks Noa’s the best thing since sliced bread — and Lewis (Dan Bucatinsky), a member of Noa’s entourage.

Kelley, known to viewers  as heroine Cristel on The CW’s Dynasty and schemer Grace on UnREAL, chatted with TV Insider about how she wound up on the network that’s home to the show UnREAL was spoofing, how Dynasty changed her for the better, and if she’d ever do Dancing With the Stars.

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'She's so much more than a [pretty] face,' Nathalie Kelley says of her character.

Despite the show’s title and main plot, most of the supporting players have their own stories going on, too.

Nathalie Kelley: Yes. They went through a bunch of titles and came back to that one. It’s hard to describe this show. It’s a different genre. We were talking about DNAs of shows. There’s so much non-original content. This is a remake of an Israeli show. In shows today, you don’t see what you have in ours. The conflict comes from outside forces, the family dynamics. Daniel’s family sticks together. Noa’s created family does, too. The problems are her fame, his business. The families are loving. People have an authentic connection.

We see a lot of Daniel’s family. Will we learn about Noa’s?

Yes. We’re peeling off the layers of Noa as we travel through this season. It’s nice that she starts off as a bit of an enigma and a mystery. That’s what celebrity does. It puts people on pedestals. You forget that there’s a real human underneath it. As the series continues the layers are peeled, you see that beneath the glamour of being an international supermodel, she’s also  a very savvy business woman, philanthropist, and humanitarian. She’s also lonely and scared she’s never going to find love. That’s something we can all relate to. Is love going to happen for me the way it does for other people or in the movies? It turns out she’s just been looking in the wrong places. The masculine man she needed was not to be found in the actors or billionaires she’s been dating, but in this humble baker from Little Havana.

Lewis advises Daniel that his relationship with Noa won’t work out because of who she is. He thinks he knows Noa. He’s got that all wrong, yes?

He’s [actually] got a lot right. When he says that she picks up men and chews them up and spits them out, he’s right. Noa hasn’t really put romance and cultivating a relationship with a man at the forefront of her priorities . She’s taking over the world…a lot of my very successful women friends talk about how hard it is to make romance a priority. Good on her for saying she believes she’s worth something deeper than [what she’s been settling for].

NATHALIE KELLEY VICTOR RASUK

ABC/Laura Magruder

Noa’s got a bite. She’s a dangerous woman to be with. You could end up on the side of the road, but that’s unwittingly. She’s just living her life and forming attachments in the way she knows how. She’s never had the opportunity to go in as deep as she will have with Daniel this season. Her relationships up until now have been pretty transactional.

There’s a lovely dynamic between Noa and Danie’s sister Nathalie in the premiere.

That’s one of the tings that attracted me to this character and this story, the message it sends to young woman; in this age of perfection on Instagram and social media, I worry about the messages we’re sending our young women.

This is more of an ensemble show that I thought it was going to be based on the title.

One-hundred percent! The romantic comedy is at the center of the show; it’s just an excuse for these other amazing stories around us.

Noa and Daniel climb down the side of a building that her billboard is on. Was that the real deal or was it like Batman where they just turned the cameras to an angle?

We were rappelling. It was on a sound stage, but I’m Australian. I could do that with my eyes closed.

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Will a relatable baker and an international superstar get a happily ever after?

How are things back in Australia? (Note: at the time of this interview, there were raging fires going on through much of Australia.)

My family is safe, but things will never be the same again. It’s a good thing. We need to wake up to this new global reality.

How many episodes is this first season?  

Nine, which is a good number to chart the course of the series. In the pilot, we meet and as the series progresses, we get to see what things are like throughout the relationship — including there being a potential split. In the beginning, things can be hot and exciting, but then, maybe later, the couple could decide to take a step back.

What’s the attraction between Noa and Daniel?

They quickly see that they have this ability to call each other out on things. They can be funny, true and authentic with one another. When you’re a famous person — like Noa is — things can be very lonely. The fact that Daniel can talk to her and make her laugh and feel like a regular girl [is wonderful].

NATHALIE KELLEY, VICTOR RASUK

ABC/Laura Magruder

You played Grace on UnREAL, the Lifetime series that was a scripted inside look into, arguably, The Bachelor.

Yes. Now, I’m at the network of the show that was based on…I never thought of that. I’d never seen The Bachelor.

What was your take on that show?

Women doing [things] to other women was the most fascinating part. It was about women manipulating other women for the sake of a story.

Poor Mary (Ashley Scott) jumped to her death after her mood stabilizers were switched with an inert product.

I love that they went there. Some things were based on true stories. Certain circumstances were switched, but that was all based in reality. When I first signed onto the show, the idea was that Grace would win. Then, she came in second.

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So…she did ‘win’?

[Laughs] Yes. There was this natural chemistry between Johanna [Braddy, who played Anna] and Freddie [Stroma, Adam]. They ended up marrying in real life. I couldn’t compete with that! It seemed, at times, like we were doing a true [reality] series. Every week, we’d get a script and one of us girls would ‘go home’ and we were sequestered in Vancouver. They [originally] wanted to make a point that a girl of color had never won. Freddie’s character said, ‘I couldn’t take Grace home to meet my family.I love that they went there. The show was ahead of its time.

Now that you’re on ABC, would you ever go on Dancing With the Stars if invited?

I have nothing against it, but dancing and all that used to bring me joy means nothing to me if we don’t have a planet to live on. When I’m not on the show, I’m going to focus my activism and raise awareness of what we need to do to save the planet. I’ve achieved all my professional goals and thus far, and, now, I can start evolving into my higher mission.

At the risk of segueing back to show business…

[Laughs] That’s OK.

VICTOR RASUK, NATHALIE KELLEY, DAN BUCATINSKY

ABC/Francisco Roman

Can you talk about your exit from Dynasty after Season 1?  

[The] CW offered me the role [of Cristal] from seeing my work on Vampire Diaries. I signed on before I ever read the script. There was a basic outline. I think I wasn’t up to the challenge of a nighttime soap. I wasn’t prepared for that genre. It wasn’t something I had experience in. I didn’t know too many actresses who can hold a candle to the wonderful Elizabeth Gilles (Fallon), who absolutely nails that tone and that genre.

At the end of the day, it’s up to the artist to make the most of the material that’s given to them. I was challenged. I can say that as an artist I didn’t dig as deep as I could have. I felt limited and I felt stuck. At the same time, the writing was boxing me in a little bit. And I think the best thing they felt they could do is start afresh.

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That’s obviously a hard phone call to get as an actor [telling me I was not returning]. It took me by surprise. It send me into a lot of soul-searching and a realization that I could have dug deeper. I wasn’t going to let an opportunity like that come and pass again. So, I really dug deep and got this role [of Noa]. Now, I feel like I’m really in the role and the genre that was meant for me. I’m actually grateful to the execs at The CW who saw at the time what I couldn’t – that it was not the right fit.

And now you’re on The Baker and the Beauty. It’s nice when it works out the way it’s supposed to, no?

Yeah! I still have so much love for my Dynasty cast. I wish everybody well. I’m still friends with the ex-showrunner Sallie Patrick. She congratulated me when I got this part. I feel like it’s all come full circle. It wasn’t fun as an actress to be publicly recast, but at the end of the day this was the medicine I need to grow as an actress. I took that challenge to heart.

The Baker and the Beauty, Series Premiere, Monday, April 13, 10/9c, ABC