Natalie Paul of ‘The Deuce’ headlines second season of ‘The Sinner’

Nadine Matthews | 8/2/2018, 11:54 a.m.
If you caught Natalie Paul as dogged, intrepid New York Amsterdam News reporter Sandra Washington in HBO’s gritty series “The ...
Natalie Paul Contributed

If you caught Natalie Paul as dogged, intrepid New York Amsterdam News reporter Sandra Washington in HBO’s gritty series “The Deuce,” you’d be surprised at how soft-spoken she is in real life. Paul said she was aware of the historic significance of the paper her character works for, explaining, “I read about the Amsterdam News in a history book. I was very aware of it, and so it was fun to bring a little of that history into the show.” She said she was surprised about the history the show depicts. “The whole sort of prostitution market that is depicted in the show is something I wasn’t aware of and the progression of it and how New York City got cleaned up, so to speak. Who was being pushed out and pushed in and who was benefiting from all of that was really interesting to me.”

Created by celebrated television writer David Simon (“The Wire”), with all the flash and flare the era suggests, “The Deuce” chronicles the lives of sex workers in the Times Square area during the 1970s. Said Paul, “I think a lot of the themes of ‘The Deuce’ has to do with ambition and the old school New York City feeling. She was the kind of woman who was told growing up never to back down, never to give up and to be invested in the stories she was reporting on.”

The New York City native who counts Susan Kelechi Watson (“This is Us”) and Brian Tyree Henry (“Atlanta,” “If Beale Street Could Talk”) as her friends and mentors said she pictured the real-life character as “this incredibly ambitious girl who wanted to make a name for herself in the city.”

Though she won’t be on the second season of “The Deuce” (the first is available on HBO and its digital apps), Paul is embarking on another high profile acting project. She will play Heather, a detective in training, in the upcoming second season of “The Sinner,” one of USA Network’s breakout hits last year.

Though she wasn’t always sure she would be an actress, Paul shares that storytelling has always been her passion. “Growing up I always wanted to be involved in anything story related, whether it was acting, dancing, singing, writing, choreography. However, I didn’t really know how anyone could actually be an actor. When I went to Yale I learned more. Getting to know people like Brian Tyree Henry, I started to feel that acting was very possible with hard work and dedication.” Tyree, a celebrated young actor in his own right, is part of Paul’s support system as she navigates what can be a challenging industry. “Brian Tyree Henry was at the Yale School of Drama when I attended Yale and he is still a dear friend of mine. He’s like a big brother. He was just texting me about his amazing Emmy nomination!”

Paul spent much of her childhood in Connecticut at the prestigious Hotchkiss School. She explained, “I was lucky enough to be recruited by a great organization called The Oliver Scholars Program and that really put me on a great path. It got me to go to a really great high school and that led me to Yale.” While at Yale, she assumed leadership roles, heading up the Heritage Theater Ensemble, among other things. “We put on plays by African-American playwrights and had African-American casts. Doing Heritage enabled me to do more and learn more in terms of my craft and the study of theater.” Her years at NYU, where she got her Masters, were about getting into the details of acting. “When I got back to NYU,” she related, “it was about gaining real life experience. I got to focus on acting in a much deeper way. Although I had gotten a great education at Yale I wanted much more hours on my feet actually performing. I’d done directing and writing but I wanted a classical, conservatory training acting experience and I got that at NYU.”