Lake Bell in <EM>Surface</EM> Lake Bell in Surface

There's something in the water on NBC's Surface (Mondays at 8 pm/ET), and as the series dives deep into sweeps with one revelation-packed episode after another, rest assured that each discovery will be offset by a new mystery. As oceanographer Laura Daughtery, Lake Bell joins Jay R. Ferguson's fisherman, Rich Connelly, in investigating otherworldly sea creatures that somebody (of course) would rather have kept under wraps. TVGuide.com chatted with Bell about making her massive prime-time splash.

TVGuide.com: This month the show has really heated up. I mean, people are dying and stuff!
Lake Bell:
[Laughs] I know! It's going to get crazy. I swear to god, the things we're shooting now I can't even believe. It's been a journey — one that's harder, physically and emotionally, than any I've ever embarked on before.

TVGuide.com: Was it a relief to have Surface picked up for a full season so early on?
Bell:
It was. That’s one of the main hurdles on TV. It's, "Am I going to get cast?" then, "Is the pilot going to get picked up?" and then, "Are we going to get picked up for the whole season?" It never ends. So that was a big hurdle to overcome.

TVGuide.com: Especially with a show so full of twists and turns and a mythology to explore. Now you can delve into that with confidence.
Bell:
That’s a really good point. There are so many twists and turns and [the pickup allows you] to get invested in your character as you're running around, jumping, racing away from the government, crying about your son.... And on top of that, where we actually shoot is sort of wonderfully isolated — it's a small town in North Carolina called Wilmington — and while that allows us to be blinkered enough to only concentrate on our work, it's definitely difficult in that I don’t have my friends and family here. But it helps me focus on why I'm here.

TVGuide.com: Following your brief runs on Boston Legal and the short-lived Miss Match, did you sort of figure, "Third time's the charm"?
Bell:
I guess you could look at it that way. But each show I have been on has been so wonderfully different in terms of the character I'm playing and also the tone, which I really am genuinely thankful for, regardless of whether I'm headlining [the series] or not. I think the ideal thing for me is to play as many different characters and in as many different atmospheres as possible. Miss Match was a romantic comedy, and Boston Legal was a dark comedy....

TVGuide.com: And here you are, finding your big vehicle in a sci-fi thriller!
Bell:
I know! [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: Going into this series, you were, ironically, leery of the water. Have you worked past that?
Bell:
In terms of my sort of "phobia" of the ocean, I think the coolest thing about being this pseudo-action hero is that you really have to just get over it. I love being put in a position where I need to face my fear and grow up a bit. And that definitely has been the case here! There is really no time to be like, "Oh, I don’t know.... I'm kinda nervous about what's in the water." [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: How long can you hold your breath these days?
Bell:
I guess it's not that impressive, because my stunt woman can hold her breath for like a minute and change, but I can hold it for like 45 seconds on a good day. My stunt woman is a really cool lady. We're always hanging out together and everything. Certain stunts I will do, and she’ll show me how to do them on my own....

TVGuide.com: Besides, you're, like, surrounded by all guys in the cast, right?
Bell:
Exactly! She's one of the only chicks to hang out with. And she looks like me, which I guess is... great? We're like sisters!

TVGuide.com: As Laura and Rich spend more and more time together exploring the creatures' origins, what are we going to do about Rich's wife back home? I say she either gets killed or is revealed to be part of The Big Conspiracy.
Bell:
I'll tell the Pates [series creators Jonas and Josh Pate] that. I'll tell them that’s your idea. [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: Or is there no real time to slow down and see what sparks might be there?
Bell:
This is how I look at it: You have two people, similar in age, passionate about the same thing and in very close quarters. Inevitably, there's sexual tension there. That’s just normal and human and that will always exist. But I don’t think we're all of the sudden going to start French kissing. [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: In tonight's episode you two venture wayyyy down into one of those ocean holes in a rusty old submersible. Can you tease what happens?
Bell:
It was so crazy; I really feel like I've been through that experience after shooting it. There's definitely an element of claustrophobia, cabin fever and possible suffocation.... Yes, indeed, it is possible and it was done that way back in the '30s, to [deep-dive] with just a tether.... but here we are basically intending to do that by ourselves!

TVGuide.com: Is their mission a success?
Bell:
Yes, it is.... but it's also a failure. [Laughs] It's interesting.

TVGuide.com: We've seen the creatures, both big and small, and gotten some idea of who's good and who's bad. But I imagine, as far as secrets, we've only scratched the surface — so to speak.
Bell:
Part of what's interesting about the show is that we show a lot and we talk about a lot, which makes people think, "Well, where is it going? What could possibly happen now?" Well, of course we're going to show what we know with the knowledge that we have a long way to go. We're aware that each episode is like a piece to a puzzle, like a chapter in a huge saga.

TVGuide.com: For example, we're still not quite sure what creepy David Lee's (played by Ian Anthony Dale) agenda is.
Bell:
Exactly. You have no idea at this point who he's really working for. Quite frankly, I'm not sure, either. All we do on the set is talk about the show, so we all have little theories, and I know that Ian knows more about his character, obviously, than we do, but he won't tell us.

TVGuide.com: You need to take him to a local bar and get him drunk one night.
Bell:
I've tried! I've tried! We're like, "C'mon, Ian!"

TVGuide.com: What can you tell me about your two upcoming films, I Love Your Work and Rampage?
Bell:
First of all, I Love Your Work is an awesome film — Adam Goldberg, the writer-director, and the other writer, Adrian Butchart, are both very good friends of mine. I have a pretty small role — a cameo, really — but I loved doing it. Rampage is about the Hillside Strangler and I play the D.A. on the case, a real woman in a man's world — a similar theme [to Surface], actually. But it’s a much different backdrop, you know, with the brutal murders and everything!