You probably didn't recognize Jamie-Lynn Sigler at first on Ugly Betty. As Natalie, an eccentric woman whose boyfriend recently overdosed, she wears a spiky black wig, purple lipstick, tattoos and outfits that might charitably be called "layered." Natalie meets Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius), who is mourning the death of his wife, Molly, in a bereavement group and eventually ends up working at Mode magazine. Sigler tells TVGuide.com what she thinks of Natalie's look, with whom she'll share screen time, and exactly what the Community of the Phoenix is.
TVGuide.com: What did they tell you about Natalie when you signed on?
Sigler: They told me that Natalie is eccentric, spiritual and a little bit out-there. She takes [Daniel] on a wild night around Manhattan to break him out of his shell. And he ends up depending on her enough that he makes her his assistant. They also told me that, throughout whatever's going to happen, her intentions are always pure. She has no [ill will], though at times it may seem so.
TVGuide.com: All your Betty castmates told me how funny you are. Is Natalie funny?
Sigler: She's not Marc, Amanda, Wilhelmina... or Betty even. They all have real caricatured hilarity and they play it perfectly to a T. For me, Natalie is a bit more understated. I think the stuff that happens later might be considered funny. Maybe they were just talking [about me] off-camera.
TVGuide.com: So what did you think of Natalie's hair and wardrobe?
Sigler: The day before we started filming they brought me on set to meet everybody and to figure out Natalie's look. They asked: Are you cool with short hair, dreadlocks, grunge, goth, hippie? And I was like, "I'm cool with whatever." I'm not one of those people who has to look pretty. Let's make a really fun character. So I tried on about 30 wigs. I've never been involved in network television, so I wasn't really aware of the amount of people who need to OK something like your hair. So it was a long, long process, but eventually when it came to be, everybody seemed to like it.
TVGuide.com: It must have helped you get into character.
Sigler: One hundred percent. The look, as we go on, is going to change. She's going to have a bit of a transformation, not a big makeover, when she starts working at Mode, because I think she realizes what kind of place it is and what it stands for and maybe her look won't necessarily fit in that well. So she does some adjustments to her look.
TVGuide.com: So Natalie is joining Mode.
Sigler: Yeah, it's going to be tough [for her]. Daniel really cares for Natalie, and it's the first time he's had someone in his life who he can trust, other than Betty. He feels like he can't even trust his mom or his family.
TVGuide.com: Will things ever be romantic between Daniel and Natalie?
Sigler: No. They told me that from the beginning. This is not going to be a typical love interest role. Being a fan of the show, I don't think it would be right so close to Molly's death for him to meet a woman in a bereavement group and start dating her. All they told me was the plotline for the first episode and where it could go, which I think is more fun when you're playing a character on episodic television. You can't anticipate too much.
TVGuide.com: From what I understand, the Community of the Phoenix is not what it at first seems.
Sigler: Right now it seems like something that could inspire Daniel and Natalie to live their lives in a different way, a real support group. It's basically group therapy, just with a really strong leader [Bennett, who's played by guest star Dylan Baker]. But no, there are going to be some turns with this situation.
TVGuide.com: Does it have anything to do with communicating with the dead?
Sigler: The Community is for anyone, but there are people in this group who are grieving. We focus on that aspect because we're following Daniel and Natalie. Eventually they come to believe that maybe that can happen.
TVGuide.com: How long will Natalie be sticking around?
Sigler: Natalie have a five-episode arc (and we've seen two), so there will be three more.
TVGuide.com: What else can you tell us about Natalie?
Sigler: She's obviously a fish out of water, but she's a confident person. She doesn't care, she doesn't feel insecure. She's very outspoken and honest, which some people may not like. Daniel and Natalie's relationship with work and the Community start to bleed together, especially when [Bennett] starts hanging out at Mode.
The new season of Ugly Betty airs Fridays at 9/8c on ABC. Catch encore airings Thursdays at 7/6c on TV Guide Network.