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Natalie Paul is never scared

The actress is turning heads in novelist Stephen King’s ‘Mr. Mercedes’

It’s not that Natalie Paul is obsessed with suspense-filled projects, but if you look at her recent pursuits, that would be the conclusion. She was featured in USA Network’s haunting series The Sinner and played a vampire in the short film Suicide by Sunlight.

“I know it seems that way,” cracked Paul, who is turning heads in the third season of novelist Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes. “I have to give credit to the writers. My role on The Sinner was great because there was this combination of crime, horror and suspense. And Nikyatu [Jusu] invented her own vampire rules.”

In Mr. Mercedes, a drama series on AT&T Audience Network, Paul plays assistant district attorney Sarah Pace, a resident of Bridgton, Ohio, terrorized by mass murderer turned psychopath Brady Hartsfield. Her character is a two-fisted prosecutor looking to bring hero Lou Linklatter, Hartsfield’s killer, to justice.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What were you doing when you found out that you scored the role?

I was at home when I got the call. It was exciting to find out, because the minute I read the script for Mr. Mercedes I was taken by the writing. This is a series that does not shy away from heavier adult storylines. The language is raw, and this season gets into the thornier aspects of justice. My character, Sarah, is dogged when it comes to finding out the truth.

Were you a Stephen King fan before joining the cast?

I first discovered King through The Shining. I probably saw that movie too young. Jack Nicholson and that face.

And those creepy twins.

It’s crazy how he can take something so cute and turn it into a nightmare. Who can envision anything terrifying about twins? Only Stephen King.

You started doing plays for the Classical Theatre of Harlem. What was your first memory of acting?

Being 5 years old, coming to school with a costume and being that character all day. I have this memory of playing a lawyer. I was a different kind of kid. I think I got it confused with career day.

I read that you’d love to play legendary actress Pam Grier in a biopic.

I can go on about Pam Grier. She’s so incredible, just the barriers she broke down and the kinds of empowering characters she portrayed. I used to dance in high school, so I love the physicality she brought to film.

What kind of dancing?

I did modern and hip-hop, and some ballet.

Most Caribbean parents push their kids to become lawyers or doctors, but your Haitian parents were supporters of your acting.

It took a little convincing. Early on they expected me to be a lawyer, so I told them I will meet them halfway and play a lawyer or a doctor on TV. Still, to this day, my mom is a little nervous about my acting career. They had to admit to themselves that it’s part of the American dream in allowing your children to take risks and be bold.

Keith "Murph" Murphy is a senior editor at VIBE Magazine and frequent contributor at Billboard, AOL, and CBS Local. The veteran journalist has appeared on CNN, FOX News and A&E Biography and is also the author of the men’s lifestyle book "Manifest XO."