July 4, 2014 at 1:00 am

Acting just 'clicked' for Cynthia Watros

Cynthia Watros, who was born in Lake Orion, now stars in MTV's 'Finding Carter.' (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images)

Cynthia Watros fell in love at Macomb Community College.

With acting, that is.

“I was sort of a lost soul in high school, and I went to Macomb Community College because I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Watros says on the phone from Atlanta, where she’s shooting her new show for MTV, “Finding Carter.”

“I was just wandering, and I saw a poster for ‘Auntie Mame.’ And I thought, ‘This is a really good way of meeting people,’ ” Watros, who has been jogging at a park, says from a shady spot.

“Auditions were like in a week, so I got the play, and I read it like 400 times because I thought that’s just what you do — you know everybody’s part,” Watros says with a laugh.

She landed the key role of Agnes Gooch. “And that is the first time in my life I felt like something clicked. Like I belonged in this world,” Watros, 45, says.

Her instinct proved right. She ended up studying at Boston University, and, ever since the mid-’90s, she’s been a television mainstay. She’s been a regular on soaps (“Another World,” “Guiding Light,” “The Young and the Restless”), sitcoms (“Titus,” “The Drew Carey Show”) and dramas (“Lost,” “House”) while doing guest spots on everything from “CSI” to “Desperate Housewives” and “Hawaii 5-0.”

“They can’t get rid of me,” says Watros, who was born in Lake Orion.

Now she’s taking on the role of rejected but protective mother Elizabeth in “Finding Carter.” She plays a police detective whose daughter (Kathryn Stevens) was kidnapped at the age of 3. More than a decade later, the daughter is found, but the teen now feels like her kidnapper is her real mother while Elizabeth has taken her from the only life she’s ever known.

As a result, Watros ends up playing the heavy in the show’s first episode.

“Really, Elizabeth is protecting her family. She finally got her daughter, who has been missing for 13 years back, so she can be a little heavy-handed at times, but I feel like it’s understandable given what she’s had to deal with in her life,” Watros says.

“It’s an interesting premise. With Elizabeth I really liked the fact that she was imperfect. Her world is basically crumbling and then it turns upside down when she finds her daughter,” Watros says. “I liked the script because I don’t know anybody who’s perfect. I like women who are complex and complicated, and Elizabeth did that for me.”

Watros has been married since 1996 and has two kids. And even though her acting career has kept her on the move — New York, L.A., now Atlanta — she says she’s always aware of her roots.

“Growing up in Michigan, it’s given me such a grounded place to always come back to. I am so thankful and lucky that I got to have the upbringing that I had,” she says.

“It’s just stayed with me. No matter where I live, Michigan will always be in me.”

'Finding Carter'

10 p.m. Tuesday



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