Zea began her career in an Off-Broadway theatre, appearing in productions of The Three Sisters and A Midsummer Night's Dream. She made her feature debut in the Shakespeare-themed independent drama Macbeth in Manhattan in 1999. In the following year, Zea made her television debut in an episode of short-lived The WB drama series, D. C. . Later in that year she was cast as Gwen Hotchkiss Winthrop, a businesswoman and socialite, and the member of the wealthy Hotchkiss family, in the NBC daytime soap opera Passions. She appeared in the show on a regular basis from November 15, 2000 to October 3, 2002. On her leaving, Zea said "I have decided not to renew my contract with Passions. Although I enjoyed my experience, and learned quite a bit, especially initially, I know that the best thing for my career, and my craft, is to pursue new challenges. So after some deliberation, an amicable parting of ways seemed to be the best decision". Zea is the second actress who played the role of Gwen. Susan Lucci's daughter Liza Huber played the role from July 5, 1999 to November 8, 2000, and again, after Zea left the show.