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Nina Chase, the newest member of "FBI: Most Wanted," relishes undercover work, boldly challenges her bosses, drives like a Burt Reynolds bootlegger and still finds time to raise an infant. But Shantel VanSanten, who plays Chase, is used to daunting tasks.

She grew up milking cows in Minnesota.

As the child of divorced parents, VanSanten split her childhood between Houston and Luverne, Minn., a picturesque town of 5,000 people near the South Dakota border, best known for its annual Hot Dog Nite and for being featured in Ken Burns' 2007 docuseries, "The War."

Most of her exposure to the arts came in Texas, but she developed her strong work ethic while spending summers and holidays on her dad's dairy farm, where her shift often started at 5 a.m.

"You're doing real chores, not like vacuuming the floor, but carrying five-gallon pails of grain or bringing the cows in from pasture, which can take an hour and a half," VanSanten said earlier this month in a Zoom interview from her home in New York. "I probably romanticize it more now than I did as a kid. If I could choose a place where I feel at home, it would be sitting on top of the grain bin of my grandparents' farm or lying in the middle of a cornfield. That's where my soul is."

VanSanten's latest character seems more at home battling drug dealers than boll weevils. She'll be familiar to regular viewers of TV procedurals. Chase popped up on several episodes of "FBI" during the past two seasons, squeezing in a romantic relationship with colleague Stuart Scola (John Boyd) between shootouts. She's now a regular cast member on the spinoff "FBI: Most Wanted," which airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on CBS. It finished 14th in the Nielsen ratings, averaging more than 8 million viewers per episode.

"It was very weird, like being the kid who doesn't know what table she'll sit at in a new school," said VanSanten, who made her mark in the fifth season premiere on Feb. 13 by rattling her new supervisor, Remy Scott (Dylan McDermott) and stopping an explosion by pouring bullets into a computer. "But everyone has been so wonderful and welcoming. I feel really grateful."

It's an action-packed series, maybe more so than the other dramas produced by Dick Wolf, the TV Hall of Famer behind "Law & Order." That can result in 17-hour stretches on the set. But the hectic schedule is a roll in the hay for the 38-year-old actor.

While attending Texas Christian University, she held down jobs at Olive Garden, Abercrombie & Fitch and a fitness center, all the while booking modeling gigs and taking acting classes.

"I enjoy the labor and the fruits that come from doing hard work," said VanSanten, who previously appeared on "One Tree Hill," "The Boys" and "For All Mankind." "Things didn't come easy for my parents. I didn't grow up seeing people have a hobby and then make a living off of it."

VanSanten, who recently ended a two-year marriage to actor Victor Webster, still makes time to visit Luverne. Last month, she flew in to visit a newborn nephew.

"I have lots of aunts, uncles and cousins still there," she said. "I feel like we make up half the town."

But even her Luverne experiences weren't as helpful as she had hoped when it comes to "FBI: Most Wanted's" many chase scenes.

"Sometimes I have to ask [co-star] Edwin Hodge to slow down," she said. "Running from a bull as a kid didn't quite prepare me to keep up with his pace."